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THE WAY OF THE WARRIORThe Dark Secrets of the Samurai Code
CITADEL PRESSCopyright © 2011 Jotaro
All right reserved.
Chapter OneIN THE BEGINNING ...
"I was with you in the beginning," said the master, "long before we first met." The student did not understand this at first, but in the time they had spent together, he came to appreciate that any truth worth knowing would likely take some time to grasp. He responded as he had been taught to—with the known. "We were together at the training camp." It was really a statement, not a question, but both men were familiar with this particular didactic paradigm. The master nodded his agreement. "And before that at the university"—again, a curt nod—"but before that ..." the question trailed away into nothingness.
"Think," the master commanded with an uncharacteristic hint of urgency. "Our paths have crossed many times over the years." The student was at a loss. In another time and place, he would have been sent away to ponder this impenetrable proposition, perhaps revisiting the issue on several occasions before arriving at an answer, but now time was growing short for the pair. "Before that I was alone," he said, with a touch more sadness in his voice than he intended. "Were you?" came the inevitable reply.
The student cast his mind back over the years to a time when the master was unknown to him. A time when he inhabited a world where he believed everything his eyes and ears told him and trusted in nothing beyond that limited perspective. It was hard in many ways to remember, like a sighted man trying to recall his blindness. Had there been nothing more than waking, working, eating, and sleeping? He sat still and silent in a way that was physically impossible and psychologically uncomfortable for the vast majority of the population, and closed his eyes. It took only a few moments to overcome the body's natural tendency to peer into the resulting blackness with the eyes and to allow his mind to reach out its tendrils and begin to probe the murky depths.
Time passed. It might have been seconds or hours. At last an image began to form. He was a child on a train traveling through the night toward some distant destination. After his mother had fallen asleep, he stole his way back down the swaying corridors to the caboose, where the conductors sat huddled around a stove playing cards. At first, they had ignored him, but as the night wore on, the oldest of them showed him a trick. Allowing the wide-eyed boy to choose any card he had liked from the fanned-out deck, the old man named his selection time after time, without the slightest hint of artifice. Try as he might, the young one could not figure it out. When pressed, the conjurer finally explained that there was no trick—just his natural ability to force the observer to select the card he wanted. This had been the student's first encounter with the art. But had the master been there? Had he even known of the incident? The student could not recall ever mentioning it and had even forgotten it himself until just now.
Another image swam into his mind of him walking to the junior school as a young boy, passing the same homeless fellow day after day, month after month, year after year, just sitting on a park bench, rocking back and forth, and listening to a radio that never made a sound. He even dropped some loose change at the man's feet on occasion. Then came the day when a lady screamed and a young man ran past, her stolen purse swinging wildly from his tightly clenched fists. With surprising speed the homeless man had flipped a gold shield on a chain around the collar of his tattered flannel shirt, barked a few crisp orders into his handheld radio, and given chase. This was the student's first glimpse into the shadow world. He had no recollection of the master's presence there, but he had long ago come to realize that things were rarely what they seemed.
A third scene played itself out against the backdrop of his closed lids. He saw a tortured skeleton of a boy at the military academy, the one with no friends, no family, no talent, and no hope. The total indifference of the officers and instructors to the outcast's agony. His own attempts to befriend this boy, who no one else would, were useless. And his efforts were viewed by others with scorn. His was the ultimate failure. And the eerie creaking from the rafters of the darkened gymnasium where they had finally found him. This had been the student's first, faltering step along the way. He could recall no sign of the master in that harsh and unforgiving environment. And yet the impulse to protect must have come from somewhere.
He ventured a guess. "Your art? Your world? Your way?"
"Close," the master replied. "Our art. Our world. Our way." And with that, the first glimmering of true understanding began to take hold.
