Chivalry and Budo

Chivalry and Budo

The future of Budo is something which must come from Japanese themselves. No foreigner can decide it for them; nor can any single Japanese decide it. It must come from the inner life of the Budo tradition. But sometimes the interest shown by foreigners can help to reawaken interest in Budo among Japanese themselves.

Furthermore, to see how other countries have developed— or have failed to develop—their own traditions can be a hint for Japanese. I will now take the example of how the Western ideal of chivalry changed as it led to the ideal of the English gentleman. Chivalry developed among the European knights, especially the Normans, who brought it to Britain. It taught not only the ancient Roman virtue of bravery but also kindness to the weak, especially women, and respect for defeated enemies. The respect for the defeated was a big advance on the Roman idea: Romans were merciless. Their famous slogan was Vae victis! or ‘Woe to the vanquished!’ (It must be admitted that in actual war the knights often relapsed into the Roman way.)

The Norman chivalry was for a long time taught only among knightly families. Later it was gradually extended to ‘gentlemen’. They were a grade below the knights but had to be from a good wealthy family.

The common people were not taught chivalry and knew it only from popular songs and romantic epics. They were not expected to practise it. Shakespeare for instance despised what he called the ‘mob’, that is, the common people. Julius Caesar begins with these lines about the common people: ‘You blocks, you stones, you worse than senseless things!’

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