The Way of the Warrior

classes     qigong     tai chi     kung fu     about us     reviews     a-z


Lao Tzu wrote that war is no cause for celebration because people are dying. Hurting others should be avoided whenever possible.
In the martial arts world the ability to inflict pain is the subject of great study and practice but it is not a matter to take lightly.
You must take
responsibility for your conduct.



Conflict arises through resistance. When one position meets with another and yielding does not take place then conflict occurs. Opinions and beliefs are the usual source of conflict.
From argument to brawling to wars, our world is filled with disagreement. The student of tai chi seeks to resolve their inner conflict and avoid outer dispute.


In ancient Japan, the warrior caste were called 'samurai'.
Samurai means to serve.
Since it is easy for a person with
martial skills to abuse and bully others, the samurai created a code of ethical conduct called 'bushido'.
Bushido called upon a student of warfare to discipline themselves through strict adherence to the behavioural guidelines.
The samurai code of conduct applies to anyone studying a martial art, whether in ancient Japan or today. It is a form of self-regulation.

He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster.

When you gaze long into the abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.


Professional soldiers

Modern warfare does not involve soldiers
fighting soldiers. Instead, it uses an approach called 'total war' in which war is waged against soldiers and civilians alike. This is not bushido.
There is no honour to be found in destroying non-combatants, property and animals. Samurai were professional soldiers and they only waged war on other samurai.

The bushido code

Bushido literally means 'The Way of the Warrior' and comprises the following elements:

  1. Rectitude

  2. Courage

  3. Benevolence

  4. Respect

  5. Honesty

  6. Honour

  7. Loyalty 

Two additional qualities were implicit within bushido: discipline and restraint.


Rectitude means right action, appropriate conduct or sincerity. It is uprightness as a consequence of being honourable and honest. The term also implies that doing the honourable thing is difficult.
Someone who is displaying rectitude is not only acting honourably, but is also willing to suffer the consequences of acting honourably.
When a samurai has said he will perform an action, it is as good as done. Nothing will stop him from completing what he has said he will do. He does not have to give his word.
He does not have to promise. Speaking and doing are the same action.


A samurai must have courage. Courage is the ability to confront fear in the face of pain, danger, uncertainty or intimidation, to rise up above the masses of people who are afraid to act. 
It is risky and dangerous. It is living life completely, fully, wonderfully. Courage is not blind; it is intelligent and strong
The precise view of what constitutes courage not only varies between cultures, but between individuals. Some people define courage as lacking fear in a situation that would normally generate it.
Others hold that courage requires a person to experience fear and then overcome it.

Perhaps the paradox of The Art of War is its opposition to war.
And as The
Art of War wars against war, it does so by its own principles;
it infiltrates the enemy's lines,
uncovers the enemy's secrets,
and changes the hearts of the enemy's troops.

(Thomas Cleary)


Through intense training the samurai becomes quick and strong. He develops a power that must be used for the good of all. He has compassion. He helps his fellow man at every opportunity.
If an opportunity does not arise, he goes out of his way to find one.
To be kind, helpful and giving is the easy part of benevolence. The harder component is to be without conceit.
If a person performs a benevolent action and is then impressed with their own conduct or expects gratitude, then the deed is tainted by their self-consciousness, the need to be rewarded.
Benevolence cannot have a motive. It must occur naturally and spontaneously.


Samurai have no reason to be cruel; they do not need to prove their strength. A samurai is courteous even to his enemies. Without this genuine show of respect, we are nothing more than savages.
A samurai is not only respected for his
strength in battle, but also by his dealing with other men. The true strength of a samurai becomes apparent during difficult times.
Respect means consideration, to take into account another person's feelings.
The Christian expression: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" is found at the heart of almost every world religion and is one of the hardest maxims to follow.
Adherence requires tremendous
sensitivity, courtesy and the willingness to listen to what others are saying.
Treating other people as you would want to be treated is the very heart of the word 'respect' and can be applied to people, animals and the planet itself.

Confronted by limitations of effectiveness, the martial arts of the West responded with a continuous crafting of superior equipment. Confronted with similar limitations, the Asian warrior responded by fashioning a better self. The Asian warrior turned not to technology in making his sword a better tool for fighting. Influenced by contemplative aspects of Taoism and Buddhism and by the self-discipline of Confucianism, he turned inward. He fine-tuned his body and mind in order to better manipulate his sword.

(Dave Lowry)


Be acutely honest throughout your dealings with all people. Believe in justice, not from other people but from yourself.
To the true samurai, there are no shades of grey in the question of honesty and justice. There is only right and wrong. Honesty is not the same as accountability or 'telling the truth'.
It is about remaining true to yourself, not lying and making excuses, accepting all aspects as being part of the whole.
The word 'integrity' helps to explain the meaning of honesty since it is concerned with bringing separate parts together, of balance and harmony.


A true samurai has only one judge of honour, and this is himself. Decisions you make and how these decisions are carried out are a reflection of who you truly are. You cannot hide from yourself.
Honour is about having good character. It is not about reputation or receiving praise, as those are just measurements of your conduct applied by other people.
Being honourable requires an inner strength, a moral commitment to doing what feels appropriate and right. It is about what you do, not how you seem.


For the samurai, having done something or said something, he knows he owns that thing. He is responsible for it, and all the consequences that follow.
A samurai is immensely loyal to those in his care. To those he is responsible for, he remains fiercely true.

Unlike nationalism or patriotism, loyalty is not about allegiance to an idea or a boundary marked on the map. It is about fair treatment of other people.
Loyalty is concerned with how a person behaves relative to others, it is about trust and dignity. Were you to betray somebody and they did not find out, you would know.
It is not about whether the person finds out or not, it is about how you treated them. Loyalty is about word and deed becoming one.


In bushido, discipline is self-imposed - a samurai follows the code from choice. He is responsible for his own conduct. A samurai has an obligation to master his art and should practice with this in mind.


A samurai must learn not to
fight. Not many situations require the use of violence. If it is safe and appropriate to walk away, you should do. This is the most important quality for a samurai to possess.
It is the supreme virtue. It takes courage not to fight, to "turn the other cheek". You will only feel like a coward if you are insecure and have something to prove. Better a coward than a bully.
Remember: bushido is not concerned with how the other person behaves. Be responsible for your own conduct. You have no control over the conduct or behaviour of another.


Taoism embraces all sides of our character; recognising that people are both good/bad, strong/weak and so on. We cannot be one without the other. The key is to find balance.
A harmony of apparent opposites. Deng Meng-Dao wrote about being a warrior in his book 365 Tao:

To be martial requires discipline, courage, and perseverance. It has nothing to do with killing. People fail to look beyond this one narrow aspect of being a warrior and so overlook all the other excellent qualities that can be gained from training. A warrior is not a cruel murderer. A warrior is a protector of ideals, principle and honour. A warrior is noble and heroic.

A warrior will have many opponents in a lifetime, but the ultimate opponent is the warrior's own self. Within a fighter's personality are a wide array of demons to be conquered: fear, laziness, ignorance, selfishness, egotism, and so many more. To talk of overpowering other people is inconsequential. To actually overcome one's own defects is the true nature of victory. That is why so many religions depict warriors in their iconography. These images are not symbols for dominating others. Rather, they are symbols of the ferocity and determination that we need to overcome the demons within ourselves.


school database

Page created 18 April 1995
Last updated 16 June 2023