daimyo house codes

Many writings about warriors and “warriorship” come from the Samurai of feudal Japan. While most people refer to the “Bushido Code” and the Hagakure as refrences to warrior thought, those works were actually written during the long Tokugawa peace (or even later) and were somewhat idealized representations of what the Warrior should do and think. For an interesting glimpse into the “functional roots” of Bushido one needs to look at the “House Codes” of the earlier Samurai houses. These were the basic rules laid down by the Daimyo of a Samurai clan that outlined how he believed his Samurai should act. Here are a few:

From the Toshikage Jushichikajo 1480

  • Do not give a command post or an administrative position to anyone who lacks ability, even if his family has served the Asakura family for generations.
  • Post intelligence agents (metsuke) in both near and distant provinces, even if the world may be at peace. In so doing you can spy on the conditions of these domains without interruption.
  • Do not excessively covet swords and daggers made by famous masters. Even if you own a sword or dagger worth 10,000 pieces (hiki, equivalent of 10 mon), it can be overcome by 100 spears each worth 100 pieces. Therefore, use the 10,000 pieces to procure 100 spears, and arm 100 men with them. You can in this manner defend yourself in time of war.
  • Those retainers who lack special talent or positions, but who are steadfast must be treated with compassion and understanding. Those who are effeminate may still be used as attendants or messengers if their demeanor is outstanding, and they must not be dismissed lightly. However, if they lack both [steadfastness and good deportment], then it is useless to retain them.
  • Regrettable is the practice of selecting an auspicious day or considering a lucky direction in order to win a battle or take a castle, and even shift the time and date accordingly. No matter how auspicious the day may be, if you set sail your boat in a storm or confront a great host alone, your effort will come to naught. No matter how inauspicious the day may be, if you can discern between truth and falsehood, prepare for the orthodox and surprise attacks secretly, be flexible in all situations, and depend on a good stratagem, then your victory is assured.
  • Do not permit any castle other than that of the Asakura to be built in this province. Move all high-ranking retainers without exception to Ichijo-ga-tani (the Asakura castle). Permit their deputies (Daikan) and lower officials (gesu or shitazukasa) to remain in their districts and villages [to manage their estates].

From the Chosokabe-shi Okitegaki 1596

  • It should be the primary concern of everyone to train himself unceasingly in military accomplishment. Those who tend to excel their fellows in this should be given additional income. Particular attention should be paid to musketry, archery, and horsemanship. The military code is contained in a separate document.
  • It is only natural that services are demanded of those who hold fiefs, and they must be carried out to the letter regardless of whether they are large or small. Anyone late for logging or construction work will be required to repeat the duty period as punishment. And anyone who comes short of the food and provisions requested of him for work detail will be required to supply as much again.
  • In regard to those who abscond: offenders must be punished whatever their excuse and so also their relatives. Proper reward should be given neighbors or friends who report anyone whose behavior causes suspicion that he is planning to desert. Those who have knowledge of such intent and fail to report it will receive the same punishment as the offender. Furthermore, a man who reports late for lumbering or construction and leaves without getting permission from the magistrate will have his lands declared forfeited. If a man deserts directly to another province, punishment will also be imposed on his relatives. Similarly, if a man’s retainer (hikan) deserts [from labor duty], the master will be penalized threefold.
  • Heavy drinking is prohibited for all people, high and low, to say nothing of all magistrates. Furthermore: With regards to drunkards, the fine for minor offenses will be three kan of coins, and appropriate punishment (seibai) will be imposed for severe offenses. A man who cuts or strikes others [while drunk] will have his head cut off.
  • As to illicit relations with another’s wife: Although it is obvious, unless the guilty pair kill themselves, both of them should be executed. If approval of relatives is obtained, revenge may be undertaken, but unnatural cruelty will constitute a crime. If the husband fails to kill the man, or if he is away at the time the offense becomes known, the people of the village should kill the offender. In addition: If a woman has a reputation, the [marriage] contract is to be broken.
  • When there is not a man in the house, no males-masseurs, peddlers, traveling sarugaku performers and musicians, solicitors for religious contributions (banjin) or even relatives-shall set foot in the house. If someone is ill and if the relatives approve, a visit may be made, but then only in daytime. Even the magistrate must carry on his business outside the gate. However, this does not apply to parents, sons, and brothers [of the household head].
  • Whoever discovers that anyone, whether vassal or farmer, is concealing the existence of [untaxed] fields and reports it to the lord, will be rewarded strikingly. Acting on such information, the magistrate will base his ruling on the land survey register. If it becomes clear that a vassal concealed the field, he will be severely punished. And if it is a farmer who concealed it, he will be forced to pay double the tax due since the land survey, after which he will be banished. If he pleads hardship at this, he will have his head cut off.
  • With regard to family succession: It is necessary to notify the lord and receive his permission, even if the heir is the head’s real child. It is strictly forbidden to decide succession matters privately. Furthermore: One must also request permission to become guardian for a minor.
  • As regards family name and succession designation for loyal retainers: If a vassal commits a crime and has to be punished, his family name will not be affected if the offense was a minor one. But if he commits a major crime, his punishment should include the loss of his family name.

