defining terms

English: "Budo" shuji, brushed by Ko...
English: “Budo” shuji, brushed by Kondo Katsuyuki, Menkyo Kaiden, Daito ryu (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A 2009 repost…going back to the root concept of why I started blogging.

It would be a fairly accurate statement to say that when I created this blog it was with the intention of coalescing my thoughts about, and refining my definition of, “Warriorship”.

While “Warriorship” is closely associated with the word “Warrior”, I am starting to come to the conclusion that they may have become two separate but closely related issues; perhaps too closely related. While one can be quantifiable, the other has become so nebulous that people training in what I define as “Wariorship” have come to believe that doing so makes them “Warriors” which I don’t believe is the case.

I am currently of the opinion that the term “Warrior”, as in “I am a Warrior”, is currently overused and misapplied. In my worldview, a “warrior” is a person who fights for their country, lord or master, or is at least a dedicated professional in a field of arms. Professional military personnel fit my definition, with the special operators on one end of the continuum and more mundane MOS personnel at the other. I would also include Law Enforcement Officers as existing on the outside fringe of possible inclusion. Currently the term is being applied to a wide range of people; athletes, new ager’s, martial artists, gun enthusiasts and the terminally Ill to name a few. Not to disparage any of these people, but while they may behave with the virtues of a warrior, or be training in the skills of a “Warrior”, defining yourself as a Warrior impresses me a Walter Mitty-ish fantasy. Harmless in most cases, admittedly, but with some disturbing exceptions as in the case discussed elsewhere in this blog.

“Warriorship” is a concept that doesn’t even have one  accepted definition. While the O.E.D. defines it as “1The craft or skill of military arts and science, see ‘warrior , most attempts to find a definition lead you to Carlos Castenada; Cogyam Trungpa and his Shambala philosophy, Joseph Campbell, Ninjutsu practitioners, New Age Druids, Native American culture and Bushido. While sharing some characteristics, there is no common definition between them.

So I guess Im going to add my definition to the mix. I define Warriorship as:

( War-ri-or-ship ) n. [OE. werreour, OF. werreour, guerreor, from guerre, werre, war. See War]

1. A state in which a person is training in the skills and traits possessed by those of the Warrior profession.

2. A philosophy based on the positive character and social traits of persons in the warrior profession.

At least thats my first hack at it. Any opinions or assistance in refining it will be appreciated.

I suppose that by my definition a person can be participating in “warriorship” if they are approaching training and life as more than a mere “hobbyist”. Someone going to a martial arts class two times a week isn’t participating. Someone who buys a handgun and wears 5.11 “operator clothes” and tactical boots isn’t participating. Just reading books and playing paintball isn’t enough.

Someone who looks at the entirety of life as “training in warriorship”, learning, mastering and incorporating into their personal lifestyle skills as varied as combat techniques; navigation, medicine, climbing/rappelling, driving, swimming, SCUBA, physical conditioning and countless others MAY be meeting my definition. However, my personal twist would include some sort of service to society, putting those skills to use.

The hazard lies in the ease by which a person practicing Warriorship as a lifestyle can fall into believing that they are the equivalent of a Warrior. I believe that many people who begin the pursuit in the first place are doing one hoping to become the other.

more to come later…..


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28 thoughts on “defining terms”

  1. Dear Tgace,
    You are right to try to wrest your discipline and its terminology out of the morass. I am speaking as a scholar and generalist.

    Might I suggest, not my field, that the word discipline be considered somewhere in your definition? It seems to be a mostly unstated but very real part of your blog.

    With that word, then I think you would have to consider disciple as well, which is something that seems to recur at least in martial arts. To include, exclude, or make provision for.

    Then I think (to finish the clarification) you would have to make a place, or a word, for those not-warriors that are in a conflict daily but whose discipline may be totally different. I would call that “a distinction.” This would make provision for cancer survivors, cashiers at Christmas, and so forth. Accessing the metaphor is sometimes helpful for not-warriors.

