Samurai Spirit Essay

Marissa Armstrong
JAPN 212
Professor Takahashi
5/5/14

Introduction
An age of warrior spirit erupted in the Edo period of valor and honor. These warriors,
who fought for their feudal lords, were known as samurai. Men that fought embodied a certain
aura of fighting that became a way of life. It was a spirit that wrapped itself around the soul of
warrior samurai. These warriors fought with a clear sense of duty. A duty to their lords,
themselves, and to the image of samurai across generations. Battling wasn’t the only thing that
embodied these men; they also used their skills to carry themselves as part of a society. If
someone was in need, they would help. In this report I will study and analyze what made up this
embodiment of warrior’s soul that came to be known as the samurai spirit. As well as researching
this, I will explain why it was important to the class of warriors that made samurai spirit their
way of life.
Who Samurai Were to Begin With
When samurai first existed, they were there to solely serve as bodyguards for feudal
lords. As time went by, a new class began to erupt. That would be a new class and society that
adopted samurai as a new way of life. Protection was their duty, even if it cost their lives. There
was a certain code that samurai followed, known as Bushido. This consisted of ideas such as not
relying on anything, not being attached to material items, and not regretting parting a journey
(Miyamoto, p.xxxiii). One of the most stunning codes is the one of committing hara-kiri to
maintain honor. If anything embodied the spirit of samurai, it was this principle. Physical
training was not the only method of training completed. There was also the fierce mental stability
that was gained through years of meditation and concentration. There were multiple ways to train
the body, but the most important way was to train all skills so that they can be used at any time
(Miyamoto, p.6). This was fundamental in Bushido, as one had to always be prepared to fight.

A Samurai’s Duty
One’s duty in this time was to serve the feudal lord as bodyguards. However, as time
went on, there were samurai that no longer served anyone, and they were known as Ronin.
Sometimes Ronin would band together, but that happened very rarely. This aspect of samurai
brought upon the idea of relying on oneself to complete the journey as a warrior. In some cases,
there were Ronin that were incredibly poor. This is shown in the movie Twilight Samurai, when
the main character, Seibei Iguchi, becomes a Ronin and tries to live his life helping a woman
who was hiding. Seibei hardly had enough to money to look after himself, let alone care for
another person. It was his determination that enabled him to still protect another’s life, even
when he was risking his own. With a quality like this, Seibei was definitely the definition of a
Ronin.
Important Stances
When there was no fighting, there would be training. Before training the body, samurai
would train their mind. Concentration wasn’t enough to become instantly good at fighting. One
had to obtain focus, agility, and perception before they were even allowed to start physical
training. As talked about in the Wind chapter of Miyamoto, stances were the most important
attribute of a battle. These stances could include feet, arm, and even eye placements. When
watching the opponent’s weapon, the mind becomes distracted. Miyamoto says that the best way
to fight with your eyes is to look into the man’s mind. This way, their movements can be read
and the victor will not be your opponent (Miyamoto, p.101). Along with the eyes, the feet and
speed have their own methods in succeeding in battle. Speed doesn’t mean swiftness, but the
rhythm in which one moves. This was key to samurai because if they could sense the enemy’s
movement, they would have a higher chance of successfully striking (Miyamoto, p.105). I

believe it was this type of fighting that emerged a new era of warrior spirit. This would be a
significant addition to the new erupting soul known as samurai spirit.
The Different Types of Samurai
In Japan’s history, there were two different types of samurai. There were low class
samurai that were quite poor, and then there were high class samurai who fought for the
aristocrats. Low class samurai were usually very poor. Their diet was cheap in price but had
much more nutrition than the type of food that aristocrats ate at the time. As a result, samurai
lived longer than aristocrats. However, that does not mean their lives were long and well-lived.
There were some low-class samurai that also robbed people just to get by. Fujisawa writes about
a man who worked as a knife sharpener during the day, and when he sat down to eat his lunch, he
would map out the house he was in. Then, he would sneak in at night and take whatever he
could. That was his way of surviving (Fujisawa, p.43,46). Though warriors were nobleman, men
had to do what they would to survive.
Upper Class Samurai vs. Lower Class
Upper class warriors, however, had it better as they had both a master and higher salary.
Their salary was typically given in bushels of rice and samurai families focused a lot on heirs.
Their clan would be continued on through the birth of sons. This is evident in the story of the
Bamboo Sword, which talks a lot about heirs. One samurai that had lost his post had heard there
were jobs at a far destination and took his family to find work. In this story it tells of why one
province was searching for such men. It was because the previous post man had been heir but
made severe comments against the Daimyo and as a result, was killed. However, because there
was no heir to succeed him, the position needed to be filled with such a man that could defend
his station (Fujisawa, p. 20-24). In the end, the man that filled the position was able to ward off

