Category Archives: warriorship

the way of walking alone

Samurai Sword
Image by ElPablo! via Flickr

While on the Way:

-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 [1645]
Shinmen (Miyamoto) Musashi


jack of all trades?

Japanese helm and armor, from Metropolitan Mus...
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I just read this passage from the Hagakure:

There are many people who, by being attached to a martial art and taking apprentices, believe that they have arrived at the full stature of a warrior. But it is a regrettable thing to put forth much effort and in the end become an “artist.” In artistic technique it is good to learn to the extent that you will not be lacking. In general, a person who is versatile in many things is considered to be vulgar and to have only a broad knowledge of matters of importance.

The way I read it, Yamamoto Tsunetomo was saying that some people look at teaching, practicing or dedicating themselves in a martial art as the pinnacle of “warriorship” but that becoming an “artist” and being a “warrior” are two different things.

He furthermore says that when learning “artistic technique” it is good to learn only enough to be proficient, but he says that only having a broad knowledge of matters of importance is “vulgar”.

I am a bit confused by this passage. The first part, where he says that it would be “regrettable” to become an artist, I think I understand. It seems to me that he is saying “look..a warrior USES martial arts to accomplish his goals…martial arts do not define the warrior. Don’t get so involved in practicing the martial arts that you forget what your job is.”

I tend to agree with that sentiment. I have stated repeatedly in my writings here that I think that simply teaching or training in a martial art doesnt place you in the “warrior class“. If you want to BE a warrior, you have to get out there and put your ass on the line FOR something. Enlist, become a Fireman, an EMT, a cop, join the Peace Corps…get out there and DO something. Even if you have no martial arts experience I believe that you are closer to being a “warrior” than someone who goes to the corner dojo twice a week.

The people who hone their martial skills, the citizens who attend every firearms school from Blackwater to Gunsite…they are training in the “warrior arts” or perhaps trying to live “AS a warrior”, which is perfectly fine and honorable. Many of them are simply enjoying a hobby, some are preparing themselves to be self-sufficient in defensive skills, and myrid other legitimate reasons. Then there are some who think that practicing the skills of the warrior somehow “makes” them a warrior, but paying to learn all the skills and techniques of a Navy SEAL isnt the “same as” BEING a Navy SEAL.

So I agree…being an “artist” and being a “warrior” are different things. Then again, perhaps I am simply interpreting this writing to match my opinion because Tsunetomo goes on to say:

In artistic technique it is good to learn to the extent that you will not be lacking. In general, a person who is versatile in many things is considered to be vulgar and to have only a broad knowledge of matters of importance.

I can read the first part  in two ways. Either he is saying; “when you are an Artist you can “get away with” learning enough so as to not be lacking”. Or he is saying; “when you are a warrior who is learning an artistic technique it is best to not waste your time honing it too much to the detriment of other skills”.

I think that the last sentence tends to support the first interpretation. As if the writer is saying “well..if you are an Artist then learning enough to get by in many skills is all well and good, but being a generalist is vulgar.”

That tends to run contrary to my understanding of what “artist” means though. I would think that the “artist” would be concerned with refining and honing every minutiae of technique, while the warrior has many skills he/she needs to do their job.

Then again perhaps the authors “artist” was different than our modern interpretation of the term. Maybe he was saying; “Martial Artists are interested in learning anything and everything to do with their art so they tend to learn just enough to be skillful in those many things. The Warrior should not worry about gaining many mediocre skills, he should focus on becoming expert at his necessary skills (i.e. swordsmanship, archery, horesmanship etc.).”

To make a modern military analogy, this is like saying a “military artist” would be someone who tries to learn about everything; artillery, airborne operations, naval operations, intelligence, infantry tactics, armor etc. As such the “military artist” gains a broad but shallow knowledge of all these skills. Its as if Tsunetomo is saying “dont be a Military Artist…focus on your infantry skills. You may not know squat about Tank Warfare but you will be an Infantry expert.”

I wish that Tsunetomo was around so I could ask him to clarify. Does anybody else have an interpretation of this passage that differs from mine?

Any way you interpret it, this passage raises some interesting thoughts about the relationship between your “mission” and your training goals.


don’t confuse skills with deeds

Nine-Dragon Screen-1
Image via Wikipedia

The Hagakure says the following:

In China there was once a man who liked pictures of dragons, and his clothing and furnishings were all designed accordingly. His deep affection for dragons was brought to the attention of the dragon god, and one day a real dragon appeared before his window. It is said that he died of fright. He was probably a man who always spoke big words but acted differently when facing the real thing.