Chapter TwoJUTSU AND DO—THE SHADOW WARRIOR
He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you. —Friedrich Nietzsche
The student—or more accurately the graduate—was in a dark place. Since his last encounter with the master, his path had taken him deep into the shadow world and pitted him against powerful and dangerous adversaries, in a war that raged beyond the range of most people's limited perception. At first it had seemed challenging and exciting, but of late it began to wear on him and to eat at his soul. As the philosopher cautions, when you look into the abyss, you must take care, for in so doing, the abyss looks also into you. He might not have come to seek the master's counsel of his own accord, but, as is often the case, fate made the decision for him, summoning him to his former teacher's bedside.
He had scarcely entered the room before the master observed, "You are troubled." In the space of those first few seconds, the graduate's years of experience seemed to melt away, and he felt again like a child in the presence of a parent. Dispensing with the usual pleasantries, he explained the cause of his inner turmoil as best he could. In essence it came down to this: How was it possible to combat the forces of darkness, day in, day out, without in some way resorting to their tactics or at some level succumbing to their deadly allure? Ultimately, what distinguished the deep-cover operative from the criminal; the freedom fighter from the terrorist; or the soldier from the assassin?
The master pondered this question for a time. Then he reached for the green bottle of medicine by his bed and poured a large measure of the viscous liquid into his half-filled teacup. The student averted his eyes respectfully from this necessary interruption. But the master's command refocused his attention. "Shake," he said. The student did as he was told. When the task was complete, the student lifted his palm from the top of the cup and looked inside. The murky mixture had taken on the properties of both liquids: the pale amber of the tea blending with the sage pigmentation of the medicine, to produce a homogenous, swirling, mucky, brown soup. He glanced back toward the master. "Look closer," he said. The student held the glass up to the light and peered at it again. From this improved vantage point, he could make out tiny, oily beads of the elixir scattered in suspension throughout the volume of the thin, transparent beverage.
"There is light and there is darkness," the master began, "yin and yang, in and yo. But these ideas are not as simple as 'good' and 'evil' as you understand them. There are times when great danger thrives in daylight and when salvation comes from the shadows. These principles are relative, and they depend on each other for their very existence, for in yin, there is yang, and in yang, there is yin. Balancing these two elements, that is your task. But no matter how closely they blend, each retains its fundamental"—he struggled for a moment searching for the right word—"character."
"Long before I gave you the weapons of the shadow warrior, I armed you with the wisdom to use them honorably. That is why you learned to walk the way before you came to know the art within. Think back to our first lessons." The student noted that he did not say, "Our first meeting." He cast back his mind down the corridor of changing seasons to those long, lazy, idyllic summer days at the university and the life-changing discovery he had made at the end of the rickety railway line on the densely wooded outskirts of the nearby village.
Chapter ThreeKISHIDO—THE WAY OF THE WESTERN WARRIOR
There are many paths to the top of the mountain, but the view is always the same.
When the master first coined the term Kishido, characteristically he chose not to explain it. Only a sense of its meaning could be gathered from the context in which he employed it. Some time later, he painted the character with brush and ink, for a hachimaki design. The terminal symbol for the Way, -do, was familiar, but the prefix was a mystery. It contained the cross-shaped symbol meaning gentleman and the peculiar letter E character with a tail and four little strokes denoting a reference to matters equestrian. But the collective meaning in the elegant arrangement of radicals was only revealed by reference to a well-worn kanji dictionary: kishi, "an English knight." At first, this linguistic acknowledgment of the British students in his decidedly Japanese dojo was merely pleasing and amusing, but with the passage of time, the profundity of his pronouncement became clear.
The master knew that as university students his "Englishmen" were only likely to enjoy the benefit of his teaching for a season before graduating and setting out on the journeys of their young lives. He recognized that there was scarcely time to impart a modicum of proficiency in the arts he taught, let alone to strip away decades of contrasting experiences born of an entirely alien society, so as to begin again with tabula rasa. His adoption of the term Kishido, therefore, reflected a broad-minded willingness to accept his students' existing cultural, and, for some, martial traditions, and to add his unique script to that slate. To blend the ingredients.
