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The Code of Bushido Re-visited

Okinawa Martial Arts BlogDuring the course of the last several weeks, I listed the 7 ideals of the Budoka. These are the same precepts the Samurai followed and are known to us as the Code of Bushido. Some of you may be saying “so what”. We aren’t Samurai. Truth be told, maybe we aren’t or should we be as far away as you might like to think? Let’s look at a few reasons why.
In recent years the martial arts media seem to have come to a realization, of sorts, that Karate today is not the karate of old. Somehow the journalists have discovered that the majority of karate today is done for “sport” purposes. Some magazines have gone so far as to call ALL karate sport karate.

There is certainly nothing wrong with “playing karate” if one chooses this avenue. There is, however, something terribly wrong with sport being taught to our children and even adults under the name of “combat karate” or some such catchy title. Sport is just that. It’s a game played to win a trophy or medal.

Again, there is nothing wrong with choosing to do that but it should be a conscious choice. The expected outcomes of “sport karate”, “karate-do” and “karate jutsu” are, and should be, different.

As an example, Tae Kwon Do is today, an Olympic Sport. Well-conditioned and highly skilled athletes play it, as a sport. I contend that they are not martial artists and modern Tae Kwon Do, as an example, is not a Martial Art. It is a Martial Sport.

Where do we fall along this continuum from sport to combat art? I would suggest that we fall toward, but not at, the combat art or Karate Jutsu end of the spectrum. A large part of how far along the continuum we go is predicated upon our intent when we train.

Do we, and our students, train with combat intent? Do we train with the requisite intensity? Does our training enhance our conditioning to a point where we can defend ourselves effectively? Do we think about and analyze what we do? This can make a huge difference to the achieved outcome.

Do we think of ourselves as karate players or Martial artists? As Martial artists we are modern-day Bushi (warriors) and should be aspiring to live up to the code of Bushido. We may never throw a punch or kick in anger or even self-defense but we should live a life based on the precepts of the Samurai.

Another way of looking at this is that, without a code of ethics and conduct, our training would prepare us to be thugs and street fighters as opposed to “warriors”.
As you read through these precepts again, please note that I have added to more. Give some thought to how they speak of much more than combat. They are a blueprint to living a full and rewarding life that is based on honor and service.

The following are some precepts that we should examine and see where we meet them and where we fall short.

Rectitude or Justice

  • To do what is right even when no one is looking
  • Right reason


  • The spirit of daring and bearing
  • Valor


  • Love for others
  • Sympathy
  • Compassion


  • Courtesy
  • Propriety
Matsumura Seito Karate & Kobudo OSMKKF - Logo / Patch

Veracity and Sincerity

  • Bushi no ichi gon (the word of a Samurai)


  • Personal dignity


  • Allegiance
  • Duty


  • Fortitude


  • To make up for errors and slights

Where do you see yourself? What is your commitment to your art, to others and to yourself? Do you expect to get back more than you’re willing to put in??
Living the Code of Bushido is not only the way of the budoka but a way of living a complete and meaningful life.

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