This passage makes me think about the tendency to confuse the trappings and the skills involved in “warriorship” with the deeds that are the REAL substance of it. How many times have you seen the IT/web professional who accumulates helmets, plate carriers, chest rigs, 2K carbines and attends 3-5 “tactical carbine” courses a year? Nothing wrong with that, but don’t confuse the trappings with the “doings”. And beyond that, to me this passage talks about the difference between the “appearance” and the “guts”. The webdude with the tactical firearms hobby who “dies of fright” when the Tactical Gods drop him into a real firefight illustrates that skills and mindset/attitude are two different things.

It’s the same with the martial arts, strutting around like you are “SOMEBODY” because you have a black belt shows me that you have a self-esteem problem. You are a person with a skill. Your skill is no more or less important than a person with a skill in carpentry, dance, accounting or electrical engineering. Show me what kind of person you are by what you do in the world. You don’t have to be a SEAL or a tactical guru to be “someone”. The type of person you are will always be more important than the skills you acquire.


So live your life…

This 1848 drawing of the famous Chief Tecumseh...
Image via Wikipedia

So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart.

Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours.

Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life.

Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people.

Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide.

Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, even a stranger, when in a lonely place.

Show respect to all people and grovel to none.

When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living.

If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself.

Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools
and robs the spirit of its vision.

When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way.

Sing your death song and die like a hero going home.


more opinions on the definition of “warrior”

Warrior (comics)
Image via Wikipedia

Low Tech Combat has an interesting post up about the use of the term “Warrior”.

When you type in the query “What is a Warrior” to Google, you get over 25,000,000 results. Yes, that’s twenty-five million.

And yet it is still such a disputed topic.

Many argue about what a warrior is and is not.

Some argue that only a man that has fought in a war and returned is a warrior. Others say a brave child who has fought off cancer is a warrior.

There are many other classifications and strong opinions on what may be allowed to be defined as a warrior and what must not be.

Others profusely despise the term in its entirety. The term has lost all meaning in the 21st century pop culture where young men learn their morales from day time soap operas and shiny movies whilst drinking soft drink and eating fairy floss.

Such people believe the term has been both over romanticized and distilled down into a feel good term that can be attached to anyone who shows basic goodness.

Let’s get to the bottom of this…

Take the time to read LTC’s definition of the term.

of the office that appertaineth to a knight

English: A Knight in a re-enactment of the Bat...
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Office of a knight is the end and the beginning wherefore began the order of chivalry. Then if a knight use not his office, he is contrary to his order and to the beginning of chivalry. *** The office of a knight is to maintain and defend the holy catholic faith by which God the Father sent his Son into the world to take human flesh in the glorious Virgin, our Lady Saint Mary; and for to honor and multiply the faith, suffered in this world many travails, despites, and anguishous death. Then in like wise as our Lord God hath chosen the clerks for to maintain the holy catholic faith with scripture and reasons against the miscreaunts and unbelievers, in like wise God of glory hath chosen knights because that by force of arms they vanquish the miscreaunts, which daily labor for to destroy holy church, and such knights God holdeth them for his friends honored in the world and in that other when they keep and maintain the faith by the which we intend to be saved.

* * *

The office of a knight is to maintain and defend his worldly or terrestrial lord, for a king ne no high baron hath no power to maintain righteousness in his men without aid and help. Then if any man do against the commandment of his king or prince, it behooves the knights aid their lord, which is but a man only as another is. * * * The office of a knight is to maintain the land, for because that the fear of the common people have of the knights, they labor and cultivate the earth for fear lest they should be destroyed.

* * *

The office of a knight is to maintain and defend women, widows, and orphans, and men diseased and not powerful ne strong. For like as custom and reason is that the greatest and most might help the feeble and less, and that they have recourse to the great; right so is the order of chivalry, because she is great, honorable, and mighty, be in succor and in aid of them that been under him and less mighty and less honored than he is.

* * *

The office of a knight is to have a castle and horse for to keep the ways and for to defend them that labor the lands and the earth. And they ought to have towns and cities for to hold right to the people, and for to assemble in a place men of many diverse crafts which been much necessary to the ordinance of this world to keep and maintain the life of man and of woman.

* * *

The office of a knight is also to search for thieves, robbers, and other wicked folk, for to make them to be punished. For in like wise as the ax is made for to hew and destroy the evil trees, in like wise is the office of a knight established for to punish the trespassers and delinquents.

* * *

– Raymon Lull,  Libre del Orde de Cauayleria (The Book of the Order of Chivalry).

reading ancient warrior codes

English: Armoured samurai with sword and dagge...
Image via Wikipedia

Written by Taira Shigesuke around 1700 AD. The Bushido Shoshinshu was intended to instruct the novice Samurai of the peaceful Edo Era, who had not known the rigors of battle, with the practical philosophies of previous eras.

Bushido Shoshinshu is roughly translated as “Bushido for Beginners.”

A fellow blogger over at The H Line has a post on this text:

My favorite part is from a section called “Officials,” which centers on one bit of imagery: a white jacket.

