You are on page 1of 3

Toastmasters Speech

Competent Communicator Project #04


On Budo Philosophy: How to Die Well
Main aspect: If you have nothing in your life you’d like to change, you are probably living
a fulfilled life already.

Time: 05:00 - 07:00 minutes

Recently, fellow samurai and apprentice warriors, i began to face my own death on a regular
basis.

So i would like to ask you: What would you do, if you had only one day to live? Would you live
your life in a different way? Or would you just carry on like that knowledge did not affect you?

I am not talking about a disease, i am talking about practicing in japanese swordsmanship.

The goal of the practicing it, is not about learning to kill. It is considered a martial art rather
than a preparation for war. While practicing pre-defined motions, we do not even use sharp
blades. It is like shadow-boxing to sum it up. Yes, you learn how to wield a curved long sword
correctly, but so much more than that, you develop a mindset, a philosophy for yourself that
is often referred to as a “budo”, which results in a peace of mind.

Anyways, nowadays, you would not show up at a gunfight with a knife, would you?

“What does that actually mean? How does that help me?” You will ask. Let me give you an
example from ancient japan.

Two old warriors in colorful armor met at the riverside, to demonstrate each other the results
of their practice. To show their skills, they fight about who could get to the other side of the
river in the best possible way. The first of the two warriors makes a giant leap over the river,
that would be considered even by today standards at least world record. Seeing that, the other
warrior smiled and ventured some steps upwards the river, then paid a hand full of rice to a
boatsman, who carried him over the river swiftly without even breaking a sweat.

The bottom line of this story is, that if you can replace a whole life of training and struggle
with just a hand full of rice, why then, should i even care about honing my skills to near
perfection?

The answer is plain and simple: because working hard on your skills, beliefs and personality,
helps you to get the best out of your life and become a better member of the society you live in.
If you, deep inside, come to know do not have to compete with others and waste your
efforts, you can easily use your resources, may they be a mental or a physical asset, more
effectively.

You do no longer need to impress others with an overly effort.


You will learn to use your skills in a way that gives meaning and value to you and others.
You will learn to act now, not tomorrow, not in a week, not in a year, because that might be
too late already).
And that will fall back onto you thousandfold, giving you so much in return.

“I’m in, how do i train that? Whats the trick?” you ask?

This deep understanding of life can be achieved by training body and mind in unison.
During our training, we are put in situations, where ancient samurai had to to face death. It
is only impersonated by an imaginary adversary, trying to cut you down with an imaginary
sharp blade. This alone, is a strong impulse, to re-think your relationship to life and death, as
well as what is your purpose, your value in this life.

When you think about samurai, are you not tempted to think about a headless zombie leaping
into battle without thinking? The historical truth is far from that.
It is a common misunderstanding, or just shallow interpretation of a proverb in the samurai
culture, which states, that he “is in constant search for the opportunity to die”.

In fact is is like this: (and i would like to cite this passage from one of my favourite books,
because it contains a good background on this subject)

“[..] the samurai held his life to be of great value. It was therefore to be lost - or even risked -
only if the cause was worthy of such a noble and extreme sacrifice.
Thus, in searching for this opportunity to die, the samurai really sought for a reason to live. [...]
Facing death in our training helps us to focus on those things that are truly important to our
lives, such as family, personal relationships, strength of character, and so forth. In this way,
the effort [...] leads us to decide what is really worth living for.” [Flashing Steel - Mastering
Eishin-Ryu Swordsmanship; 2nd edition; M. Shimabukuro, L.J. Pellmann]

This culture of living a rich, honest and honourable live, striving to have nothing to regret
and living up to a final purpose, was born from the 21 precepts of the samurai, that still, after
more than 1000 years, have a strong influence on every martial artist. And they are not, by any
means, restricted to sports. Anybody can use them. They might be a guidance to your life, and
match nicely even into religion, meditation and western beliefs.
Imagine, you lived your life by this specific mindset and now you would have only one day to
live.

And while you think about it, you realise, there is nothing left that you possibly could change
in your life so far, to fulfill the purpose you picked for your life.

Would that not mean, that you are still having a fulfilled life, and yet for another day to
come?

With that state of mind, you can pass away peacefully and without regrets.

You are in fact living the way of the warrior, you really know “how to die well”.

Props:
Picture of Samurai
Book: Flashing Steel
Hand-Out: 21 precepts of the samurai

Related Interests