19th-Century Samurai Training Text Deciphered

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By: Owen Jarus

A training text, used by a martial arts school to teach members of the bushi (samurai) class, has been deciphered, revealing the rules samurai were expected to follow and what it took to truly become a master swordsman.

The text is called Bugei no jo, which means “Introduction to Martial Arts” and is dated to the 15th year of Tenpo (1844). Written for samurai students about to learn Takenouchi-ryū, a martial arts system, it would have prepared students for the challenges awaiting them.

“These techniques of the sword, born in the age of the gods, had been handed down through divine transmission. They form a tradition revered by the world, but its magnificence manifests itself only when one’s knowledge is ripe,” part of the text reads in translation. “When [knowledge] is mature, the mind forgets about the hand, the hand forgets about the sword,” a level of skill that few obtain and which requires a calm mind.

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