    But as I read your blog now for these few months, I think you are on the right track. All around there is a desire to homogenize everything and reduce its clarity.

    I don’t blame this on “modern morals” but think it happens to everything over time, when there are globalizing conditions. At the same time, numerous fields and cultures have been obscured by the new age effluvium, self-help, and so forth. So I am not at peace with it, either.

    This is a worthy goal. I hope I have added to your thoughts.

    Sincerely yours,
    Ann T.

    1. I agree. I call the “discipline” aspect “dedication to craft”.

      By my definition, the “Soldier” is trained and able to accomplish any mission assigned. His honor and service is no less than that of the “Warrior”, he may do what he does out of devotion to country, a solid work ethic,or to support himself and/or his family.

      The “Warrior” seeks perfection of his/her craft. His is a “calling” instead of a “job”. He thinks about his “job” on his own time and even pays for additional training out of his own pocket. He is “dedicated to his craft”.

      This of course is my internalization of the concept. Others may differ.

  2. Interesting and very well written post. Given your profession, I can definitely see were you are coming from on this. I think I’ve said before in my own blog, in response to one of your comments on the same issue, that I use the term “warrior” in a metaphorical sense. I guess if I was in the armed forces I would probably snort with derision every time some civvie mentioned the word in reference to themselves.

    In the strictest sense, a warrior is someone who has engaged in battle with others, but in another sense it is someone who has engaged in battle with themselves and has fought to overcome their failings and shortcomings. It does indeed have an element of fantasy about it (anyone who denies this is lying, in my opinion).

    The word serves as an accurate description of the process off facing ones fears and living up to ones potential as a human being and then helping others do the same. It helps to think of yourself as a warrior when going through this process of personal growth in the sense that it cultivates in one a stoic attitude so that you are not then so easily beaten by the things you are trying to overcome. Warriorship is then a state of mind, in a way. I hope I’ve made sense here.

    1. I really don’t have a problem with the “self-seeking” civilian Warriors when their effort and sacrifice matches the tile. I have problem with the “hobby warriors”, those who go to a non-impact martial arts class twice a week and pay no price in blood, sweat or tears.

      I make the distinction between “Warriors” and people following the “Warrior Lifestyle”.

      1. I agree, there is a difference. To my mind, a warrior must always seek discomfort, in training and in life, for how else are you going to grow and learn? You have to put yourself through the mill of experience, so to speak.

  3. TGace:

    This is a good one and it is something I’ve mulled over myself at length. How about adding this to the mix of what you have already stated? Warriorship includes occupations or professions which put oneself at serious risk of injury or death for the sake oneself or others. This includes people who are motivated by self-fulfillment and enrichment and those that are concerned with public and national service.

  4. Dear Richard C,
    I feel what you are saying. E.g, doctors that go to sites of massacres, or isolate ebola for the first time, risk their lives selflessly and use a rigorous discipline at the same time. they might feel they are at war to provide (a kind of security).
    Likewise, amateurs can be more dedicated than professionals to core principles of “warriorship”.

    There’s a universal attitude to the “calling” part.

    But it’s still a different training, and somehow a distinction is lost. Maybe even our use of the word security has evolved too much.

    So I don’t know, but Tgace, I am enjoying this discussion very much. Thanks for the opportunity to think it out.

    Ann T.

    1. On the issue of this “difference” Musashi Said:

      It is said the warrior’s is the twofold Way of pen and sword, and he should have a taste for both Ways. Even if a man has no natural ability he can be a warrior by sticking assiduously to both divisions of the Way. Generally speaking, the Way of the warrior is resolute acceptance of death. Although not only warriors but priests, women, peasants and lowlier folk have been known to die readily in the cause of duty or out of shame, this is a different thing. The warrior is different in that studying the Way of strategy is based on overcoming men. By victory gained in crossing swords with individuals, or enjoining battle with large numbers, we can attain power and fame for ourselves or our lord. This is the virtue of strategy.

