Martial Arts (Shotokan Karatedo) has been part of my life for more than 25 years now. It’s been a fundamental anchor guiding me through life. As I’ve matured the virtues guiding this practice have served as an instruction manual of sorts.
Whilst men and instruction manuals are not usual bedfellows, I pursevere to apply these rules in my capacity as a leader in the enterprise, a husband, father, brother and friend in my personal life and teacher in karate.
I write a weekly newsletter to my students and over the next few weeks I'm going to unpack the seven virtues of Bushido (the code of honour and morals developed by the Japanese Samurai) to get a better appreciation of the impact they would have had on their way of life.
What relevance does the Samurai of medieval Japan have to do with how we live our busy, modern, work day lives I hear you ask. The answer is just about everything!
I believe that whilst these virtues were forged by warriors back in the 12th century they are as relevant today as they were then. Not only that but they are completely transferable to us mere mortals embracing the pace of life in the 21st century.
The seven work together to create the very essence of what it means to live our best life. Whilst they are numbered - each are of equal importance.
1. Integrity (GI)
Be acutely honest throughout your dealings with all people. Believe in justice, not from other people, but from yourself. All points of view are worthy of consideration regarding honesty, justice, and integrity.
2. Respect (Rei)
We have no reason to be cruel, no need to prove our strength. We are courteous even to those that challenge us. We can command respect by first freely giving it to others.
3. Heroic Courage (Yu)
Hiding like a turtle in a shell is not living at all. To live our best lives, we must have heroic courage. Take risks, replace fear with respect and caution. Heroic Courage is not blind but intelligent and strong.
4. Honour (Meiyo)
We have only one judge of honour and character and that is ourselves. Decisions we make and how these decisions are carried out reflects whom we truly are.
5. Compassion (Jin)
Through intense training and hard work, we can shape ourselves to be different and to stand out from the crowd. We can use our status to help our fellow human at every opportunity it arises.
6. Honesty & Sincerity ( Makoto)
Lying is dishonourable and cowardly. When we say that a task or action will be performed, it’s as good as done. Nothing prevents us completing that which we said we would do. We do not need to ‘give our word’ or ‘promise’
7. Duty & Loyalty (Chu)
We are responsible for everything we have done and everything we have said and all the consequences that follow. We are immensely loyal to all of those in our care.
This week we start with Integrity. The very essence of our character and society itself is founded upon integrity. It’s correct to say this is a high value trait and when we consider those, we know with Integrity they are often trustworthy individuals who are dependable and can be relied upon to always do the right thing. Regardless.
In our leaders we demand Integrity, we are outraged when they fabulously fall from the high expectations we expect. From our boss at work, we expect them to follow through on their commitments to us. In our local community we we’d like to think our lost purse or wallet is handed in, with everything intact. That our children don’t cheat at school in the exam or the sports day event.
Just as we expect and demand it from others, we also have an obligation to live these virtues ourselves. The Samurai of medieval Japan lived the virtues daily at a very different time in history.
How do we bring the Bushido code of integrity into our modern way of living? The way I go about that, is to take these five actionable items.
1. Never take advantage over somebody else
2. Listen to your conscience
3. Always be honest
4. Value other peoples time
5. Be authentic to your own values and morals
Next week the virtue of Respect.
To your continued future health, success and happiness