The Modern Code of Honor

swordThe Samurai Bushido Code  was the warrior code. It demanded:

  • Loyalty
  • Devotion
  • Obedience
  • Duty
  • Filial Piety
  • Respect
  • Self Sacrifice
  • Honor to the death

Under this code, if a samurai warrior failed to uphold his honor he could regain it by performing seppuku (ritual suicide).

Today, we live in much different times. It is relatively peaceful (at least here in America) and for many martial arts is less about the fighting and more about self development. Life and death fighting have been replaced by 9-5 work, juggling family responsibilities and trying to make it to class on time, a couple of times per week.

That however, does not mean there is no code. In fact, it is as needed now as it was then. . . as it will be 100 years from now.

Today’s Code may look something like this:

  • Loyalty. This is one of the characteristics that will never change. Loyalty to the school, the instructor, the art and mostly to oneself. Be the type of person you are capable of and use the martial training to help you achieve this goal.
  • Devotion. I would replace this with Community. Devotion has a sense of zeal, sprinkled with extremism. A sense of Community and dedication to the training and assistance in helping the school grow is now the ideal. Taking a minute to hang a flyer or bring a friend to class goes a long way.
  • Obedience. This would be Courtesy. This of course is a 2-way street – students courteous of the instructor and instructor treating their students in a kind and respectful fashion.
  • Duty would be replaced by Responsibility. Each student is responsible for coming to class, listening and participating and helping to create a positive environment. Each instructor is responsible for treating each student fairly, being prepared and taking the leadership role.
  • Filial Piety, extended to Instructor and fellow students. Filial piety is a Confucian term meaning respecting one’s parents. It is easy to see how the modern adaptation extends to others as well.
  • Respect. This never really changes. It is a 7 letter word for which all of martial arts are built. It is the core. The foundation.
  • Self Sacrifice. Self development would be the modern term. Sacrifice has such a negative connotation. It fit during the times when “Fight to the death” was part of the code. Today, we strive to avoid conflict and feature peace. We can use the martial arts for protection of course, but it also can be used to learn the “lessons behind the lessons.” We learn courage by taking strikes. We learn cooperation by working with our partners. There are so many opportunities to become a better person via Systema and other arts today.
  • Honor to the death. Slight adjustment. . . honor until death.

Yes, times have changed and the Code is adjusted for the modern world. However upon closer look, the principles are still the same.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.