I find Kyudo an interesting art and an interesting subject for discussion of the term “martial art”. While Kyudo has its roots in combat archery and does use a weapon, it is obviously a spiritual and meditative pursuit rather than a combative skill. While Kyudo is called a “martial art”, I doubt that any Kyudo practitioner has delusions of being “combat effective” or believe that they are training in an art that will provide them with “street survival” skills. However I do believe that there are practitioners of various stylistic, meditative and “traditional” arts that DO believe such things. These are the people who believe that working on their “Chi” rather than their punching skills or physical conditioning will help them survive a confrontation. They are the people who think that a fight will somehow adhere to the protocols they follow at the dojo. These are the people who equate “martial art” with “combatives”. A Kyudo practitioner is not the same as a historic Japanese combat archer. A sport fencing master is not automatically someone who could survive a real sword fight and a master in a “martial art” who has never faced a resisting opponent should not be presumed to be more likely to prevail against someone who has.
One should not be negligent in the way of the retainer. One should rise at four in the morning, practice sword technique, eat one’s meal, and train with the bow, the gun, and the horse. For a well-developed retainer, he should become even more so. -Kato Kiyomasa (1562-1611 A.D.)
“Use your mind strongly even when you walk down the street, such that you wouldn’t even blink if someone unexpectedly thrust a lance at your nose. All warriors should employ such a state of mind all the time in everyday life.” – Suzuki Shosan (1579-1655)
The discussion in the comments became an interesting exploration all of its own. A definition of warriorship that was explored stated that the warrior put him or herself at risk of serious physical injury or death for the sake of oneself or others. Someone else then asked if that would include “non-martial types”, such as a doctor who goes into dangerous places to treat others. I responded with a quote from Musashi:
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.
A vital component of the definition, (according to Musashi at least…and I would dare say most historical “warriors”) is the point that the warrior exists and trains to overcome other people who are trying to impose their will against him and/or his group/community/clan/nation.
I also 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”. Some folks like to apply the “warrior” label to one who simply practices a martial art.
Karate no more makes you a warrior than being a football player would. Karate (and pistol skills, rifle schooling, lock picking training, knife fighting training, etc.) are “warrior skills”. Skills that I believe some people pursue to live out their “warrior fantasy”.
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”.
There are some martial artists and authors who have a different opinion than me:
This is a common misconception where the true warrior is concerned. While the main definition of the warrior found in most dictionaries is, “Somebody who takes part in or has experience in warfare.” This definition is not the one that should be used to define the true warrior, and is not an accurate definition for the warrior lifestyle. A better definition for a warrior is, “Somebody who takes part in a struggle or conflict.” The true warrior is engaged in a struggle and it is a daily fight. His battle is not necessarily on the battlefield, but rather a personal battle to perfect his character and to become a man of excellence in every area of his life.
While it is true that martial arts training is a vital part of warriorship, it is not the sole component of a true warrior. There are many people who are trained fighters who are not true warriors. The world is full of killers, gang members, and people of low character who are well-versed in weapons and how to take a human life, but is this the singular requirement for being a warrior? Are these people true warriors or simply trained thugs? Anyone can learn to pull a trigger or destroy the human body. Does this knowledge make them a true warrior, or is there more to the warrior than the ability to fight?
While I agree with the sentiment that warriorship is not all about skills. I’m not convinced that the word “warrior” or the concept of “warriorship” necessarily has or ever had a mandate of being “virtuous”.
Many “Warriors” sacked cities, carried off women as slaves, burned down villages and did other things we would consider reprehensible today. Would one suggest that the Vikings were not “Warriors”?