From the Soun-ji Dono Nijuichi Kajo Ca. 1495

  • Don’t think your swords and clothes should be as good as those of other people. Be content as long as they don’t look awful. Once you start acquiring what you don’t have and become even poorer, you’ll become a laughingstock.
  • Whenever you have a little bit of time for yourself, read a book. Always carry something with characters written on it with you and look at it when no one’s looking. Unless you accustom yourself to them, asleep or awake, you’ll forget them. The same is true of writing.
  • There’s the saying, “Do everything with others, and you’ll have no trouble.” Rely on others in everything.
  • When you have to walk past the elders lined up in the corridor for the master’s audience, you must bend at the hips and lower your hands. It’s absolutely out of the question not to show deference or humility but to stomp past. All samurai must behave humbly, deferentially.
  • Anyone without any knowledge of tanka composition must be said to be untalented and shallow. Study it.
    Always work at reading, writing, martial skills, archery, and horse riding. There is no need to detail this. Hold literary skills in your left hand, martial skills in your right. This is the law from ancient times. Never neglect it.

From the Imagawa Kana Mokuroku 1526

  • In dealing with those who have quarreled, both parties should be sentenced to death, irrespective of who is in the right or in the wrong. In cases where one party to the dispute, although provoked and attacked, controls himself, makes no defense and, as a result, is wounded his appeal should be granted. While it is reprehensible that he should have been a party to the dispute and perhaps contributed to its outbreak, his respect for the law in not returning the attack merits consideration. However, in cases where warriors come to the aid of one or other parties to a dispute and then claim to be an injured party, their claims shall not be entertained, even if they should be wounded or killed.

From the Rokkaku-shi Shikimoku 1567

  • Taking and keeping the landholdings of others is the worst kind of unlawful act. Those who have taken the domains of others should return them immediately to the lawful proprietor. When such domains are not returned voluntarily, the Daimyô shall order their return. If an order of this kind is not complied with, he shall order his retainers to expel the offender by force. In such cases the retainers must act cooperatively together as a single group in aid of the Daimyô. Even though the offender may be someone with whom they have close ties, a relative, or someone whom it is difficult to ignore, retainers are forbidden to go to the aid of the lawbreaker. On the other hand, even if the one whose lands have been taken is disliked by the retainers, insofar as the Daimyô orders, they must put aside their resentment and cooperate fully and actively in chastising the offender.
  • It is forbidden for the Daimyô to hand down and enforce a judgment in a trial without a full enquiry or without allowing the defendants an opportunity to explain the circumstances…

