Centuries ago, there was a great honor associated with being a samurai warrior.
You’ve already seen it in movies, and are familiar with the samurai in pop culture. But in Japan, samurai was serious business.
It came with a code of honor that granted each warrior a certain amount of power and status among Japanese.
What you might not think about if you only know samurai from pop culture is that samurai had a master to serve. The warriors weren’t just big, tough guys who walked around in armor and kicked butt - they were servants who followed orders.
At times, however, situations would arise where a samurai warrior would lose his master.
This could happen in any number of ways, but most commonly, a master might be lost in battle or the victim of an untimely death. It’s even possible that a samurai would lose their master because of a misdeed that he committed.
In any case, they were no longer samurai warriors - they were ronin.
How becoming ronin changed a samurai warrior
Once a warrior became ronin, they lost all the status that they previously owned.
A ronin warrior was masterless - and generally looked down upon by society.
They lived not by a code of honor, but by the sword. Often, they worked as bodyguards for rich merchants, or they became criminals.
Also, they stopped adhering to the Seppuku Code of Honor. Briefly, Seppuku stated that a warrior not fall into the hands of opponents during battle. In an effort to avoid that dishonor (and likely torture), a warrior would commit suicide by slicing open his abdomen and having his head cut off.
Ronin had no such code to follow.
Thanks to Japan Info for the story of the ronin warrior.
Have you become a ronin warrior?
I’d heard the word “ronin” tossed around before, particularly in reference to the movie from 1998 (which has absolutely nothing to do with the Japanese warrior, other than name).
It was referenced in a video I was watching the other day, and the concept struck me as relevant: many modern young adult males in America have become ronin.
Think about it:
- Masterless. For the vast majority of your life, you have lived under the rule of “masters” like your parents or school officials. They told you what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. Once you graduate and move out, you no longer have those masters. You are suddenly thrust into an independent role.
- You use your “swords”. Often, when a man is independent for the first time in his life, he starts following his own impulses. This can be emotional impulses or sexual impulses (I’m not using “sword” as a euphemism for penis, I promise). You live by how you feel. Which might lead to...
- You stop living with “honor”. For some reason, fully-grown adult men are completely okay with living a dishonorable life while they’re “young”. Think about how many men you know that are cool with going out 3-4 times a week and getting completely and embarrassingly drunk. How many of them are cool with sleeping around or, at the very least, watching porn regularly? How many guys are spending hours upon hours playing video games? These men are living in the moment and not looking ahead. For some reason, that’s okay in our American society today.
How to stop living like a ronin warrior
If you want to take control of your life and stop living aimlessly like a ronin warrior, the first thing you need to do is understand and recognize that you are independent now.
By respecting this fact about yourself, you also admit that you are in full control over your life and how you’re going to approach it. You don’t need to engage in all of those impulses anymore, because you are going to be living differently.
This is a good time to understand and respect your own impulses. If you happen to jump into porn or video games when you’re bored, then you need to respect that impulse and find a way to divert it. These impulses can be very strong - respecting them is being proactive about avoiding those situations.
Start living with respect for yourself and for those around you. Your actions affect others, and they affect your long-term goals. There is no honor in hurting or frustrating someone, especially if it’s just because you’re being selfish. Start thinking about the effects of your actions.
And finally, build a forward-thinking attitude in your personal and professional lives. Just like your actions have effects, now you need to think ahead.
Set goals for yourself and walk them backwards to where you are now. How can you get from where you are now to where you want to be in life? These are difficult questions that don’t always have clear answers, but living with honor means striving for something in your life.
At the end of the day, no, you are not a ronin warrior. The main difference is that ronin were masterless - they followed whoever came along and guided them.
You have a master - yourself. You hold the power in your hands to be an honorable warrior. Take that power seriously and use it responsibly.
With that honorable life comes the status and power that you’re craving, and you won’t have to follow your impulses to feel good about yourself.