While I of all people value the “Warrior Ethic”, as we have re-codified it with our modern values; I would hesitate to define the basic concept of a “Warrior” as necessarily being “virtuous”, at least by any modern standard. Remember though that what the Mongols, Romans, etc. did back then was the “Way of War” in those days. Warriors were warriors because that’s what they were. Many were born into a caste system, Knights, Samurai, Tribal Warriors etc….Soldiers were the “Average Joe’s” that joined (or were conscripted) into armies, taught how to fight, paid in some manner and sent into battle. Many went back to being “Joe Farmer” afterwards. Some became “Career Men” and sort of crossed the Soldier/Warrior boundary. In our times I would say that the difference between a Warrior and a Soldier is a matter of professionalism, commitment to craft, and the honoring of a “code” either personal or codified. In the military, when you meet a “Soldier” vs. a “Warrior” you know it….
I don’t really now of any example in military history where significant things were accomplished by warriors who “fought alone”. The lone wolf, Rambo “Warrior” is a myth IMHO. Even the Samurai and medieval Knights who were of the “Warrior Class” fought in organized battles. Examples of individual combat did absolutely exist, but all warfare is typified by some form of teamwork. Our modern definition of “Warrior” is very different from the historical model IMO. For example, the Samurai were “Warriors” by caste and at the same time there were Ashigaru “Soldiers” recruited from the other classes who fought at the same time. They all fought, bled and died pretty much the same, but what was expected of the Warriors by their society was quite different. There really is no “class” difference in the military these days (besides the officer/enlisted split), so the difference between a Warrior and a Soldier has picked up all of this philosophical/spiritual/mystical stuff. I just think of the difference as one of “dedication to craft”. The difference between somebody who “does something” from someone who “is something”.
That “service, sacrifice and risk for ones clan/community” I mentioned earlier…note I didn’t add any sort of “virtuous conduct” to the definition. The German SS were an elite group of “warriors” they were using their warrior skills in the service of their nation. I wouldn’t describe what they were doing as virtuous by any means, but I would still consider them “warriors”. The Samurai of Japan were noted for..at times…lopping off heads for simply not bowing swiftly enough.
So in a nutshell. My definition:
Trains to overcome other men/people.
Seeks to perfect those skills.
Uses those skills in service to others.
Sees this honing of “craft” and “service to others” as a “way of life” vs. SOLELY as a paycheck/term of enlistment/college money/retirement package/etc.
While virtue and “self-improvement” are desirable and some historic warrior groups attempted to codify/instill those virtues (Bushido, Chivalry, etc.), the cultural and historic “fuzziness” of what is “virtuous” makes this aspect sort of an “add on” depending on the period and people making the definition.
Of course, there are no “warrior police” out there, so everybody is free to label as they wish. However this blog is about my definition so…there it is.
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.
The topic of conversation is Jack Hoban’s use of Robert L Humphrey’s “Warrior Creed” in his 1988 book “Ninpo: Living and Thinking As a Warrior”. The creed is:
The Warrior Creed By Dr. Robert L. Humphrey (Iwo Jima Marine)
Wherever I go,
everyone is a little bit safer because I am there.
Wherever I am,
anyone in need has a friend.
Whenever I return home,
everyone is happy I am there.
It’s a better life!
Some readers have interpreted Hoban’s use of the creed to mean that wannabe Ninjas should stalk the streets making everyone safer. I’m giving the author the benefit of the doubt. Take a read and tell me what you think.
In light of some recent events, this post came to my mind so I decided to re-publish it.
If one would seek good companions, he will find them among those with whom he studies Learning and calligraphy. Harmful companions to avoid will be found among those who play go, chess and shakuhachi. There is no shame in not knowing these later amusements. Indeed, they are matters to be taken up only in the stead of wasting ones time completely.
A person’s good and evil are dependent on his companions. When three people are together there will always be an exemplary person among them, and one should choose the good person and follow his example. Looking at the bad person, one should correct his own mistakes.
-Hojo Nagauji (1432-1519 A.D.)
Hojo Nagauji was a “Fighting Samurai” and general of the late Muromachi Period. Some of his writings, namely The Twenty-One Precepts (of which this is a quote), are amongst the foundations of what we know as Bushido.
