Samurai: The Jedi of Old

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15 years 7 months ago #18111 by
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Jidaigeki did not refer to the Samurai but to the genre of stories such as Theater and cinema involving them. And not just Samurai but the whole of the Japanese Culture.

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15 years 7 months ago #18116 by
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Actually is was chinese/korean before japanese and indian before that but I didnt fancy typing a 10,000 word thesis :D

the points remain the same and the term jedi (or its origin) could be from this altho another 'theory' is that jedi is the old hebrew for Jew but I ma not sure on this myself.

But the undeniable point is that the Jedi of the movies etc were based on Samurai (in terms of combat style and weapon of choice) and elements of various chivalric cultures inclusive of the samurai and parts of European warrior cultures also.

However... this for me detracts from the point I for one find awkward with jediism as we stand currently and this is the way in which many of us would like to separate from the deemed 'Starwars geek/fan club/rpg'r' label but yet we always seem to end up referring back to the fictional side of things.

But perhaps this could also be viewed as more back up to the point that we also like to make about Jediism as a belief system being in existence BEFORE Mr Lucas rolled along, just until then it was pretty much nameless.

My honest opinion on this topic alone is that it is like a dog chasing its own tail, it will go on and on in circles until the dog is exhausted and the tail will never be truly captured (in this case the argument will never be resolved to everyone's satisfaction)

Take what you will from Jediism, call it something else if it makes you feel better, as long as it makes you feel happy/content and even to the benefit of others too then so much the better. The roots etc are academic.

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15 years 7 months ago #18125 by
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Yeah I Knew about the old Jedi that used Katanas

Well thanks for the lesson.Now I know and knowing is half the battle.

How ever the movie Jedi dont serve the Force.Like Qui-gon Jin said we are symbiote beings and could not survive without one another.

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15 years 3 months ago #20743 by Garm
Replied by Garm on topic Re:Samurai: The Jedi of Old
This is an interesting comparison artical that was posted somewhere out on the net. I came across it and planned to use some of points at a future time, that was about a month ago...this thread seems like a good place to just post it in its entirity and we can discuss it's contents together. The ideas seem to come together quite nicely for me, what do you all think. :)

The Way of the Jedi: a Comparison of the
Jedi Order to the Japanese Samurai
by Reihla

Most die-hard Star Wars fans have spent their share of time thinking about the premise behind the creation of George Lucas’s Jedi Order. Intentional or not, I believe the Jedi bear more than a passing resemblance to many medieval military orders. The argument is often presented that the Jedi were patterned after the samurai warriors of Japan. I believe that while the two orders share many traits, there are significant differences as well. This paper will explore these traits and provide a realistic look at which characteristics they have in common as well as the ones that set them apart.

We aren’t told much in the Star Wars films about the origins of the Jedi Order. What little we do know is summarized in the words of Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi: “For over a thousand generations, the Jedi were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic.”1 Over two full decades later, when Lucas introduced the prequel trilogy, that same early ideal was reaffirmed by the glimpses we were given into the Jedi lifestyle and purpose. To further confirm the original role of the Jedi we need only listen to Master Mace Windu succinctly describe the order as “keepers of the peace, not soldiers.”2 From these references it is easy to assume that the Jedi are devoted to the elimination of conflict through non-confrontational means.

In contrast, the samurai were strictly a warrior class, finding their origins from the highest of the four Japanese social classes: samurai, farmers, craftspeople, and traders.3 In a medieval Japan marked by civil war, the feudalist government consisted, in simple terms, of a shogun that ruled over the daimyo, his provincial lords. To preserve order and assist with tax collection, the daimyo hired numerous samurai. In exchange for their services and unwavering loyalty, the samurai were given wealth and lands. Later on, their purpose evolved from peacekeeping to protecting the interests of the daimyo and serving in regional military coalitions.4

While feudalism doesn’t translate directly into Lucas’s galaxy far, far away, there are some similarities in social structure between medieval Japan and the world of the Jedi. Both the Jedi and the samurai are widely respected, with common citizens often seeking them out for assistance. It is obvious that both orders serve the greater good of their governing bodies, the Jedi through their own Council to the Republic and the samurai to the shogunate through the daimyo.

Initially, at least, the samurai purpose -- the preservation of order -- seemed to coincide with that of the Jedi. Their methods, however, tend to set them apart in that the samurai were far more militaristic. It was rare that the samurai were called upon to attempt negotiation before employing more violent methods.

Despite the best intentions of the Jedi, in Lucas’s fictional galaxy their preferred pacifist tactics often failed to achieve the desired results. At times like these we see the warrior side of the Jedi emerge. As skilled swordsmen, they are capable of gaining victory over numerous armed opponents using only their lightsabers. Although they prefer more peaceful means of conflict resolution, they do not hesitate to proceed to “aggressive negotiations” by using exceptional swordsmanship to get their point across.5

In addition to their extraordinary hand-to-hand combat skills, the Jedi possess a strong spiritual side. They are followers of the Force, which is defined in the Star Wars universe as a mystical energy field that wraps around all living beings. The Force imbues a Jedi with a number of psychic powers: telepathy, which can be used to exercise a measure of control over those who are weak minded, and telekinesis, to maneuver their physical surroundings. These talents serve them well in many situations, from negotiation to dueling and from piloting to command.

