Bushido: the Samurai Code


The bushido code is a moral code that was developed by the samurai warriors. Even today, this moral code can be observed in Japanese society. Honor and loyalty are the founding pillars of this doctrine!

Key points to know about bushido

  • Bushido literally means the way of the warrior.
  • Bushido intertwines fighting values with spiritual beliefs.
  • The bushido has 7 written principles that every samurai must respect.
  • Bushido aims to elevate the being in a spiritual and physical way.
  • Bushido is still present as a background color in modern Japanese society.
  • Bushido governs martial arts such as kendo.

What are the foundations of the creation of bushido?

Bushido is indistinguishable from its inspirations from religious and philosophical beliefs. It emphasizes thespiritual ascension of warriors through meditation practices.

The practice of bushido flourished during periods of peace. The samurais had more free time, so they engaged in hard training but also in working on their bushido.

Little by little the practice of Bujutsu, which has a purely warlike and technical purpose, is transformed into Botu. Botu combines martial practice with a spiritual component.

It is at this time that the samurai forms a true art of living. The way of the samurai continues for a lifetime. If Japanese people seem so zen and humble in the eyes of the western society, it is largely due to this heritage left by their ancestors during theMeiji era.

Samurai and moral codes

Spiritual and religious influences on bushido

The Bushido of the Samurai is not just a moral code without spiritual meaning. He appeared to be a real landmark for the Japanese. It encompasses a whole bunch of concepts like:

  • Shinto
  • Buddhism
  • Confucianism

Shintoism as a starting point for Bushido

It is with Shintoism, the traditional religion of Japan, that Bushido began to develop. The Shinto religion gives great importance to family life. The samurai must above all be able to protect his family and give them what they need.

But that’s not all, there is a very strong respect for the elders. The samurai owes total respect to his parents and ancestors. Thus, he not only fights for himself, but he must defend his name at all costs with honor and valour.

It was this spirit that encouraged the samurai to die in battle and with honor.

Zen Buddhism, another religion of the samurai

It was during the Kamakura era that Buddhism became predominant in the life of the samurai. He has embellished the Bushido of the warrior by bringing 3 new dimensions to it:

  • social
  • moral
  • spiritual

Buddhism focuses on the search for inner peace. This results in long hours of mediation. But that’s not all, Buddhism encourages us to seek the truth in this world and to question it. This is why Japanese spiritual movements are often associated with philosophy.

Confucianism, more warlike values

Confucianism completes this triad with more warlike values. Here, we highlight:

  • loyalty
  • righteousness
  • benevolence

He forged the unwavering love and loyalty that the samurai had for their lord. To betray one’s lord was synonymous with dishonor and the whole family suffered.

The Bushido code has thus allowed Japan to prosper and to be relatively stable over the centuries. Samurai had a deep sense of honor and loyalty. Their moral code was such that the needy could easily find assistance from the virtuous samurai.

Bushido moral code

The 7 moral virtues of the samurai (Bushido)

If we take a closer look at the actions required by Bushido, we can see 7 great virtues which govern the behavior of the warrior in society in Japan:

1. GI, righteousness and sense of duty The samurai cannot get rid of his imperatives. If he receives orders from his hierarchy or even from his lord, he cannot evade them.

2. Yu, show courage A samurai cannot desert the battle or run away from the battle. The courage of a samurai can also be seen in his foresight and the way he will use his intelligence to win a fight.

3. Jin, benevolence and compassion The warrior must show empathy if he wants to understand his opponent. It is also a very useful virtue for Japanese society. This creates a bond and strengthens relationships within a clan.

4. Rei, politeness and respect In the same line as the Jin, a good samurai must be able to contain himself. His spiritual and physical strength is only revealed at the right moments.

5. Makoto, the truth is queen Truth must reign at all times and lies are synonymous with dishonor. The word of a samurai is absolute, if he commits himself, he must carry out his words.

6. Meiyo, the honor It is the continuation of Makoto. The honor of a samurai must be preserved throughout his life. A samurai would rather resort to seppuku than be shamed.

7. Chugi/chu, duty and loyalty: the last one of this list and not the least. The hierarchy is very respected in Japan. The samurai must be ready to die for his lord.

A little history with Bushido and samurais

The history of Japan has greatly shaped the behavior and cuture of the Japanese. All in all, it is two major events that gave the samurai code as we know it:

  • Zen practices Zen practices : Rinzai and Soto practices allowed the samurai to develop their mind in depth.
  • The Tokugawa shogunate The Tokugawa shogunate : it is the period of peace which allowed the samurai to concentrate more on their mind and less on the fighting techniques.

Zen has a central role in the development of the samurai spirit. It allowed them to focus on the precision of their movements.

The katana is a sword that requires meticulous and precise control. Without this, the Japanese would not have been able to bring the art of swordsmanship to the point where it is today!

Without the peace that the Tokugawa line brought, the samurai way could not have emerged with its share of artists and intellectuals.

To this day, the samurai code persists in all stars of Japanese society. Among others, it includes:

  • the detachment of the material
  • incorruptibility
  • spiritual awakening
  • calmness at any time
Bushido moral code

The bushido code: still present in Japanese society?

Japan is still a country with many traditions and moral codes. A Westerner could feel the cultural gap between him and the Japanese.

However, Japan has a somewhat paradoxical aspect. It is very advanced in modern technologies but still keeps its very traditional values.

Modern Japanese society reveals its samurai spirit in difficult crises. One will have noticed all his combativeness and his sense of honor during the Second World War, with the kamikaze in particular.

But it is especially in the work that one finds much of the values of Bushido with:

  • the quest for excellence
  • hard work
  • the moral sense
  • accuracy
  • perfectionism
  • respect for the hierarchy

And this trend does not seem to be reversing. Young Japanese people are still close to martial arts with schools still flourishing in the country. We can also observe the samurai imprint in mangas like Naruto, Bleach, etc.

This common base, so solid, is based on central beliefs and religions. Bushido is therefore not just a martial principle. It governs the laws and codes of the current Japanese society!

Bushido and katana, an extension of the body and mind

The samurai of the time considered their blades as beings in their own right. The sharper the mind and body of the samurai, the purer and more effective the blade became.

The samurai must therefore maintain his blade as himself. It was not uncommon to see a samurai maintaining his Japanese sword for hours every day.

If you wish to acquire a Japanese sword, do not hesitate to discover our katna store.


What is bushido?

Bushido refers to the Japanese way of life and the warrior codes of the samurai. It can be translated as the way of the warrior and has been developed in Japan for thousands of years.

What does Bushido mean?

Bu refers to martial practices, Shi can be translated as the word warrior and finally Do means the way. Literally, Bushido can be translated as the way of the warrior. It also takes into account the sense of honor that is predominant in Bushido.

Where does Bushido come from?

Bushido is derived from various Japanese beliefs such as Shintoism, Buddhism and Confucianism. All these movements had a different influence on Bushido.