A white jacket, it says, can come clean with detergent and a good wash. Likewise:

“…there are various practices that are like detergents for cleaning the heart of warriors. What are these practices? These are loyalty, duty, and courage. There is dirt that is removed by the detergent of loyalty and fidelity, and there is dirt that is removed by the detergent of faithfulness to duty. When the stain remains stubborn even after washing with loyalty and rinsing with duty, then use the detergent of courage, and make a determined effort to scrub it clean. This is the warrior’s ultimate secret of cleaning the heart.”

It’s a beautiful message, full of hope.

Which brings up an interesting point about the reading of ancient Warrior codes. That passage IS an inspiring concept, however if one reads the final passage of this book…

Now were he to grab the aforementioned evil man and finish the matter by carving out his entrails and cutting off his head just as he pleased, and then quickly committing seppuku, the affair would be ended with him seeming to have lost his wits. Thus, there would be no problems or public hearings at the time, the lord’s position would not be threatened, the retainers would all feel at ease, and the domain would be at peace. This would be an act one hundred times greater than junshi, would combine the three virtues of loyalty, righteousness and courage, and would be a model of great loyalty to the warriors of this corrupt age.

…we see that you cant take everything you read in these warrior codes “at face value”.

This passage, on it’s face, is saying that a loyal Samurai would kill one his lords political enemies then kill himself and make it look like he did it while appearing out of his mind. This would be done as a selfless action done out of loyalty to, and for the good of, his lord and his clan; eliminating his lord’s enemy and giving his lord “plausible deniability”.

Thus, from the Bushido Shoshinshu you CAN distill the concept of “loyalty and selfless service” as an inspirational one but you cannot go around cutting the guts out of your bosses enemies. The Samurai lived in a different age, in a different culture and under a vastly different set of rules than our own. I think this illustrates the differences between the wise person who looks for the message behind the words as compared to the “wanna be” Ghost Dog Samurai who believes that these codes can be lived verbatim in our modern times.

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English: A Fijian warrior.

Rory Miller put up the following post on his blog a few years ago:

A warrior is someone who makes war for a living. Period.  It’s not some autonomous, independent, noble killing machine, some reborn knight or paragon.  It is someone who is paid money to make big problems go away, often in a messy fashion.

Never been in a war? Not a warrior. Get over it.
I know that there is a myth and an industry building up around the ‘warrior identity’ but there are parts of it that I really don’t get.  “Warriors” I am told, follow their own hearts.  Whatever. Real warriors follow orders. Know what you call a bunch of individuals on a battlefield? Meat.  They have the humility and the basic intelligence to know that other people have more information and trust the people with that information to make those decisions.

Read the rest, but that quote sums up his opinion, I posted the following comment in reply.

Depends on the society and culture we are discussing.

In ancient Japan (and in other societies) a “Warrior” was what you were were born as (vs a Farmer, Artisan or merchant).

I have no issues with some professions using the word as a motivational term to inspire their members to a higher level of training and/or performance.

If a cop considers himself a “warrior” who protects society from criminals and the mindset drives him to workout, shoot, take martial arts classes, study law, etc…GREAT!

On the other hand if a person is only using the term as an ego gratifier and thinks that he/she is somehow a better person than someone else that’s an issue with the individual, not the term.

I think that the word is vastly overused by people who never have to put their ass on the line for it (in service to others). A soldier, LEO, Firefighter, etc using the term? Fine. A hobby martial artist, sport fighter or gun class Rambo? That’s another story.

As a number of my posts have dealt with this same issue I thought it appropriate to mention Rory’s post here. Back in November of 2009 I wrote this:

Alright, I have a moment to type.

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 aWalter 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 philosophyJoseph 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 amartial 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.

more to come later…..

The comments section on that post blossomed into an interesting discussion on this topic and if this interests you it would be worth your while to read it. In a nutshell, while I do not entirely disagree with Rory’s opinion here (and I have posted things similar), I also believe that the term is not as simple to pigeonhole as he thinks.

how much is good enough?

In light of my recent post “what exactly do you think you are doing”, I thought that moving up this post from last year would add yet another professionals opinion on the issue of training priorities.

Former SEAL and “Tactical Impact” star Kyle Defoor has a blog going. Go check it out.

I especially like the post Training Balance and How Good is Good Enough?

The first thing you need to do clearly identify your needs of training FOR THE REAL WORLD, such as; carbine, pistol, blade, combatives, physical fitness, tactics. Once you’ve made a list of the what, honestly ask yourself what you really NEED the most and which one you just LIKE to do. Here lies the problem. We (humans) like to practice what we’re good at, and what makes us feel good. Over time this is a recipe for disaster.

Kyle has a lot of good stuff; rifle painting, controlling fear, repairing EoTechs…take a look.