Sex and the 21st-Century Samurai

When we read history of the martial arts, especially the Japanese Samurai period, there’s a romantic idea that it was manly to be willing to die for one’s master. Being a warrior meant that you were respected and feared because of what you could do with a sword, farm implements, your hands and feet…. a walking human male capable of delivering death in an instant.

I wonder what these death walkers thought or felt but never spoke about.  Had they manifested their skills as a way to feed their families?  What about homes, communities and common bonds with other samurai?  Did they slow down to appreciate their children in an overt, public, loving way?  Or walk hand in hand with wives, enjoying the cherry blossoms?

Fast-forward several centuries to the warrior attitudes being explored by at least one aging 21st century aikido practitioner.

In this context, I don’t think power or the ability to hurt or kill defines a warrior; especially one who’s showing a lot of gray hair. Along the way I have aches and struggles.  Those things are building blocks for something perhaps more profound, but no matter how much I “eat clean,” work out and practice, my body is aging and changing. Like the original samurai, my first step is remembering that I’m not going to get out of this life alive.

I’ve begun to broaden my definition of a warrior and, in practical terms, try to spend my day-to-day life on only what matters to me.  It has come to mean appreciating the scent of my wife and the curve of her back when she sleeps. Mindfulness does not take her for granted or assume that she will be here tomorrow.  Morning prayer and mediation ritual provides another example.  This monkey mind can justify missing meditation or aikido practice for reasons it quickly invents from somewhere deep inside. A warrior doesn’t take the bait.

“Warrior will” is both strong and flexible, identifying personal truths and shining the spotlight of our minds only there.  It helps us to stay true as we rinse away delusions that we encounter along the way.

There comes a time to know that our preparation has little to do with battling others.  Aging requires me to adapt to circumstances and accept limitations, however it is my definition of being a warrior that requires me to test each one for myself.  I suspect O’Sensei did the same.

What does the warrior in you look like? 





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