I find this passage interesting. In it he is advising his retainers to really consider who it is they associate with. He tells them to associate with people who are studious and avoid those who want to spend their time gambling, gaming and carousing. Furthermore he suggests looking for the “good example” in every crowd and avoid being like the bad example.
To apply this to our times does not take much re-contexing, as a matter of fact there are numerous sayings from various cultures that state the same:
Be honorable yourself if you wish to associate with honorable people.
Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation. It is better be alone than in bad company.
We (including myself) have all been in those situations where we have been out on the town with our friends and gotten a little too drunk, done something too stupid or just made too much of a spectacle of ourselves in public. I do not want to come off as a prude, but too much of that sort of thing leads to nothing but trouble and does nothing but lead one from “the way”. If you associate with people who lead you into those types of situations it is time to consider the value of those people and its time to consider your own reasons for associating with them. I’m not suggesting that one needs to swear off alcohol or “going out” entirely. Even Hojo Nagauji did not say that. But he did say that “playing” was only to be considered over completely wasting ones time. If one desires to be considered a “professional” or a “warrior” then there are numerous things you could be doing to improve your skills and your survivability (“screw golf”) other than idle drinking. If drinking and partying is occupying more of your heart and mind then “the way” is, then I believe that you are living in a fantasy world where you want to “say you are… rather than BE.”
In the end, what I am suggesting is being “mindful” in everything you do. If you want to go out and enjoy yourself every now and then by all means do so. But do so “intentionally”. Likewise consider the people you associate with; are they examples you wish to emulate? Do you want other people to think of you the way they think of them? Are they worthy of respect? Are you?
In my opinion, if you find yourself getting “wasted” as routine entertainment, if you like to associate with criminals and “loser’s”, or if you are consistently acting in an undignified manner in public, you are debasing yourself, asking for trouble, and are far from the path of a “warrior”.
I was surfing round the net and discovered the wiki for Col. Lewis Millet. And like many from his generation, his life story is something to read.
Lewis Lee Millett, Sr.(December 15, 1920 – November 14, 2009) was a United States Army officer who received the Medal of Honor during the Korean War for leading the last major American bayonet charge.
He enlisted into the National Guard while still in high school and then in 1940 joined the United States Army Air Corps. When he thought that the United States would not participate in World War II he deserted and went to Canada with a friend where they joined the military and were sent to London. The U.S. did enter the war and by the time he made it to Europe they were in the fight so he transferred to theU.S. Army. While serving with the Army in World War II, he received a Silver Star for driving a burning ammunition truck away from a group of soldiers, before it exploded.
During the Korean War, he was awarded the United States military’s highest decoration, the Medal of Honor. The citation explains that he lead a bayonet charge against the enemy. He later served in the Vietnam War as well. He retired from the Army in 1973 and died ofcongestive heart failure in 2009.
His wiki is worth a read. At the end of the bayonet charge he lead, 20 of the 50 enemy KIA were found to have been killed by cold American steel. The last known large scale charge of its kind.
-Do not turn your back on the various Ways of this world.
-Do not scheme for physical pleasure.
-Do not intend to rely on anything.
-Consider yourself lightly; consider the world deeply.
-Do not ever think in acquisitive terms.
-Do not regret things about your own personal life.
-Do not envy another’s good or evil.
-Do not lament parting on any road whatsoever.
-Do not complain or feel bitterly about yourself or others.
-Have no heart for approaching the path of love.
-Do not have preferences.
-Do not harbor hopes for your own personal home.
-Do not have a liking for delicious food for yourself.
-Do not carry antiques handed down from generation to generation.
-Do not fast so that it affects you physically.
-…do not be fond of material things.
-…do not begrudge death.
-Do not be intent on possessing valuables or a fief in old age.
-Respect the gods and Buddhas, but do not depend on them.
-Though you give up your life, do not give up your honor.
-Never depart from the Way of martial arts.
Second Day of the Fifth Month, Second Year of Shoho 
Shinmen (Miyamoto) Musashi