From the Koshu Hatto no Shidai 1547+

  • Without a secret understanding with the daimyo, no one is permitted to send messages and letters to another province. However, of necessity, communications by the samurai residents (kokujin) of the Province of Shinano may be continued, as long as they are known to us to be engaged in devising a stratagem. Those who live on the border, who are accustomed to exchanging letters, need not be prohibited from doing so.
  • Concerning the land granted by a daimyo (onchi), even it may have undergone two phases of a natural disaster, both flood and drought, one must not expect a change of land. One must serve the daimyo diligently and in proportion to the amount produced from his land (bunryô). Even placed in adverse conditions, if one can discharge his duties exceptionally well, he may then be given suitable land [in it’s place].
  • Anyone who marries outside of the province, by contracting to take possesion of another’s estate (shoryû), or to send his retainers for the service of another, creates the causes for a great disturbance. Therefore, such a marriage is strictly forbidden. If anyone disobeys this injunction, a severe admonisment shall be rendered.
  • Exchanging oaths privately by relatives and retainers is tantamount to treason. However, on the battlefield, it is permissible to enter into a compact, so as to encourage loyalty.
  • The Pure Land Sect and Nichiren Band (tô) are not permitted to engage in religious controversy within our domain (bunkoku). If there are people who encourage such controversies, both the priests and their parishioners will be punished.
  • Pay proper reverence to the gods and the Buddha. When your thoughts are in accord with the Buddha’s, you will gain more power. If your domination over others issues from your evil thoughts, you will be exposed, you are doomed. Next, devote yourselves to the study of Zen. Zen has no secrets other than seriously thinking about birth-and-death.

From the Osaka jochu kabegaki
[The Wall Writings of Ôsaka Castle] 1595

(Note: While not strictly a ‘House code’, the Wall Writings of Osaka Castle, intended for the realm’s daimyo, demonstrates that the basic concepts and presentation of daimyô law remained the same even as the Sengoku period ended.)

  • Greater and lesser lords are strictly prohibited from entering deliberately into contracts and from signing oaths and the like.
  • If there is a fight or quarrel, the one who exercises forbearance will be favored.1
  • Those who have permission to ride in palanquins are [Tokugawa] Ieyasu, [Meada] Toshiie, [Uesugi] Kagekatsu, [Mori] Terumoto, [Kobayakawa] Takekage, elderly court nobles, venerable and high-ranking monks. As for others, even daimyo-if young-should ride on horseback. Those fifty years of age or more have permission to ride in simple palanquins if the journey is at least one ri. Those who are ill also have permission to ride in simple palanquins.
  • Concerning the management of fiefs throughout the country: after the crops have been inspected, the lord should take two-thirds and the farmer one-third. In any case, orders should be issued which will ensure that the fields do not become devastated.
  • One of lesser status may keep, in addition to his principal wife, one handmaid, but he should not maintain a separate house. Even one of greater status should not exceed one or two concubines.
  • Conform to the limitations of your fief; in all things your actions should be [consistent with your standing].

1.He presumably refers to personal disputes among the daimyô, rather than either war or a brawl between common samurai.

in this very place

Our intrinsic Buddha Nature is right here now, in this very place, and there are endless ways to awaken to this fact. The Zen tradition is full of stories about the different ways teachers have provoked a realisation with their students, In the Fukanzazengi Dogen Zenji talks about how teachers used “a whisk, a fist, a stick or a shout”. There are accounts of people awakening by hearing the sound of a pebble or by seeing the morning star. You can just as well realise profound enlightenment by stubbing your big toe! Anything can work because the Truth is the essence of everything and permeates everywhere. Our senses can lead us to believe otherwise. We look at other people and may not see their true nature. We look at ourselves and may only see our incompleteness. We easily perceive all sorts of forms and colors, we experience all kinds of emotions and thoughts but we don’t see the essence that connects all phenomena. Maybe that’s why we don’t appreciate this life- we only look at the surface of things and end up missing the heart. The surface will never bring lasting satisfaction. Remember, the word shin points to the way things really are: it can be translated as heart-mind and as essence. Reality, or the essence of everything, including ourselves, is heart-mind, Buddha Nature.

