Skip navigation

Etiquette and the martial strategy

Kawaraban No. 2


by Kenji Shimizu

Originally the Japanese must have been a nation who highly appreciated etiquette. But didn’t we come down to a society today that lost such a behavior?

Speaking of etiquette I am not talking about simple bowing or formal rules of courtesy but a much more self-evident etiquette.

For example, if you step unintentionally on another person’s foot in a crowded train, you should say, „I am sorry“ immediately. Such a simple and natural matter is extremely important. With these words the feelings of your opponent, who for a moment felt pain and was about to seek revenge, will be appeased.

Even if you would come off as winner in an argument, it is best not to argue at all. „To provide for a risk by etiquette“ is an understanding that avoids quarrel. My point is, that there will emerge a violent society where only the fittest survive, where mischief prevails and reason steps back, if we close our eyes to mistakes because of fear. Mistakes have to be condemned, and it is necessary to allow reason and to take precautions. Such precautions are called martial strategy (bu).

Since time immemorial it is said: „Martial strategy begins with etiquette and ends with etiquette.“ The martial strategy and etiquette are two sides of one and the same matter. Both prevent the development of a violent society, where only the fittest survive.

People are appreciative of offering seats in public transport without hesitation to older or physically disabled persons.

If it is not possible to control aggression and help the weak in situations necessary, a sound and human society will not be able to develop.

Depending on matter and situation we have to blame faults, control the situation, strengthen courage and techniques and have to quickly recognize ( signs of ) aggression. Furthermore, we have to acquire matching body movements for taking measures instantaneously in the right moment. Therefore it is necessary, that the nervous system and muscles are responsive to each other fast and smartly.

Nowadays we should be surprised by the insensitivity against the environment and the indifference in case of harassment of other people. Isn’t it possibly due to the indifference of the whole society, in a way nobody expected before?

In former times it could result in loss of life when the samurai did not sense changes in their environments instantly and did not react promptly. People, who were unsensitive, could not survive for long.

Although your muscles are weak you may live, but if you lack sensitivity it is fatal. Doesn’t therefore a society who is insensitive and indifferent to its environment contain a fatal weakness?

© translated by Birgit Lauenstein and Peter Nawrot 02/2003