I've Been Thinking...

I’VE BEEN THINKING........ about the greatest samurai warrior who ever lived. There are many famous warriors in Japan’s long history, and some of the feats of strength, courage, skill, ingenuity and honor are truly inspiring. A fireman friend of mine, a man’s man type of guy, middle-aged and very Japanese in his lifestyle and thinking, introduced me to Miyamoto Musashi, the seventeenth century samurai swordsman, who my friend deemed to be the greatest of all samurai.

Miyamoto was born in 1584, just as the real warfare that had waged across Japan was coming to an end. The century prior to his birth had been a time of continuous fighting, but it all ended abruptly with a change in government in 1600. As a result, Miyamoto had no real enemy to battle as he trained in swordsmanship as a young man. Instead, he began to travel from training school to training school learning the skills of each style and ultimately challenging the head masters at each school to a showdown. It was not the best way to make friends, but he did become famous.

Miyamoto is said to have fought more than 60 challenges and never to have lost once. Some duals ended in the disgrace of the teacher, while many other’s ended in he

ad master’s death. The very idea of a student challenging and defeating a sensei was unthinkable, and the challenge often went into a real “life or death” battle on numerous occasions. Musashi never lost. He continued his training most of his life.

Eventually, he faced his opponent with only a hand made wooden sword, since metal to metal was too easy for him. He still came out the winner. In the last years of training, he developed a method of disarming his opponent by attacking with an imaginary sword and knocking the real sword out of the grip of the other swordsman.

At this point, Miyamoto retired and became a philosopher - having defeated every able-bodied challenger in the nation, without even needing a sword in his hand. Continuing his training would have been meaningless. The Book of the Five Rings is a collection of his philosophies. It has some interesting points and the “business warriors” in today’s working world look up to Miyamoto Musashi as a hero, a true samurai.

However, I think I know of one better. Though he was not born Japanese, history reports that, “having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” In fact, on this warrior’s last battle, he faced a whole legion of armed soldiers, himself unarmed, and over-powered them all and actually healed the sliced off ear of one man in the opposing army.

Both the lives of Miyamoto Musashi and Jesus Christ are truly inspiring. They are not just fairy tales painted out of romantic imagination. At least two examples of Musashi’s hand carved wooden swords still exist here in Japan. At least one method of disarming an attacker and taking his sword is still being taught and practiced today. And as far as the evidence that Jesus defeated his enemies with just the power of his word and healed a severed ear, well, I’ve personally seen him do equally unexplainable and amazing things, just in the few years since I’ve come to known him. There is ample proof that both men lived just as the stories have been recorded.

The1 main difference between these two men is in the secret power of their success. The purposes of their lives were very different. I call them both true samurai, worthy of consideration. Miyamoto Musashi found his strange power in the alignment of all of his mental, physical, and inward energies with the death of his own self, which he learned early on and became one with. It’s a powerful concept, if you are already dead, there is no fear or thought of dying. And it’s hard to kill a dead man. He learned to be dead while he was alive.

Jesus also has a similar secret. He learned to become one with eternal life and therefore lived beyond death in his everyday life. As a result he learned to be alive even in the face of death. And as the Bible teaches that we ourselves are dead in our sins, Jesus, by example shows us how to become alive and live life, even while we are dead. Musashi aligned himself with death and killed others. Jesus aligned himself with Life and healed and gave life to others. It’s astounding once you see the reality of these two examples from history.

Musashi never protected anyone, and his life’s purpose was self-centered in totality. Yet thousands look up to him as they struggle under the weight of pressures in this modern day battlefield. Jesus used his power to protect, restore, lift up the weak, to challenge evil, yet openly and willingly giving his life for both loved ones and enemies alike. No one could take his life, he willingly gave it away. And he points to a higher way of life for anyone who has real courage to follow him.

I’ve been fascinated by swordsmen and warriors since my boyhood days. I’ve had more than one sword decorating my already cluttered office, from time to time. But of all the heroes, Jesus stands out way ahead of the rest. He was, and is, in my opinion a true samurai, a warrior of righteousness. And all who follow his way have the opportunity to find real life. That’s exciting in my book, and I’ve already made my choice to follow Him in response. Won’t you do the same?

© 2002, Warren Okerman