Excerpt from a recent teisho given by Tenkei Roshi on Fukanzazengi, 2005

the dark side


A site I stumbled across doing some research on “Warriorship” …do a google on that term and take a look at the results. It shows you what the problem is IMO.


This looks like the dark side of having a wanting and/or needing to be a warrior but taking the wrong path..into cultism. No offense meant to any Ninjutsu/Bujinkan folks out there, but they are amongst the biggest offenders of MY whole warrior rant here (again this is just MY OPINION…Im not implying that there is anything inherently wrong or Bad with emulating warriors, I just dont personally agree with it). The Ninjutsu folks really play up the whole “Warriorship” angle, some outright proclaiming themselves warriors. I grew up in the 80’s “ninja craze” days, which as a kid was great. I gobbled up all the Hayes/Hatsumi books I could find…still read them every once and a while…but :

“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I
thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish
things.” -1 Corinthians 13:11

Some people are apparently so invested in being “Warriors” that they can become victims of some unscrupulous instructors with “issues”. In those links the main offender is described as a former USArmy Officer with combat experience (claimed..people lie about that sort of stuff). If true, it only goes to show yet another issue with this whole topic. He could very well be a “True Warrior” (combat vet etc.) yet still be a slimy bastard. Being a Warrior and being a “good person” are not always necessarily the same issue. People..deep down..if they can be honest with themselves…want to be “Warriors” for the power, fear and respect that they believe comes with it. That desire is natural as I see it, but once recognized it has to be tempered with thought and reason. Most people just cloak those base desires with the “high minded” gobbledy gook rather than face the truth and deal with it.

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kill the buddha

Clinical research shows Buddhist mindfulness t...
Clinical research shows Buddhist mindfulness techniques can help alleviate anxiety , stress , and depression (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



Killing the Buddha

There’s an old saying, “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.”

Who’s that Buddha? What does it mean to “meet” the Buddha? What does killing the Buddha imply?

The historical Buddha, Shakyamuni, on attaining enlightenment, is said to have realized that all beings, just as they are, are Buddhas. If that’s so, meeting a Buddha on the road should be a pretty commonplace event! So should being a Buddha on the road! But that’s where the word “meeting” comes in. It implies encountering something or someone outside or other than oneself. We all come to practice carrying around images or
ideals of who we should be and what we imagine a Teacher or Buddha should look like. And we may chase after individuals that for a while seem like they live up to our image, ignore those who do not, and generally treat ourselves with contempt for not living up to the standards set by our imaginary inner “Buddha.” All this may keep us pretty busy, but it has nothing to do with real practice, which is an awareness of who and what we actually are, not the pursuit of some ideal of who we think we should be. So “killing the Buddha” means killing or wiping out this fantasy image, and “the road” is two fold: the road outside where we look outside ourselves for the ones who have all the answers, and the inner mind road, where we set up all the “shoulds” we must obey to turn ourselves into the Buddhas we don’t believe we already are, but think we must become.

It is said that Shakyamuni’s last dying words to his disciples were, “Be a lamp unto yourselves.” Be your own light, your own authority, your own Buddha. Kill off every image of the Buddha, see who and what you are in
this very moment, see that there is no Buddha other than THIS MOMENT….

I think this article, if read with an eye toward our discussion of Warriorship can be quite “enlightening”.