his opponent with just a bamboo sword, proving how skilled samurai can be even without a
metal sword.
Stereotypes
The first stereotype to dispel about samurai is that they only fought with swords. This is
not true. They actually first fought with bow and arrow on horseback and when they ran out of
bows is when they would get off of their horses and start fighting on foot. With these new
fighting tactics came sword styles and Miyamoto’s Water chapter speaks of the differences
between the different types of attacks. Samurai couldn’t just have one attack; they had to be
prepared for any type of sword and style to come at them. There were many styles taught such as
The Autumn Leaf Strike, Comparing Stature, and The Body Blow. All of these fighting
techniques were designed to train samurai into defeating their opponent. Trained with a certain
rhythm and flow, samurai can use these attacks to stun the other and kill them if necessary
(Miyamoto, p.47-49). One thing that these warriors need to do is concentrate themselves on the
task at hand. With mental concentration, they can bring success without being harmed too badly
and will have a higher chance of surviving a battle.
Just as Human
Samurai were serious men but not always did they lead a completely stagnant life. Daily
trials and tribulation would affect their lives because they were equally as human as any other.
One story from Fujisawa depicts a childless family that always bickered. However, one day, they
came upon a mysterious lady who had lost her memory. Frightened, the family took her in and
took care of her as if she were their own. As a result, the family stopped bickering, and even the
drama-loving neighbors no longer had anything to say about the drama that had always ensued.
But, after a while, the caretakers of this woman came back and took her away, once again leaving

the family alone by themselves. But, they never bickered again (Fujisawa, p.104,115). There
were qualities in warrior men that no one would suspect. And, they were admirable because not
only were samurai actually family men, they also did care about other things other than fighting.
Defense
One thing that samurai were taught to do is attack effectively but also know when to
defend themselves. There was an art in defense that was equally as eloquent as the art of attack.
In Fujisawa’s “The Runaway Stallion”, an old daimyo’s personal guard gets hired as a guard for
a clan and watches as people he knows betrays the clan. Near the end of the story, he is faced
with these men and forced to fight them. However, he was outnumbered and had to be on the
defensive (Fujisawa, p.189,198). This story is relevant to samurai’s need for defense because it
proves that attacking is not the one thing that will allow you to win. Watching your opponent’s
moves and determining your own is what will determine the victor.
Samurai Spirit
Spirits of samurai were the embodiment of culture in ancient periods. There are many
ways that spirits have embodied warriors such as this. One such quality of these men were their
visual and mental concentration obtained from years of training. It wasn’t only fighting that
made these samurai men, it was their desire to protect what they grew up and work for. There is a
certain part of the soul that lies in the way of the warrior. In the Emptiness Chapter of
Miyamoto’s book, it speaks of how the heart of truth is the way of the samurai. That if you make
emptiness the way, you can see the way as emptiness (Miyamoto, p. 112-113). This is important
because it shows the amount of devotion samurai had towards their path in life. With such inner
strength, it is no wonder samurai have the aura of fierceness.
Conclusion

The images of samurai are known everywhere as warriors who were brave and fought
ferociously with their opponents. Not only was their fighting spirit part of the life of a warrior, so
was their frame of mind. This embodiment of a soul that made up samurai, it was created images
that would be recognized for centuries. Samurai fought with their minds as well as their bodies
and that is what makes them such influential forces in the history of Japan.

Bibliography
Miyamoto, M. (2002). The Book of Five Swords: Earth. Boston, Massachusetts. Shambhala
Publications, Inc.
Miyamoto, M. (2002). The Book of Five Swords: Emptiness. Boston, Massachusetts. Shambhala
Publications, Inc.
Miyamoto, M. (2002). The Book of Five Swords: Water. Boston, Massachusetts. Shambhala
Publications, Inc.
Miyamoto, M. (2002). The Book of Five Swords: Wind. Boston, Massachusetts. Shambhala
Publications, Inc.
Shuhei, F. (2006). Bamboo Sword: The Bamboo Sword. Los Angeles, CA. Kodansha USA.
Shuhei, F. (2006). Bamboo Sword: Kozuru. Los Angeles, CA. Kodansha USA.
Shuhei, F. (2006). Bamboo Sword: Passing Shower. Los Angeles, CA. Kodansha USA.
Shuhei, F. (2006). Bamboo Sword: The Runaway Stallion. Los Angeles, CA. Kodansha USA.
Yoji Yamada (Director). (2002). Twilight Samurai. [Motion Picture]. Japan: Shochiku

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