A Modern Samurai shirt: plus, 11 suggestions from a Samurai long dead

We were looking for a reason to talk about our Samurai shirt that gave it more than a purely capitalistic approach. We like money, but we also like to encourage a warrior-scholar/warrior-poet ethos. So, if you have any interest in the Hagakure, Budo as it was meant to be, or Yamamoto Tsunetomo, then read on.

“Depending on one’s point of view, Hagakure represents a mystical beauty intrinsic to the Japanese aesthetic experience, and a stoic but profound appreciation of the meaning of life and death.”                                ― Yamamoto Tsunetomo, Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai

The Samurai

Of all the warrior archetypes in the world, none is perhaps more recognizable than that of the Samurai. The word Samurai is derived at least in part from the word saburau, which means “to serve.” That’s fitting enough, particularly in the modern context and even more so with regard to how we here at Breach-Bang-Clear regard the warrior ethos. There’s nothing wrong with a little ego in a fighting man, quite the contrary — but if that ego is not subordinated to some sense of the greater good (serving your country, serving your country, sticking up for those weaker than you), well, then…you’re probably just an asshole. Fact is, a Modern Samurai may be damn near indistinguishable from an American Jedi.

The Hagakure describes it thusly:

How can one human being be inferior to another? In all matters of discipline, one will be useless unless he has great pride. Unless one is determined to move the clan by himself, all his discipline will come to naught. Although, like a tea kettle, it is easy for one’s enthusiasm to cool, there is a way to keep this from happening. My own vows are the following:

Never be outdone in the Way of the Samurai.
 To be of good use to the master.
 To be filial toward my parents.
 To manifest great compassion, and to act for the sake of Man.
 If one dedicates these four vows to the gods and Buddhas every morning, he will have the strength of two men and will never slip backward. One must edge forward like the inchworm, bit by bit. The gods and Buddhas, too, first started with a vow.

Budō

In Japanese, the term Budō (武道) dates back to the 16th century as a description of the Samurai lifestyle. It is now used as a term for modern Japanese martial arts. Literally translated it means the “Martial Way”, and can be regarded as the “Way of War”. Bu is a Japanese word meaning “military” or “related to the military,” and Do is the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese term “Tao” (for Taoism) meaning path or way. Budō is a form of focus on the mind and self-development, and its counterpart Bujutsu is translated as “science of war” or “martial craft.” These two terms are used interchangeably in English to represent the ethos of the Samurai. 

Budo as a discipline developed when the samurai realized that a fighter with superior mental and spiritual aptitude was the one who prevailed. Thus, the nature of combat was elevated from the merely physical to a level that seems nearly supernatural.

Specifically, budo is an approach to martial study whereby rigorous physical training is coupled with coinciding philosophical study to produce proficiency, wisdom and facilitate a third effect – perfection of enlightened character. It’s this third effect that is the ultimate goal of budo training.                                                                           

– Salvatore Musco at martialpromise.org.

Samurai Lore

Much has been written about and by Samurai over the years. Perhaps most famous is The Book of Five Rings, less so Nitobe’s Bushido: The Soul of Japan, and of course the Hagakure (Hagakure Kikigaki) — did anyone else see a copy of it on Bezzeriedes’ desk in True Detective Season 2? It’s from the latter we’ll quote today, and from that book apparently that Anachrobellum drew inspiration for the MODERN BUDO shirt design.

In May of the year 1700 the samurai Yamamoto Tsunetomo, then 42, was given permission to retire into seclusion and become a Buddhist priest. Formerly the thirty-year sworn man of Daimyō Nabeshima Mitsushige, he was prevented by local law from committing junshi (ritual suicide) upon his lord’s death.