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my definition

I believe a true “Warrior” is someone who fights our enemies and puts his/her ass on the line for something bigger than himself. Pick the service that applies. Sporting events and dancing around in a dojo, or strutting around a gunrange in your 5.11′s and thigh holster doesn’t count. Many people want all the glory with none of the sacrifice and risk. And I mean REAL sacrifice and risk…as in risking your very life.
Private Joe Snuffy in Afghanistan is 110% more a “Warrior” (even if he never fires a shot in anger) than some hobbyist martial artist. Same goes for a volunteer fireman who wakes up at 3 am to pull someone out of a burning building. Just because someone wants to be a Warrior doesn’t make them one IMO. There’s a price to admission so I guess that does make Warriors “elite” in my definition. Making it “common” is the problem as I see it.
That said, theres nothing wrong with studying, emulating and training “as a Warrior”. But a person leaping into the fantasy of “being” a warrior who just happens to really be a guy who works at the Best Buy help desk and goes to class 2X a week is a bit lame IMO.


thoughts on the phenomonea

A photo of The Thinker by Rodin located at the...
A photo of The Thinker by Rodin located at the Musée Rodin in Paris (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t want to come down too hard on the “warrior lifestyle” proponents because I can see its benefits. Epically for the teenage-twenty something male set.

I recall a couple of young guys who used to run the neighborhoods in camo/ninja garb in the 80’s honing their “warrior skills”..reading everything military, mystical and martial they could lay their hands on. Backyard sparring and training out of Stephen Hayes books to supplement the McDojo training from the local small town school. Scaling buildings, cliffs and towers because they may need these skills “in combat” someday. Wargames in the woods and waterbaloon ambush/counter-ambush attacks, hunting as “warrior pastime”/”combat drill” etc etc. It served to fulfill that need in a male of that age…a need to belong to something…a need to feel skilled..powerful..doing things that few others did and experiencing things few others experienced. Its a gateway from Boy to Man that’s lacking in our society.

As those guys got older and had a bit more money (and fewer obligations) those “games” turned into rock climbing, skydiving, paintballing, firearms and so on. Then eventually military service and jobs in education, security and law enforcement. Many people, mostly male, have that desire to be a “warrior”. To be a “man amongst men”, to be the one that people look to when the chips are down. “Feared by men..loved by women” yadda yadda. The difference is in how a person chooses to fill that desire. Those guys were self aware enough to realize where their fantasies of youth began and ended and used the skills, limit testing, technical skills and experience they gained for other “adult world” purposes (facing fear in skydiving and climbing had its role in taking risks to accomplish goals. Fitness, basic military concepts and so on all gave benefits down the road). Some guys need to actually fight and compete to get that fulfillment (MMA competitors/barfighters/motorcycle gang members). Some need the substitute of professional sports fandom, some need martial arts. None are “bad”…none are “good” in and of themselves alone. Its all about how you choose to live your life.

Eventually, I began to feel like I was leading a “Xerox life” and wanted something more “authentic” to make MYSELF feel more fulfilled. Other people may not feel that need. Or they just do this stuff as a hobby and are content with the life/profession/family they already have. Their fulfillment, contribution to society and self-worth is just as valid as the “warriors”. But we aren’t talking about them. They are well adjusted and self aware. I am talking about those who ARE NOT content with who and where they are. Instead of making the big move or the scary commitment to make REAL change in their lives to reach their goals, they grasp onto their “warrior” training at their corner dojo and walk around in their Mandarin collared silk Chinese shirts or
their “psudo-uniform” 5.11 tactical clothes, ball caps, vests and “operator” dodads. I just caution people to avoid placing all of your self-worth in something without “real world” foundations.

In our niche here though (MA’s) you see some people who decide to authenticate that Xerox lifestyle by making up a history of “combat”, either street or military. Some want to “authenticate” but dont or cant commit to the sacrifice or effort that requires.

