A List of the Training and Leisure Activities of a Samurai

Activities of a Samurai

Samurai warriors were the elite forces during the early 10th century in Japan. In their early childhood, they engaged in a variety of activities for Samurai training. Such pursuits include Chinese studies, physical training, spiritual discipline, and even poetry. The young Samurai studied Kendo (also known as the Way of the Sword), Zen Buddhism, and the warrior’s moral code.

The Samurai needs to live based on the Bushido. It is an absolute ethical code that’s influenced by Confucianism. This stresses one to become loyal to one’s master and respectful to one’s superior. It teaches one to have honorable behavior in all aspects of life. Plus, Confucianism focuses on full self-discipline.

In history, the Japanese families had varying ideals on the Samurai warrior’s training. This also goes for their leisure goals.

Samurai Training

The form and amount of the Samurai warrior’s training all depended on his family’s wealth. For the lower class, young males attended village schools to get a basic education. Yet most of them received Samurai training from family members. Often, their own fathers, uncles, or older brothers taught them their sword skills.

Training in martial arts was essential, and they often started Samurai training at the age of five. For the sons of the rich and wealthy, they attended special academies where they learned arts, literature, and military skills.

Masters relentlessly taught swordsmanship. There was even a story where they would, at random, strike his students using a wooden sword. It occurred day and night to teach them never to relax and lose their guard.

Military Training

Every Samurai warrior had to train as retainers to a Daimyo. Their Samurai training was to a certain extent and depended on their position in the clan. Their military training did not adhere to a particular structure from one family to another. With that, their primary martial training could include these:

Archery

The use of the bow & arrow while mounted or on foot.

Horsemanship

The ability to fight and ride on horseback at the same time.

Swordsmanship

The proper and skillful way of using a Samurai sword.

Polearm

Learning the use of a Naginata and the Yari.

Firearms

Proper use of the matchlock.

Dagger Throwing

The skill of throwing the Tanto, as well as other smaller weapons towards an enemy.

Reconnaissance

The skill of observation and concealment. It is necessary for gathering valuable information.

Rope & Knots

The proper and skilled use of different knots using ropes. The Samurai used these to hold and subdue captives.

War Fans

Teaches the proper offensive and defensive use of the metal war fans in battle.

As the Samurai warrior advanced in their ranks, the conducted training would increase. Such training would include troop movement, strategy, as well as castle construction. Plus, they also included the use of different signals for battle.

Academic Training

The conducted academic training for these Samurai warriors provided skills that they required. Their skills depended on the roles within their assigned tasks. Therefore, calligraphy and reading were vital for Samurai. This was primarily for those who acted as the regional overseer of a Daimyo.

These skills were also important when they often wrote correspondence. Yet the Samurai involved in diplomatic affairs usually engaged in more training. It focused more on function planning, etiquette, and a higher degree of calligraphy.

Calligraphy and ink paintings were famous. This is because the Samurai believed that people saw one’s character via brush strokes in these arts. The best swordsman of all time, Miyamoto Musashi, was also considered as a great painter.

Advanced mathematics was vital for Samurai who focused on controlling accounts. These accounts included those for taxes, food purchases, construction activities, and weapon storage. Due to its importance, some warriors even received special training until their 30s.

Leisure Activities of the Samurai

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Aside from academics and swordsmanship, these Samurai warriors also engaged in leisure activities. Their ranks usually segregated these pursuits. The society considered gambling and games as low ranked activities. Whereas poetry, music, and theater were generally regarded as high ranked social pursuits.

Aside from sword skills, the Samurai had to learn in areas like history and literature. In the Tokugawa era, the Samurai were not needed as warriors. So, the academic skills they acquired were useful. Yet some masters advised their students to not dwell much on paintings and words. This is because they feared the warriors’ minds turning weak and futile.

Tea Ceremony

The Samurai was also always linked to Chanoyu – the Japanese art of tea ceremony. In a lot of ways, the art reflected the ideal of a Samurai, as well as the country as a whole. The ritual induced an air of tranquility which contrasts the qualities of a Samurai.

The art of Chanoyu was a kind of artistic expression that focused on developing a sense of simplicity. It also aimed to have the Samurai experience reality in a disciplined manner.

Engaging in Music

Playing musical instruments was a high ranked leisure activity. The Samurai warriors would often learn how to play the Biwa (lute) and the Shakuhachi (flute). Another instrument is the Horagai, a Japanese instrument specific to some rituals. Not only that, but the Samurai used this for signaling their comrades during wars.

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Poetry

Poetry was a form of entertainment when done in the linked verse style. The linked verse makes use of a 5-7-5 syllable and 7-7 syllable structure that repeats with a connected theme. Many people do this form of poetry. It is to produce a poem with up to a total of 100 stanzas.

In ancient Japan, A lot of Daimyo held link verse gatherings with other Samurai and famous poets in the area.

According to Hojo Nagauji, one who did not study poetry is poor due to his lack. Thus, it is something that everyone should try. One should be gentle in his manner of speaking since a person displays his innermost self with one word.

Combined Sports and Martial Arts

The combination of sports and martial arts created outdoor activities and games. For Equestrian games, it consisted of the following:

Horse Racing

Here, fully-armored Samurai warriors raced through a dangerous course. It may seem like a fun activity, but horse racing is generally training for warfare.

Inu Omono

Inu Omono is another term for wild dog hunt. It often takes place in an enclosed ring with wild dogs inside. Here, Samurai with bows would also enter the ring on horseback. The winner would be the Samurai with most kills.

Yet for some, Buddhists note that the dogs should not be killed. With that, blunt arrows are common when marking their catch.

Shinki Sodatsusen

This is a variation of capturing flags while on horseback.

Yabusame

Another activity with horseback. The Samurai would engage in horseback archery and would aim at three 3 wooden targets.

Sumo

Sumo began during the time of the Samurai. During the ancient period of Japan, It was a popular sport linked to the Shinto religion. In history, Oda Nobunaga gathered men all over the country and held a one-day Sumo tournament.

Kemari

This is a ball game for outdoor play with a 6 to a 7-inch ball. It’s like soccer with the goal of keeping the ball from touching the ground. Players would try to keep the ball in the air using one’s feet and every Samurai, no matter their rank, could play the game.

Hanetsuki

Another game that was like badminton. Here, players used paddles and a shuttlecock. It was a game categorized for children, but adults also played it during the New Year. Hanetsuki was a favorite activity of the Imperial Court.

Other Leisure Activities

A popular pastime among the low and high-ranking Samurai warriors was drinking. For the warrior, becoming drunk in public was very disgraceful. Because of this, a lot of drinking houses had private rooms for the Samurai to drink and be merry. They could also spend the night in these places to avoid walking drunk on the streets.

Gambling, though discouraged by the Daimyo, was a warrior’s pastime while on campaigns. Betting in games like Go, Shogi, cards, and Sugoroku was common.