Two images of Yamamoto Tsunetomo.
Two images of Yamamoto Tsunetomo. Left image source: matome.naver.jp. Right image source: andreian.com

That’s a fortunate thing for those of us who’ve read and learned from the Hagakure. Ten years later a young man named Tashiro Tsuramoto began visiting Tsunemoto, and over the next 7 years recorded the older samurai’s words, eventually putting them into a book given the title Hagakure — which can mean “hidden by leaves” or “hidden leaves.”  Elements of Confucianism, Zen Buddhism (introduced to Japan in the 12th and 13th centuries) and Bushido are present throughout the book in ways and levels far too complex do comprehensively discuss here.

Respect, Honesty, Courage, Rectitude, Loyalty, Honour, Benevolence

― Yamamoto Tsunetomo, Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai

 

Wisdom from the Hagakure

Interestingly, many scholars assert that Tsunetomo never intended the book for public reading. There’s no way for us to know the truth of that, but we. do. know. this:

Whether you consider yourself a student or an instructor or just someone in service to something larger than yourself, we figure you could do worse than take the advice of these men now three centuries dead. Here are some quotes from the Hagakure that we feel represent the warrior-scholar/warrior-poet ethos that inspired the design of the Samurai Shirt.


It is not sufficient just to remain calm in the event of catastrophe or emergency. When challenged by adversity, charge onwards with courage and jubilation. This is rising to a higher level. It is like the saying, “The more water there is, the higher the boat rises.


Learning is a good thing, but more often it leads to mistakes. It is like the admonition of the priest Kōnan. It is worthwhile just looking at the deeds of accomplished persons for the purpose of knowing our own insufficiencies. But often this does not happen. For the most part, we admire our own opinions and become fond of arguing.


If a warrior is not unattached to life and death, he will be of no use whatsoever. The saying that “All abilities come from one mind” sounds as though it has to do with sentient matters, but it is, in fact, a matter of being unattached to life and death. With such non-attachment, one can accomplish any feat.


Practice in letter writing goes to the extent of taking care in even one-line letters. It is good if all the above contain a quiet strength. Moreover, according to what the priest Ryōzan heard when he was in the Kamigata area, when one is writing a letter, he should think that the recipient will make it into a hanging scroll.


If a man does not investigate into the matter of Bushidō daily, it will be difficult for him to die a brave and manly death. Thus it is essential to engrave this business of the warrior into one’s mind well. One should put forth great effort in matters of learning. One should read books concerning military matters, and direct his attention exclusively to the virtues of loyalty and filial piety. Having been born into the house of a warrior, one’s intentions should be to grasp the long and the short swords and to die.


In China, there was once a man who liked pictures of dragons, and his clothing and furnishings were all designed accordingly. His deep affection for dragons was brought to the attention of the dragon god, and one day a real dragon appeared before his window. It is said that he died of fright. He was probably a man who always spoke big words but acted differently when facing the real thing.


If one does not get it into his head from the very beginning that the world is full of unseemly situations, for the most part his demeanour will be poor and he will not be believed by others.


In one’s life, there are levels in the pursuit of study. In the lowest level, a person studies but nothing comes of it, and he feels that both he and others are unskillful. At this point he is worthless. In the middle level, he is still useless but is aware of his own insufficiencies and can also see the insufficiencies of others. In a higher level, he has pride concerning his own ability, rejoices in praise from others, and laments the lack of ability in his fellows. This man has worth. In the highest level, a man has the look of knowing nothing. These are the levels in general. But there is one transcending level, and this is the most excellent of all. This person is aware of the endlessness of entering deeply in a certain Way and never thinks of himself as having finished. He truly knows his own insufficiencies and never in his whole life thinks that he has succeeded. He has no thought of pride but with self-abasement knows the Way to the end. It is said that Master Yagyū once remarked, “I do not know the way to defeat others, but the way to defeat myself.” Through your life advance daily, become more skillful than yesterday, more skillful than today. This is never-ending.


It is a wretched thing that the young men of today are so contriving and so proud of their material possessions. Men with contriving hearts are lacking in duty. Lacking in duty, they will have no self-respect.


If one has no earnest daily intention, does not consider what it is to be a warrior even in his dreams, and lives through the day idly, he can be said to be worthy of punishment.