In the end I guess Im saying that we all need to look at why we do what we do with an honest eye and determine what are real motivations are. Any honest person will admit to themselves that there is always a little bit of that teenage “warrior fantasy” in themselves…from the experienced Special Forces Soldier to the MA Grandmaster…that boy in themselves that is pleased in who they have become. That’s normal. If its a monster in the closet..that’s a problem.

finish the day

“Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense. This day is all that is good and fair. It is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on yesterdays. “
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

rainstorm wisdom

“There is something to be learned from a rainstorm. When meeting with a sudden shower, you try not to get wet and run quickly along the road. But doing such things as passing under the eaves of houses, you still get wet. When you are resolved from the beginning, you will not be perplexed, though you still get the same soaking. This understanding extends to everything.”
– Yamamoto Tsunetomo (山本常朝), Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai



that time of year

The air is growing colder, the sky is growing greyer and the change of the season is something that can be felt all around, like the coming of rain. Something that has always marked the change of the year to me has been the beginning of deer season. As a child I remember my father, grandfathers and uncles going off to hunt. It always signaled the start of the holiday season to me back then, shortly after opening day came Thanksgiving, then Christmas and the New Year. Then snow was something looked forward to.

When I was old enough to hunt it was back when my grandfathers were alive. Opening day was a ceremonial event, remembered for the gathering of my father, my grandfather, my uncles, my friends and their brothers and fathers. For a while even my sister participated. Opening day was a valid excuse to be absent from school in my hometown. The hunting was enjoyable, but the real memories were in the gathering around the thermos cups of coffee and telling tales of the big ones that got away, the hunts of years gone bye and the family legends and tales that we all have.

As the years have gone by, the grandfathers have passed away and the friends have moved away or moved along. For a number of years it was just my father and I. Now, after his bypass, I have gone out to the woods only a handful of times. While I am blessed with three beautiful daughters, none of them are interested in getting up in the early morning hours and braving the weather and the cold to walk the woods. Last year my partner decided to pick up the shotgun again and we went out a for few days and plan on going again this year. While it is still enjoyable and my partner has become a good friend, in some ways deer season has changed from being a ceremony of community and continuing tradition, to a symbol of the changing of human life.



I have started my spring/summer workout cycle. This year Im trying the latest rage in LE/Military/SWAT/SpecOps conditioning. Its called Crossfit. Im a regular exerciser, I lift, I run, I do martial arts classes, but Crossfit is like nothing Ive ever done before.

For example; in one WOD (Workout Of the Day), I had to do cycles of bench press, deadlift and cleans in descending repitions. 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1…of all three movements, back to back, continious. Thats the “standard” for that workout. You are allowed to “scale” the workout in terms of weight used and rest between sets to complete. Needless to say I scaled the crap out of it and I still have been a sore puppy for the last two days. Like I said earlier, I run regularly, but this had me huffing and puffing harder than a 400M sprint.

My rationale for this torture stems from a practical application. Anybody in LE or the military who has ever had to sprint, all-out with a ton of gear on, finds that no matter how far you can run in shorts and sneakers, your legs turn to rubber after a few hundred yards. Throw in having to jump a fence or two and wrestle with a bad guy at the end and you are left “smoked”. This protocol purports to be the answer, and judging from the people who do it, it looks like it may be.

The Crossfit philosophy in a nutshell is:

– Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat.
– Practice and train major lifts: Deadlift, clean, squat, presses, C&J, and snatch. Similarly, master the basics of gymnastics: pull-ups, dips, rope climb, push-ups, sit-ups, presses to handstand, pirouettes, flips, splits, and holds. Bike, run, swim, row, etc, hard and fast.
– Five or six days per week mix these elements in as many combinations and patterns as creativity will allow. Routine is the enemy. Keep workouts short and intense.
– Regularly learn and play new sports.

The gymanstic and specialized powerlifting skills are going to be a sticking point for me, but I used to be able to hold a handstand for a few seconds..years ago…so maybe Ill ease into some of it.

The key to it all appears to be interval training. While the WOD mixes in lower rep. max lifts, the bread and butter is grueling ammounts of squats, chin-ups, presses and lifts in sequence. Anybody interested in really being “fit”…I mean REALLY fit will benefit from looking at their website. I have high hopes for this summers results.

“The infinite is in the finite of every instant”

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