If you were to ask 100 people to define the word “warrior,” you would probably get 10 or more different answers – based on each person’s viewpoint. The focus of this article is in defining this very powerful, and often feared, word – based on the Sino-Japanese kanji characters used to write it.
Rather than just toss out another definition for warrior – one that takes a stand on what I think it should mean – I’m going to share with you a secret that I encountered when I began to study the language behind Ninjutsu – the martial and life mastery science of Japan’s ancient Ninja.
This is very enlightening – very powerful – in that, if we look at the kanji characters that the ancient masters chose to convey the meaning of the term “warrior,” a very different picture emerges than one that many people have today. I believe that going back to the source of the wisdom teachings in critical to understanding, not only this powerful martial art, but in understanding more than just the step-by-step techniques that most of those practicing are focusing on.
But, before I share with you this secret hidden within the kanji characters for the Japanese word MUSHA, “warrior,” I think it’s important to see just how much the concept of warriorship, and what it means to be a warrior, has been “watered-down” and twisted in our modern world.
Everywhere, you see school mascots, sports teams, and even clubs brandishing the title of “warriors.” It seems that everyone from military units to law enforcers, and yes, martial artists, have claimed rights to calling themselves “warriors.” And yet, when you look at all of these activities, you usually see the very opposite of what the original concept meant for those who lived up to the ideal.
If you have access to a Japanese kanji dictionary, you can look up the two characters which make up this often misunderstood term. Even if you don’t have a dictionary, you can use your favorite online search engine to find them. I would suggest using the “image search” function, rather than the word search, as you’ll need to be able to “see” what I’m talking about.
The word warrior is made of two kanji characters – one for the syllable “MU” – and the other for the syllable, “SHA.” If we were to just limit our research to the basic meanings of these two pictographs, we would get the surface-level meaning of “martial” (MU), and “person” (SHA).
So, at first glance we can see the meaning of “a person who engages in warfare.”
Hardly what most parents would want their high school football player being identified with, right?
But, if we look more closely at the kanji, an even deeper meaning begins to arise. To see this, however; you must first understand that the kanji invented by the Chinese and then adopted by the Japanese, are actually very similar to Egyptian hieroglyphics. Not in form, but in application.
Kanji are actually “pictographs,” or “word-pictures.” And, while a good deal of them have changed over time to look very different from their original form, kanji are actually simplified drawings of what early writers rendered from the actual objects and ideas in their world.
So, when we look at the kanji for musha – warrior – we can look at the picture-ideas being presented to get a clearer picture of that early masters were telling us.
Here’s what I mean.
While the word ‘sha” for person, is pretty straight forward, there is a hidden secret within the kanji for the character “mu”, or martial. And, to see it, you must first see that the kanji itself is actually comprised of two other kanji that were brought together to create a who new meaning from their union.
The first kanji – the strokes and lines which make up the top and right side of the character – is older and not really used in today’s system. It means “conflict.” In fact, if you can look at the overall picture, it can look like a castle wall with arrows flying over it.
The second kanji – the strokes forming the bottom and left side – is actually the same one that you’ll see on warning and traffic signs all over the countryside. It is the kanji for the word, “stop.”
So, when these two concepts are brought together, we can actually see the secret that lies behind the concept of warriorship. We see that the job of a warrior is not to fight, indiscriminately, for trophies, glory, or money – but to fight as a last resort to restore the concepts of harmony, unity, and peace…
…the opposites of “conflict.”
How did I arrive at that meaning. I saw the meaning behind the ancient master’s idea of “martial” or warfare. The meaning and purpose behind the actions of a true warrior.
I saw the words now clearly spelled out in front of me. I saw that the job of a warrior is to…