The Anatomy of a Warrior Show - Episode 003 - Blog - 3 Virtue Lessons You Can Learn from "The Last Samurai"
My newest book, Anatomy of a Warrior, launches on November 11th, Veterans Day!
As you can imagine, there are a great many details to attend to between now and then in preparation for the launch. Nearly 3 years of behind-the-scenes work is nearing completion.
Despite all this work, I am a firm believer in re-charging and re-energizing. Last night, I did that by watching one of my all-time favorite movies - The Last Samurai (TLS). I have always liked this movie but this was the first time I had watched it since I began researching the virtues of a warrior. I viewed the film for the first time through a much deeper lens of understanding what virtues a warrior must live by. Viewing it through this new lens, I love the movie even more now and let me tell you why.
1. The glue that holds all virtue together is temperance.
Watching TLS made me realize on a deeper level just how important self-control and temperance are for a warrior. All virtue and the pursuit thereof must be controlled. As I get older and experience more of life, I am discovering just how important self-control is. We may call this discipline. The samurai in TLS were polished, dedicated, and committed. Tom Cruise's character says at one part, "I have never seen such discipline." Commenting in other place, he says, "From the moment they rise each morning, they dedicate themselves to the perfection of the work they pursue."
This discipline is highly underrated in today's culture. In our world of instant gratification, discipline is becoming a forgotten word - who needs discipline when you can have everything right now?
Watching TLS made me think about the discipline that was required to write my book and how many times I failed to do what I should have due to lack of discipline. It is a sobering thought. Are you lacking discipline? Could you stand to improve in the area of self-control? Join the club.
The importance of self-control cannot be overstated. I challenge you to take intentional control of all aspects of your life: your thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and habits. Remember, what you believe determines all else. If you believe you are not in control of yourself (by "self" I mean the full gamut of your experience as a human being - emotions, thoughts, desires, dreams, behaviors, actions, in-actions, decisions, etc.) then you will act like you are not in control of yourself.
Viewing TLS this time around I saw the stark contrast between such a warrior society and the society at large in our beloved USA. In TLS, the people were disciplined in their duty to their families, country and superiors. Not many excuses were given for poor behavior or breach of manners. I do not wish to imply that we in the USA should practice ritual suicide (as a Christian, I cannot support such a thing) however, there are many lessons we could learn from their staunch discipline. Watch TLS and look at the discipline of the samurai.
2. Humility needed a stronger emphasis.
In TLS, we see how samurai would commit ritual suicide when they could not bear the shame of defeat. This ultimately stems from a place of pride, i.e.: "MY shame is too great; I cannot bear it! Therefore, I will honor myself by committing ritual suicide!" (harakiri). This should teach you a lesson about guarding against pride - it can lead you to do self-destructive things, even ritual suicide.
If you take the discipline shown by the samurai and pair it with the appropriate dose of humility, you will become a truly powerful person. Discipline will ensure that you take the actions necessary to do your duty and humility will prevent you from self-destruction due to excessive pride and self-love. For me, this lesson is an important one.
No matter how successful or unsuccessful my new book becomes, I must be disciplined in living out its virtues and humble enough to keep an accurate view of reality before my eyes. Pride can also be said to be a refusal to appraise reality correctly. For what is pride if not excess? Excess does not equal reality. The reality of who you are, your importance, etc. must always be measured and seen through the lens of reality. Refusing to admit reality is pride - because you want to see reality YOUR way! A warrior cannot afford to live with this pride! Real human lives hang in the balance, and only by admitting reality is what it is can you effectively protect them from violence. This requires perpetual humility - to view reality as it is.
3. To control the mind, subdue the body.
I was struck while watching TLS how the men would condition and discipline themselves to train. They didn't exactly go light either. In one particular seen with Tom Cruise and Ujio, they are sparring with wooden swords in the rain. Cruise is injured from previous battles at this point so he is utterly unable to defend himself against the superiorly trained Ujio. Though Ujio does not kill Cruise, he deals him a serious of powerful blows to the face, back, legs and shoulders. All of those hits would warrant and immediate stoppage of training in modern day Dojo. I am not saying that you should hit this hard with wooden weapons at your Dojo, but the contrast between the conditioning of then to now is striking (no pun intended).
The samurai knew that in order to control the mind, you must subdue the body. One element that several interviewees mentioned was that the body was must forged and honed. Your body is the vehicle to deliver and achieve your purpose in. Health and conditioning matter. Watching TLS, I was confronted with my own lack of proper focus on health, conditioning, and fitness. All of these things matter in a fight and in the protection of others from violence. Everyone wants the magic technique or weapon that will do all the work for them, but you and I both know that this doesn't exist. I re-discovered that I needed to rededicate myself to mastering my mind by conquering my body. Do you need to improve your fitness and health? No one can do it for you. Do not lie to yourself and say that this doesn't matter - it does matter.
BONUS - #4:
In our modern culture, "love" has been made into a fleeting feeling. A mere whim that comes and goes which is purely outside our control. TLS reminded me that true love is disciplined. If you love others, you discipline yourself to master your body, to take control of your emotions, to take your thoughts captive to your will. Why? Because it matters in the quest to give life or take life. Everything you do has a net effect towards life preserving or life destroying. Don't believe me? Your inability to control your emotions adds stress to the lives of all those around you. Ironically, this usually means that those you "love" the most are the most affected. If you allow yourself to be unhealthy, lazy, and undisciplined, then those around you must cover for you and pick up your slack. This adds more stress to their already stressful life which is life destroying.
I had never really felt and understood the truth of this until rewatching TLS. Look at how their lives of discipline allowed others to thrive and do their duties. Contrast that with our current, American culture. I challenge you to create the samurai type discipline in your life and with your family. Remember, love is not a feeling. Conducting yourself with discipline is the evidence of true love. If this convicts you, join the club of the convicted. No use wallowing about it, time to get to work and get busy.
"Life in every breath." Katsumoto says this is the meaning of Bushido - the way of the warrior. It takes discipline to live this way. But oh what a life! I'm rededicating myself to the path of discipline today and I challenge you to do the same!
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Live with virtue!
Photo courtesy of: http://www.gaiahealthblog.com/dinner-and-a-movie-the-last-samurai/
Welcome to the Anatomy of a Warrior Blog!
National Speaker, author, blogger, and life-long student of warrior arts and science.