Thinking about the Samurai as mere warriors only allows grasping a small part of their rigorous training. Literary studies were complimentary to the art of war. The expression “the sword and the paintbrush” suited most of them. The most intellectual among them elaborated a vision of the world that finds its place among the greatest Japanese philosophical currents. The samurai were keen psychologists as well as political philosophers. The second-rate cinematographic myth, which pictures them in deadly combats where one kills thirty, is a distorted prejudice that must be dispelled.
Samurai is a complex word of ancient origin: the verb Saburau, the etymological root, describes the service provided by the attendant of an aristocrat. This people were soon allowed to carry weapons, which in fact promoted them to bodyguards. Starting from the XII century, the word samurai described the intermediate and higher warrior classes. The origin of the first samurai Takeru Yamato is lost in myth, so that his name is the same of ancient Japan’s.
In a way Aikido is, along with other forms of Budo such as Judo, Karatedo, Kendo, Jodo, Kyudo, Iaido, etc., the Samurai’s heritage to the world: by continuous, harm-free practice of techniques born to destroy an opponent, we can train to control the human being’s natural aggressiveness and redirect it to higher goals, improving the spirit while enhancing mind and body at the same time.
*From the book “Lo Spirito del Giappone”, by Leonardo Vittorio Arena