hiding in the shadows of the warrior


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Recently I  came across the excellent work of Mr. Ellis Amdur titled Dueling with O-sensei: Grappling with the Myth of the Warrior-Sage, a book I intend to read soon. I happened to locate one of the sections from this book named, Hiding in the Shadows of the Warrior on the web. In it the author explores the connections and differences between the arts we study and their historical roots and applications. In this example he narrates a personal experience that illustrates how sometimes the “high mindedness” many people extol as “warriorship” is an entirely different animal compared to when humans come together in real confrontation.

An excerpt:

“New-Age America produces books and workshops on the ‘New Warrior,’ a man or woman who lives impeccably — austere, protecting the weak, willing, perhaps, to stand his or her ground and fight, but more important, calm and graceful — the warrior as metaphor. We imagine the warrior in bed, in the boardroom, in marriage, the warrior on the golf-course. But these writers seem to forget that the warrior’s values, as admirable as they may be, are won at terrible cost. The warrior as metaphor often offends me, because the battlefield stinks of blood and shit, and sings of screams and flies. Certainly the values that writers such as Dan Millman extol are admirable, but I would hesitate to call anyone a warrior unless we are not talking about a fellow ubermenschen, but instead a deeply flawed and guilty human being, who strives at the risk of the loss of comfort, of home, of even his or her own soul to protect what must be protected, to maintain a moral sense in a place where no morality can conceivably exist.

And a final question: The late Donn Draeger, a man I consider a teacher and a forebear in this odd and sectarian world of martial arts, extols the bushi of the late Heian and early Kamakura as the most perfect, most glorious of Japanese warriors, and certainly, among themselves, there was an elaborate code of honor and chivalry. Yet we have contemporary pictures of famous battle campaigns, the bushi arrayed in many colored armor, glittering and helmet-horned like iridescent beetles, magnificent in the cold mechanical beauty of men at war. Some of these pictures show the invasion of a manor or castle, rooms in flames, men put to the sword. And women running. Why are the women running, if the bushi are made of finer stuff than ordinary warriors? What do they have to be afraid of?

— Ellis Amdur, from Dueling with O-sensei

Powerful stuff from a powerful piece of writing. I believe it should be essential reading for anybody with aspirations to “warriorship”.

Go read this work in it’s entirety.

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