Western scholars and educators are generally far less familiar with the samurai in his original--and, ostensibly, primary--role as warrior and master of arms than in his other functions as landowner, feudal lord, literateur, or philosopher. Yet any attempt to comprehend fully the samurai without considering his military abilities and training (bugei) is futile. Even during the peaceful eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, when the samurai had long since left the battlefield, he never ceased to see himself as a warrior. Although the samurai as a class were abolished in the nineteenth century, their military skills and values continue to be taught at dozens of schools (ryuha) throughout Japan. The classical bugei practiced today are a living legacy that continues to propagate the beliefs and tools of a warrior class that disappeared more than a century ago. By studying the bugei, historians can recover much about the manner in which samurai acquired their convictions and physical abilities, thereby enriching our knowledge of late medieval and early modern warrior education and affording new insights into samurai culture.
With verve and wit, Karl Friday combines the results of nearly two decades of fieldwork and archival research to examine samurai martial culture from a broad perspective: as a historical phenomenon, as a worldview, and as a system of physical, spiritual, and moral education. Legacies of the Sword is the first attempt by a Westerner scholar trained both in bugei and in Japanese studies and historical methodology to discuss this major and compelling component of Japanese culture. It presents a case study of the Kashima-Shinryu, one of the oldest of the extant samurai training organizations, and was written in close collaboration with its current headmaster, Seki Humitake. The volume illuminates the extraordinary complexity of the bugei and the manner in which various physical, technical, psychological, and philosophical factors merge to produce a coherent art that guides the lives of those who practice it.