Knights in Europe were perceived as the elite class in the Middle Ages. But in the far east there was another kind of warriors that may have been superior in many if not all skills.
Let’s take a look at the fabled Samurai and delve into their unique lifestyle of loyalty and honour.
Medieval Japan developed one of the richest and best-known warrior cultures of all time: the Samurai. The ideology started around the 9th century and over the course of several hundreds of years it grew into an important codex of life. Later on it became more and more influenced by Zen Buddhism.
Samurai led a lifestyle called “bushido” or “way of the warrior”. Everything was bound to this codex. It regulated how they lived, worked, moved and more. The “bushido” demanded many aspects of the warriors such as self-sacrifice, absolute loyalty, vigour, exceedingly superior weapon skills and much more.
Samurai worked mostly for their masters and were contestants in raging and bloody battles between clans. But besides the fighting, the safety of the locals and defence were also very important points.
The life of a Samurai had to be dedicated to the goal of becoming one, right from the very beginning. Since the very childhood they learned how to move and act correctly. It can be compared to a ritual. For example, learning how to sit involved a special order of movements. Left knee bent down first, so that it was still possible to draw the sword if needed.
The fighting too was not as chaotic as in Europe but a battle would normally be one-on-one. The Samurai sought enemies equal to their skills and honour. Any lesser man was left behind. The victory was added to the winner’s honour, raising him in rank and reputation.
Although the “bushido” was the code to follow, there were some skills that needed to be mastered. Using different styles of weapons, for example, or several virtues like calmness, politeness and honest behaviour and much more.
Being loyal to the masters also means to be ready to die at any time. The last ritual for the Samurai was “Sepukku”, the honourable suicide. The samurai had to be committed to this whenever retreated from a battle or disobeyed the laws of the Samurai.
As we can see, the Samurai have been unique and special warriors throughout several hundreds of years. However, their order declined in the 19th century and ended with the last conflict in 1877.
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