a students' magazine

The Samurai

Hi Guys, today I’m going to write my second article about Japan and I would like to talk about Samurai.

Samurai were the ancient military class in Japan. The word samurai has really ancient origins. When it was born it was pronounced saburai, meaning servant or attendant. Only in the late 16th and early 17th centuries the word saburai was substituted with samurai. Today this class doesn’t exist because in the late 19th century, the samurai class was abolished.

We must say that before the term “samurai” came into usage, Japanese fighters were skilled with the sword and spear. These warriors also included some women. Between the 12th and 19th centuries, many women of the samurai class learned how to handle the sword and the naginata (a blade on a long staff) primarily to defend themselves and their homes. If their castle was attacked by enemy warriors, samurai women were expected to fight to death and die with honour.

The samurai warriors were followers of “The way of the warrior” or Bushido, that was a code of behaviour. The principles of bushido emphasized honour, courage, and loyalty to a warrior’s master above all else.

The ideal samurai warrior was supposed to be immune from the fear of death. Only the fear of dishonour, and loyalty to his daymio (the feudal lord of ancient Japan)  motivated the true samurai. If a samurai felt that he had lost his honour  according to the rules of bushido, he could regain his social position by committing a form of ritual suicide, called seppuku or harakiri.

In Bushido a samurai follows seven virtues:

  • GI that means INTEGRITY
  • REI that means RESPECT
  • YU that means HEROIC COURAGE
  • MEYO that means HONOUR
  • JIN that means COMPASSION
  • CHU that means DUTY and LOYALTY

A large part of the samurai’s honour was in the two swords they would wear at all times. One sword was long (katana); the other short (wakizashi). They believed that their swords were one with their soul.

To touch a samurai’s sword without permission was a direct insult to its owner. Generally, the samurai would only use one of his swords during a battle. The long sword was ideal for wide-open spaces, while the short sword was used in narrow spots. It wasn’t until the 17th century that using two swords at once began to become a technique for samurai swordsmanship.

For the greater part of samurai history, the sword was not an important weapon to the samurai. Before the 15th and 16th centuries, the samurai were  also mounted archers, who were highly skilled with the bow and arrow and occasionally used other weapons if necessary.  Only in the 17th century the sword started to be considered the soul of a samurai.

Thank you all for reading my article, I hope you liked it. I’ll be back soon with a new article. Bye bye guys 😀

2 thoughts on “The Samurai

  1. I really appreciated your article. I would however like to remind you that the Samurai as we westerners think of are not as visible as old times. Although we still DO exist. I am a woman who practices Samurai sword along with a few others in Virginia at Western Masters Martial Arts dojo. I would love to talk more to you about it. I am on facebook.

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