  5. Warrior… we get so wound in semantics today. Of course- we must: we need to know where the speaker is coming from, what the terms mean.
    We often consider the American Indians as having been ‘warriors’ (at least the men, though I doubt the women were no less so).
    Do we consider the pioneer/Patriot to be a warrior?
    Sammurai trained with the sword (although jui-jitsui was included as well, the sword was ‘the’ weapon).
    Ninja trained with all forms of weapons.
    Is one who trains in Karate-do (or any HTH art) less a warrior than the sammurai?
    Do we consider the Okinawan farmers and their sticks to be less the warrior?
    By todays’ standards: is the one who trains in CQB with a handgun (as the primary weapon) any less a warrior than the sammurai or ninja or American Indian?
    Is the AlQuieda practitioner any less a warrior than they?
    Is the person fighting a personal demon any less the warrior?
    Is the father fighting daily to support his family, to rear his children to be decent people, a warrior?
    You are asking the question and there-in is the answer.
    We each battle in our own manner and are therefore a warrior.
    Is it only when we shed blood or threat of death we become a ‘warrior’? Or is it the moment we pick up the blade and decide to train in its use, if even in our imagination facing the enemy before us?
    The warrior is the fighting spirit within each to defend, to grow, to learn, and, if need be, kill to protect that which is given to them.
    Shy III

  6. “Sammurai trained with the sword (although jui-jitsui was included as well, the sword was ‘the’ weapon).
    Ninja trained with all forms of weapons.
    Is one who trains in Karate-do (or any HTH art) less a warrior than the sammurai?”

    Yes. The Samurai and Ninja actually fought for something or someone. And even in the Tokugawa era, the Samurai were Warriors by “class”.

    This example is exactly the point I am trying to make. Karate no more makes you a warrior than being a football player would. Karate (and pistol skills…your other example) are “warrior skills”. Skills that I believe people pursue to live out their “warrior fantasy”.

    I believe that being a “Warrior” comes with a price tag. And a pretty hefty price tag at that. Service, sacrifice, risk…Just “wanting to be one” isn’t enough by my standard. Neither is “putting on the clothes or skills”.

    A few posts up I posted Musashi’s passage from the book of five rings. I believe he “had it” when it came to the definition. The “pioneer” fought because he “had to”…

    “Although not only warriors but priests, women, peasants and lowlier folk have been known to die readily in the cause of duty or out of shame, this is a different thing.”

    If you want to be a “Warrior” then you have to go out and “put it on the line” and put those “warrior skills” to use. Anything less than you are practicing the “Warrior Lifestyle”. Much like training exactly like a NFL football player but only playing some backyard ball with your buddies doesn’t make you “as good as” a Professional Football player. Or having all the skills and gear of a Delta Force Operator doesn’t make you “as good as a Delta Operator”.

    Of course, there are no “warrior police” out there (unfortunately), so everybody is free to label as they wish. This blog is about my definition so…there it is.

  7. Traning ain’t fighting.

    Skill is not enough to be a ‘warrior.’ It takes a committed risk. Putting it on the line.

    People are free to define things how ever they see fit for their personal constructs, but a term like “warrior” is pretty tough to spread too thin.

    If all ‘Warriors’ are ‘warriors’ that means that Native American “warriors” are equivalent to a “warrior for peace” or a “warrior” who battles for some kind of personal enlightenment and so on
    NONE of those ‘battles’ are equal at all, therefore none of those ‘warriors’ are equal.

    If you are ‘battling’ for enlightenment, you are a philosopher, not a warrior. If you are ‘battling for peace’ you are a pacifist or humanitarian not a warrior. If you are a ‘warrior’ for love, then you are a romantic, not a warrior. If you are a ‘warrior’ for social change you are involved in politics (I hesitate to say politician since it is a hot button term).

