History of the Samurai (the Japanese knights)
The origin of the word Samurai (servant, companion) lies in Japan. It was pronounced Saburai and meant servant or companion. Not before the early modern era, 16th or 17th century, the word Samurai naturalized instead of Saburai.
The word Saburai referred mainly on the guards of the imperial palace and the sword-bearers. These precursors of the ones we call Samurai today were equipped by the ruler. They were dictated to improve the correct use of their Martial Art at every time.
The Samurai had some extensive privileges. The were allowed to bear two Samurai swords, a long and a short one. Ordinary people were not allowed to bear any arm. For a warrior a blade is part of his mind and at the same time an expression of the body, i.e. the body itself. Mind and Ki of the swordsman operate in this way also through the sword. The expression “Katana-wa bushi-no tamashii desû” (The sword is the mind of the warrior) shows the exceptional respect the Japanese had for the sword.
Within the Samurai caste there were again various ranks with different privileges. One ranking of the 12th century differed in three classes of Samurai: 1st class: Kenin (means as much as “home maker”). They were the managers of the vassals. 2nd class: Mounted Samurai, only Samurai with a high rank were allowed to fight on horses. 3rd class: foot soldiers.
Bushido – The Samurai’s code of honor
Bushido, the Samurai‘s code of honor, regulated life and death, peace and fight of the Japanese elite warriors in a strict and sturdy way. Bushido can be translated in “the way of the warrior”. But this is not about the training of the physical abilities, but rather about mental advancement. Bushido means the way through life, consisting independently of the Martial Art. This way is reached by the Martial Art. The loyalty that was required by Bushido persists beyond death. Selfless behavior, sacrifice and in case of rule violations self-castigation up to ritual suicide (Seppuku) was demanded. However, Bushido does not mean searching for death, not handing over one’s responsibility, but rather accepting one’s responsibility.