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Bushido

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In Japanese tradition, Bushido (武士道), is a term which translates "way of the warrior". Many samurai devoted their lives to bushido, a strict code that demanded loyalty and honor to the death. If a samurai failed to uphold his honor he could regain it by committing seppuku (ritual suicide).

Bushido is a particularly internally-consistent ethical code. In its purest form, it demands of its practitioners that they look effectively backward at the present from the moment of their own death, as if they were already, in effect, dead. This is particularly true of the earlier forms of Bushido or budo. Of later forms, traditionalists would scoff, "they reason with staying alive kept clearly in mind."

There are seven virtues associated with Bushido:

Important figures in the development of Bushido: Bushido was also a spiritual basis for those who committed kamikaze attack during World War II. For this reason many of the martial arts that are rooted in bushido were banned by the occupying Americans during the post-war occupation.

The modern sport of kendo takes its basic philosophy from bushido, in particular, the theory that the entire purpose of the sport is "one cut, one kill". Unlike other martial arts extended contact or multiple strikes tends to be discouraged, in favor of clean single strokes on the body or the head.

See also: samurai, hagakure, nihilism, Zen, chivalry.

Further Reading

  • Inazo Nitobe, Bushido: The Soul of Japan - An Exposition of Japanese Thought (Charles E. Tuttle, 1969)
  • Karl F. Friday, Seki Humitake,Legacies of the Sword (University of Hawai'i, 1997)


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