    All of these soft sell ‘warrior’ metaphors only confuse a clear sense of self, purpose, and the appropriate mindset for a given job/mission.

    I would NOT want a ‘warrior for medicine’ (meaning a doctor who sees himself as some kind of medical ninja) operating on a family member when what I really need is a clear thinking doctor…

  8. Tgace,
    Two quick observations are 1-as usual, great post on warriors/warriorship, and 2-also as usual, I’m late to the ball.
    Though I often don’t respond in either a timely or coherent manner, your posts have helped my meditations and ruminations on the warrior path. Thanks.
    An insight to the complexity of the meditation point: we often look to Musashi and his Book of Five Rings when contemplating the warrior path, but does he fit the definition from the view of the requirement for service? Musashi was the penultimate loner (especially in Japanese society of the Tokugawa shogunate). The more I study Musashi, the more I am forced to admit that one can plausibly make the argument that the man was a sociopath. Other than himself, one would be hard pressed to name a cause he served above and beyond the “way of the sword.” However, that way was, in a very Nietzschean sense, beyond good and evil…”make your cut and die” is an admirable mindset during the engagement, but done in a vacuum, is it a wasted effort? Is it morally null? And can we truly award to Musashi the title “warrior?”
    Seems to me that Musashi served to enhance little more than his own name. That centuries later he is lauded as the epitome of warriorship is ironic. Per Musashi’s guidance, I’ll have to “think on this.”

    1. I have thought much the same thing. However I think that Musashi falls into one of those odd “warrior” categories; that being a warrior by caste. According to some historians, he is credited with participating in combat.

      In 1600, a war began between the Toyotomi and Tokugawa clans. Musashi apparently fought on the side of the Toyotomi’s “Army of the West”, as the Shinmen clan (to whom his family owed allegiance) had allied with them. Specifically, he participated in the attempt to take Fushimi castle by assault in July 1600, in the defense of the besieged Gifu Castle in August of the same year, and finally in the famed Battle of Sekigahara. Some doubt has been cast on this final battle, as the Hyoho senshi denki has Musashi saying he is “no lord’s vassal” and refusing to fight with his father (in Lord Ukita’s battalion) in the battle. Omitting the Battle of Sekigahara from the list of Musashi’s battles would seem to contradict the Go Rin No Sho’s statement that Musashi fought in six battles, however. Regardless, as the Toyotomi side lost, it has been suggested that Musashi fled as well and spent some time training on Mount Hiko.

      But in the grand scheme of things I have to agree that his “way” is different from the one I have defined.

      1. I think his contribution was was the “twofold Way of pen and sword”. His contribution to others was to write something of value (for whatever motive) that we are discussing now.

        Just as we don’t know his motives for writing, we don’t know the incidental moments (although I agree a case can be made for excessive solitude and even sociopathic behavior) of his life that he did not find worthy of pen and ink. We don’t know if he struggled with loneliness, even though he deemed it somehow advisable.

        And there it is. He doesn’t ask for any quarter there either, certainly not the sentimental sentence I just wrote.

        It’s good to ask, but getting too bogged down in the characters of authors or can be a mistake. That goes for all authors, really.

        Also, not every warrior will fit the definition perfectly, just as every Greek play will not fit Aristotle’s poetics.

        Ann T.

    2. I think your post is very important.

      Musashi is often thought of as having great skill just because he wrote down some good points and is recognized beyond his death, but there were a variety swordsmen superior to him both physically and philosophically. The only difference is that they didn’t write books…

      Similarly, the compilation of ideals written by the samurai Yamamoto Tsunetomo that make up the Hagakure are just that, ideals. While Tsunetomo was a warrior by class, he was not experienced in battle (Both he and his interviewer, Tsuramoto Tashiro, were administrative officials).

