The Lesson of the Samurai

Craig Jones 
Legacy Magazine Columnist

All the soft-tissue injuries of my youth came, if sport-related, in the normal course of swift human or inanimate contact. Football, basketball, track, falling off bicycles, even wrestling, but not as the result of a fist swinging at my face with intention. I didn’t have fights. I wrestled and roughhoused my way through boyhood and learned about letting anger out in acceptable ways, or controllable ways, or talking about it, but never by swinging away.

The boys who were in real fist fights always seemed to be the “dumber kids,” the ones who might end up behind bars, doing time in the state pen or the county. Indeed, one such pugilist from my high school was eventually sent up for armed robbery. Those kids who swung away were the “angry” or “troubled” youth who didn’t have a better way to solve problems. Social misfits. Just savage, primal urges getting the better of them. Uncontrollable young punks, street fighters who articulated their rage with their fists.

No amount of watching other boys fight or participating in any other sport can remotely prepare you. Not for the savage reality of being swung at intentionally nor of the state of complete exhaustion three minutes of close combat affords. I had no knowledge of either until the day I laced up a pair of gloves, one weekend in Baltimore, and learned to box, in my thirties, and felt the savage, primal pleasure of swinging away and being swung at.

I was hurt, but carried my bruised ribs inside for weeks as a kind of warrior wound. To stay in shape was my argument, only to stay in shape, and maybe do a little sparring. Yet I think my bête noir, the phantom, savage, raging animal dressed up in modern clothes as lover, father and children’s bookstore owner knew there was more to it. I knew about Hemingway, one of my writing heroes, and how he loved to box. I knew about Teddy Roosevelt’s boxing as President and his Strenuous Life philosophy. I knew Billy Joel had boxed. There was something about channeling anger.

In his celebrated PBS interviews with Bill Moyers, Joseph Campbell told the tale of a samurai warrior.

“A  Japanese warrior, who had the duty to avenge the murder of his overlord. And he actually, after some time, found and cornered the man who had murdered his overlord.

And he was about to deal with him with his samurai sword, when this man in the corner, in the passion of terror, spat in his face. And the samurai sheathed the sword and walked away. Why did he do that?

Because he was made angry, and if he had killed that man then, it would have been a personal act, of another kind of act, that’s not what he had come to do.”

Robert Moore spoke to this as well in King Warrior Magician Lover. “How does the man accessing the Warrior know what aggressiveness is appropriate under the circumstances? He knows through clarity of thinking, through discernment. The warrior is always alert. He is always awake. He is never sleeping through life. He knows how to focus his mind and his body. He is what the samurai called ‘mindful.’ He is a ‘hunter’ in the Native American tradition.”

For most of my life I viewed anger as a negative emotion, not to be acted on or even admitted to.

The lesson of the Samurai for me is that it is a powerful tool when used by the mature man.

Read more from Craig Jones, as the Gratidude, here: HERE

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