Bushido Defined: The Code of Moral Principles

Journal of Combative Sport November 1999

By Kinya Okajima

North American Times, Seattle, Washington, August 22, 1939

Note: Okajima was a California Issei involved in promoting kendo in the US.

 Bushido is the code of moral principles which Knights were required or instructed to observe and it teaches the virtues of Benevolence, Forbearance, Righteousness, Self- respect and Bravery, and to these is added Modesty for women. Bushido reveres and adores her virtues shining through Modesty.

 The essence of Bushido is Benevolence (Jin) and Righteousness (Gi) from which all other virtues shall spring. Western critics sometimes overlook Benevolence, which is Bushido's essential teaching.

 According to its teaching, "Benevolence is to love universally." It is love and respect for all, even to beasts and birds. Lieutenant-Colonel Kido, of the Japanese Army, who took part in the Olympic Games held at Los Angeles, gave us an example of this humanitarian phase of Bushido. In order to save his beloved horse he lost the race. It was the kind and noble people of Los Angeles and Riverside who erected [a memorial] in his true valor.

 Bushi-no-Nasake, or the mercy of the Samurai, are words deeply implanted in the minds of the Japanese. At the fireside of every home in Japan, children listen with eagerness to the stories of Samurai's chivalrous mercy.

 The Samurai's sword was not intended to kill and destroy. It was the emblem of his soul, and was to be used for defending his honor, and protecting women, children, and the weak. In kendo, the fencing stick represents the precious sword. Due regard was given to it and its significance, so that the character building of the participants might be unconsciously affected. Kendo, or the precepts of the Sword, therefore exercise a great moral influence upon the boys and girls in Japan.

 These virtues which I have enumerated were in turn placed upon the two great foundation stones, Loyalty and Filial Piety. The late Dr. Griffith, of Cornell University, who went to Japan about the time when the Shogunate had ceased to exist, spent some years under feudalism. He says, "Whereas, in China, Confucian ethics made Obedience- to-Parents the primary human duty, in Japan preference was given to Loyalty."

 Both Loyalty and Filial Piety, however, emanate from one word or fact, "Love." We are obedient to our parents because we love them.

 The driving force of these various virtues, including Bravery, is Love. Love embodies sacrifice. There is no love without the willingness to sacrifice. So Love, Loyalty and Courage are one and the same.

 One of the precepts of Bushido reads: "Bravery can only be found in an act for a righteous cause."  But unless one loves the righteous cause in question, he cannot be courageous to the extent of giving himself to the cause.

 Bushido is not a religious sect or any philosophical school, as has been said, but it recognizes the moral structure of the Universe.

 It says, "Perceiving what is right, and doing it not, shows lack of courage." "Benevolence is man's mind and Righteousness in his Path."

 Prince of Mito said: "It is true courage to live when it is right to live, and to die when it is right to die."

 Dr. William Elliot Griffith, whom I quoted before, said, "Bushido taught the higher law as taught by the Great Teacher of Nazareth, 'If a grain of corn shall not die, it remains alone, but if it dies, it shall bring forth much fruit.' Thus it expounds the Doctrine of Sacrifice and growth, which is consonant with the Law of the Universe.

JCS Nov 1999