      A cook in the Marines could write a half-way decent book about Marine warfare since he’s trained, invested in, and surrounded by, that culture; but how much stock could you put into that book written by someone who hasn’t had to “wade through it” like you’ve said in the past?

      Their writings strike a chord because there is some good advise in there, but like anything else written down by humans, it’s bound to contain errors.

  9. Tgace, your piece is well thought and written. The only thing I would add is that their are some who possess what I like to call a warriors spirit. They may not be armed service or leo’s , and even though they do not face the daily dangers associated with such. Their are people who are prepared and stay vigilent through the mundane, that will put themselves in harmsway to help their fellow man when the situation arises.

  10. Wow, this has really blossomed in to a great discussion.

    “Someone who looks at the entirety of life as “training in warriorship”, learning, mastering and incorporating into their personal lifestyle skills as varied as combat techniques; navigation, medicine, climbing/rappelling, driving, swimming, SCUBA, physical conditioning and countless others MAY be meeting my definition. However, my personal twist would include some sort of service to society, putting those skills to use.”

    I’ve been taking some time to digest your response. My memory was jogged by the piece above. I used to think of being a martial artist in the same way.

    I haven’t thought this way for quite a while. Perhaps, I thought of it in those terms because I was learning about ancient/feudal warriors.

    These warriors had to be skilled in all those things you mentioned. In their day they were the elite warriors.

    Being a young guy (back in the day) and never being in the modern military I could only identify with what I was personally involved in. Though my dad and two uncles were WWII combat veterans I didn’t come from a military family.

    At that time my vision of a soldier was more feudal than modern.

    As a private citizen I haven’t found much need for those above mentioned skills. They would be nice to know but probably wouldn’t have a lot of use in my daily life.

    My primary purpose for studying martial arts/self-defense (back in the day) was to keep from getting my ass kicked, plain and simple.

    Later, I found a means of self-expression in the arts. I met the best and worst of people in the arts. Both have been a learning/growing experience.

    Still later, I found an avocation in the arts. I strongly wanted to share the self-defense skills and other benefits of the arts and get paid doing so.

    I’m a professional martial arts/self-defense teacher. I’m not a warrior, amateur fighter, or whatever. I’m a lifetime student of the arts and now enjoy the arts for the sake of enjoying the practice.

    Your definition is well thought out and I think it’s pretty accurate.

    Thank you and everyone for contributing to this interesting discussion.

    1. I think that “skills as varied as combat techniques; navigation, medicine, climbing/rappelling, driving, swimming, SCUBA, physical conditioning” could have value in the “civilian” world or for someone interested in self-defense. I could see value in defensive driving, first-aid skills, rescue/survival swimming, etc for the “non-warrior”. My point is that being a “Warrior” is separate from skills, gear and training. With enough time, motivation and cash anybody could get that.

      It’s the mindset of looking at the whole of what you do as “The Way”…it’s what Musashi called “knowing the way broadly so that you see it in everything”.

  11. I got what are called universal principles from my aikido training.

    It was based on the history of the warrior Samurai.

    I try to see these universal principles in everything, and usually do.

    Admittedly, not as a warrior but someone who is warrior-like.

    I hope that makes sense.

  12. I like your definition, especially the comment about being of service to the community. Your “Arm-chair” warriors are those who think just walking around like a bad ass is service enough. You need to use your skills obtained through the practice of becoming a warrior for the good of the people.
    Also, your job in this world is not a deciding factor to your warriorship… I have many LEO friends and very few are warriors. I tend not to rely or lean on the community to protect me, there simply is not enough protection available. We as individuals need to stand up and fight to protect ourselves, and our families.
    LWarriorship is a mindset….

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  14. Ah, the “warrior” post. No martial arts blog is complete without it.

    I am glad to see your definition of “warrior” is more exclusive than you find on most blogs, too. Too often I see people call others, or worse themselves, warriors simply because they throw on some white pajamas and kiai 3 times a week (and I would know, being a pajama-man myself).

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