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Benevolence – The Code of Bushido

Page from Bushido - The Soul of Japan | Image Source: Hearn 92.40.10, Houghton Library, Harvard University

Image Source: Hearn 92.40.10, Houghton Library, Harvard University

One of my favorite quotes is the John Bunyon statement: “You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.”

I believe that we, as martial artists, not only have the opportunity to help others but we have the duty to help others. We are the “strong ones” for whom it is an obligation to help the weak.

The Code of Bushido, which is not only considered the soul of Japan but is also a viable ethical system that works for us today, speaks of Benevolence as one of its primary precepts.

In Bushido: The Warrior’s Code by Inazo Nitobe he states that “Love, affection for others, sympathy and nobility of feeling were regarded as the highest attributes of the soul.” The trait of benevolence kept feudalism from sinking into total militarism.

Rectitude and justice were masculine traits; mercy and gentleness were thought of as feminine characteristics. But both were regarded as essential to a balanced life. Bushi no Nasaki (the tenderness of a warrior) was a trait to cultivate. It was widely understood that mercy could not stem from a blind impulse. It must be rendered with due regard to justice and backed with the power to save or kill.

I find that last sentence to be very pertinent to us as martial artists. It’s especially important that our tenderness, compassion and benevolence issue from a position of strength and a sense of justice or rectitude and not from weakness. For benevolence to be one of the highest and most respected qualities we must have the choice to abandon or save, to ignore or help, to walk away or wade into the fray. It is even more glorious if we are put at risk to help another.

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic which has heavily impacted our country and our world it has been terribly difficult to go about life as usual. Our health care workers and first responders put themselves at risk very day.

Our fellow world citizens were and are under terrible stress physically, psychologically and emotionally. This virus and its impact on all of society has created an immediate and obvious threat to the entirety of the world’s population. The question is how do we answer the call? I have chosen to send financial donations to various charities and lead and serve on a variety of community organizations.

I wholeheartedly applaud the many volunteers that have stepped up to answer the call and aid those who have been so tragically impacted. As warriors, can we do less? We all do what we can as we endeavor to live by the seven precepts of Bushido. I paraphrase when I add that no one can do everything, but everyone can do something. Let us each do something and as we live the Code of Bushido.

What makes this special to me is that we didn’t HAVE to do any of the things we have done. We chose to do them. We do them not from a position of need or weakness but from a position of strength, like warriors.

I take great pride in the fact that it’s not just about writing a check but it’s about meeting an intense physical and emotional challenge and, in a way, putting our bodies and psychological well-being at risk.

I submit that over the past 4 months many of our unsung heroes rose to the challenge and to paraphrase Bunyon, we did some good as we committed benevolent acts for folks that cannot do anything for us.

As warriors can we do any less?

This is the way to martial arts mastery will you join us on the path?

Matsumura Seito Karate & Kobudo OSMKKF - Logo / Patch

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