Some say that if you wish to learn the deep truth of a martial way, you must live in the nation of its origin. They say that to penetrate the soul of an art you must study it exhaustively and exclusively. This is a sound position. Their dedication is to be admired, and their wisdom sought out. They are the professors of their particular disciplines. But theirs is not the only way. Some people are nomads by choice or circumstance. Their quest takes them all across the globe, rarely staying in one place long enough to grow roots. The gypsy lifestyle provides quite an eclectic education, but it also presents difficulties for the novice who wishes to embark upon such a demanding odyssey as the study of any true martial art. As a result, the student's progress is slow and onerous, but for the dedicated, it is also inexorable.
While an itinerant apprentice must strive to realize depth in his studies, achieving breadth is almost unavoidable. Acclimatizing to each new location requires the conscious acquisition and digestion of a multitude of data and skills—matters that more established residents may take for granted. Admission to each new art or style requires adherents to divest themselves of preconceived notions and to see again through new eyes. This arrangement fosters a broad view, which, in turn, provides valuable insight into the gestält of the matter.
In tracing the origin of the Eastern martial tradition, the historian will generally arrive at Damo's apocryphal journey from India to China in the sixth century AD, and with it the advent of the fundamental elements of Zen Buddhism and the seeds of the legendary exercises of the monks at Shaolin. What is less well known, however, is that Greek warriors, trained in the art of Pankrateon (either ground wrestling or standing fighting), had previously influenced Indian martial practices when the armies of Alexander the Great invaded that country in 326 BC. The historical interplay between the Western and Eastern traditions endures in such systems as Filipino Arnis de Mano, a term derived from the European word "harness" and an art, which legend has it, that Chief Lapulapu employed to dispatch Magellan on Mactan Island in 1521, during the Spanish invasion. Such salutary symbiosis is also manifest in the refined blend of Chinese and Western boxing common to many modern styles and perhaps best exemplified by the art of Wei Kuen Do. So the great wheel turns and turns again.
If that had been the master's only point, he might have chosen to adopt an expression meaning the universal way. But he did not. He chose a term that referred specifically to the European tradition. In time, it became clear that he had a peculiar affinity for British culture, particularly the reserved, deferential, and altogether gentle ethos that yet held sway within the walls of the ancient university, if nowhere else in the last vestiges of empire. It was, after all, among the reasons he found himself so far away from his home, teaching and living in that most unusual place.
The Japanese finishing school at which he taught, complete with traditional architecture and authentic shaho, was somewhat out of place as well as time, hidden away in the English countryside, but then again, the nearby university was also something of an anachronism. Although the idea of the finishing school was, at least in principle, to expose Japanese youth to British culture, Westerners rarely passed through the stone outer markers that stood like stern sentinels at the end of the winding, wooded entrance. The master decided after a time that a few of his British students should be permitted to enter. The collision of cultures was marked, but it also reflected a certain symmetry. There was a common ground. Those who met in that revered location were of a mind.
If this had been the extent of the master's insight, he might have chosen an expression simply meaning the Western way. But he did not. He chose a term that embraced the whole of the ancient European martial tradition: the knight's way; the Way of the Western Warrior. Upon reflection, the reason for this semantic distinction became apparent. Parallels emerged: the elegant taper and graceful devastation of both the yumi and the yew longbow; the samurai art of bajutsu; the chevalier's study of dressage; the wearing of daisho in feudal Japan; the use of the rapier and main gauche (a dagger) in Renaissance Europe; the koshi mawari common to both oi tsuki and a good straight right; and, perhaps most important of all, the themes common to both bushido and the chivalric code.
Excerpted from THE WAY OF THE WARRIOR by Jotaro Copyright © 2011 by Jotaro. Excerpted by permission of CITADEL PRESS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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