[…] if one seeks to resolve a problem, let it sit for a while, take time to think about the “Four Oaths” and subdue any self-centered thoughts, and then you will be able to proceed without faltering.


You can agree with some, all or none of this, but if you’re committed to a warrior ethos and service before self, you would do well to remember what Tsunetomo said:

“Heaven favors a man of principles.”

Modern Service Samurai

Ok, so you get the basic idea of the Samurai warrior-scholar/warrior-poet ethos that is infused into the design of the Modern Budo Samurai shirt. If you’re an asshole who has no sense of service to the greater good, you don’t deserve to wear this shirt design from Anachrobellum. It’s a Samurai, but in modern service — which is why this particular Samurai is carrying Mk17 w/EOTech XPS, PEQ-15 and OSS suppressor (and of course a breaching shottie, assorted bangs, GPNVG-18s, S&S Precision Manta Strobe…all the goodness).

Tactical Samurai Shirt from the Anachrobellum Collection by Mad Duo Co.
Tactical Samurai Shirt from the Anachrobellum Collection by Mad Duo Co.

Tactical Samurai Shirt - Modern Hagakure - Budo Warrior Shirt

Samurai Shirt

We have the Samurai shirts available in short sleeve, long sleeve, and hoodies. Choice of color with the tees, hoodies are black. Get all three, that way you’ve got one for every season.

You can find it at Breach-Bang-GEAR of course, or go straight to the source: Anachrobellum warrior shirts.

Modern Budo

Tactical Samurai Shirt from Mad Duo Co. - Anachrobellum Collection. Hagakure for today's warrior. Modern Budo.
Tactical Samurai Shirt from Mad Duo Co. – Anachrobellum Collection. Hagakure for today’s warrior. Modern Budo.

Modern Budo Shirt Features:

  • 100% combed and ring-spun cotton (heather colors contain polyester)
  •  Fabric weight: 4.2 oz (142 g/m2)
  • Shoulder-to-shoulder taping
  • Side-seamed
  • Sizes Small to 4XL

Modern Budo II | Koi Overwatch

Koi Overwatch is a different take on our previous Modern Budo design (the one most folks refer to as “tactical samurai”). This one features modified equipment, some different colors, and an ethereal koi providing overwatch on our samurai assaulter – or maybe it’s the other way around. In Japanese culture, the koi is highly respected and very symbolic. It represents wisdom, knowledge, perseverance, strength, spirituality, loyalty, and longevity.

Modern Budo II | Koi Overwatch
Modern Budo 2 – Samurai and Koi

Modern Budo II | Koi Overwatch Features:

  • This shirt is printed on a Bella + Canvas 3001 unisex tee.
  • 100% combed and ring-spun cotton (heather colors contain polyester)
  • Fabric weight: 4.2 oz (142 g/m2)
  • Shoulder-to-shoulder taping
  • Side-seamed

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4 thoughts on “A Modern Samurai shirt: plus, 11 suggestions from a Samurai long dead

  • March 19, 2016 at 1:42 pm
    Permalink

    What edition of Hagakure would you recommend?

    My copy (bought and last read in ~1980) was translated by Wm Wilson. I have nothing to say against it, though he cherry-picks 300 selections of the 1300+ that he says were in the original (I dimly know of the problems of the writing style of centuries-old oriental warriors – inscrutable! – and the limited understanding by modern western readers).

    Reply
  • March 7, 2016 at 6:30 am
    Permalink

    “[…]we figure you could do worse than take the advice of these men now three centuries dead.”

    … who wrote a book about a warrior culture that was at least another hundred years dead at that point.

    Reply
  • February 29, 2016 at 7:17 pm
    Permalink

    Somebody beat me to it, I second a reading of the life giving sword.

    Reply
  • February 28, 2016 at 10:30 pm
    Permalink

    I would also recommend a very thin book called “The Life-Giving Sword: Secret Teachings from the House of the Shogun” by Yagyu Munenori.

    More philosophical than anything, it’s still a damn good read.

    Reply

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