Unlike the fictional Jedi, the samurai were not known telepaths, however, they too possessed a strong spiritual side. As an order, they had no specific religion by which they defined themselves, but by the latter middle ages the majority were practitioners of Zen Buddhism.6 Like the Jedi, they spent a great deal of time meditating at the temple, the main philosophical difference being that the Jedi are seekers of peace, whereas the samurai sought enlightenment and discipline.

Regardless of their individual religious practices, all samurai followed a collection of guidelines for behavior known as the bushido code . Adherence to bushido “the way of the warrior” meant a samurai had to be willing to die to protect his daimyo. It is worth noting that most considered themselves dead already.7 This attitude suited them well, as they were required to do anything their lord asked, including enter mortal combat at a moment’s notice. Such loyalty towards one’s lord was the foundation of bushido.8 This single-minded loyalty and willingness to die for duty are definitely traits the samurai and Jedi share. In fact, the characteristics are hallmarks of the Jedi Order throughout the Star Wars saga.

One particular samurai, Yamamoto Tsunetomo (1659-1719), scribed a collection of thoughts throughout his lifetime that is still considered an authoritative source on the philosophies of the medieval samurai. Many times in his work, the Hagakure, Yamamoto implores, “Be true to the thought of the moment and avoid distraction.”9 This phrase, is strikingly similar to the words spoken by Qui-Gon Jinn in Episode I, when he urges Obi-Wan to “Keep your concentration here and now.”10 The same philosophy is evident in Master Yoda when he almost refused to train Luke Skywalker because “all his life he has looked away to the future. Never his mind on where he was. What he was doing.”11

Those instances are just few of many wonderful parallels that can be drawn from Yamamoto’s tenets. Another fine example can be found in the phrase: “Even a person who is good for nothing and exceedingly clumsy will be a reliable retainer if only he has the determination to think earnestly of his master.”12 That quote does much to sum up Qui-Gon’s attitude towards the awkward character of Jar Jar Binks. It could also explain his askance look at Obi-Wan when the latter refers to Jar Jar as “another pathetic life form.”13

Perhaps the most intriguing coincidence between the samurai and the Jedi is the concept of the Force. Obi-Wan Kenobi explains the Force as the thing that gives a Jedi his power: “It's an energy field created by all living beings. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together.” The samurai also acknowledge a mystical life energy, the ki (or qi, or chi). They drew on it for strength and used it for a variety of purposes, including healing.14

Although this concept of a mystical energy field is one that both Jedi and samurai share, their reliance upon it differs in one key area. Mystical life energy has nothing to do with how someone becomes a samurai. Samurai are born to their position through wealth and station. In between times of military service, they married, raised families and owned lands. In contrast, a Jedi candidate had to possess latent Force using abilities as well as the quantifiable physical characteristic of a high midi-chlorian count (determined by blood test) to be accepted into the order. Once accepted, they were denied all contact with their natural families and taught that possession and attachment were forbidden.15

Another fascinating coincidence between the samurai and the Jedi is their choice of weaponry and the extensive training required to gain proficiency in its use. Both orders selected elegant swords that were so unique and finely crafted as to be outside the purview of the average citizen. We learn through young Anakin Skywalker’s observations in Episode I that “only Jedi carry that kind of weapon.” Most likely this was true as each lightsaber was crafted by its owner.

For the samurai, the daisho, a pair of gracefully curved swords made by master craftsmen, were the weapons of choice. The shorter of the two blades was known as the dai-to, or wakizashi, and the longer blade was the sho-to, or katana.16 So honored were these weapons that in 1587 shogun Hideyoshi decreed that only samurai would be allowed to carry the daisho. This restriction succeeded in making the sword pair a universal symbol for the samurai.17 The same phenomenon holds true of the lightsaber, even though such a weapon doesn’t exist outside of fiction. In today’s society, one can’t see a laser sword or hear its characteristic hum without thinking of Star Wars and Jedi Knights.

It is also worth mentioning the strong similarities between traditional garb of the Jedi and the samurai. Both are comprised of several tunics of various materials arranged in layers across the wearer’s chest and then bound by a cloth waistband. The Jedi garb so obviously resembles the historical Japanese kamishimo sugata that the influence of the traditional samurai garb on Lucas’s costume designers cannot be ignored.18

The final comparison between these two orders -- that of their decline -- has yet to be seen. The Jedi are destined to fall, as any Star Wars fan surely knows, but the method of their destruction has not yet come to light. We are given hints throughout the Star Wars films that pride, arrogance and overconfidence among the leadership are at least partly to blame. We also know that evil Sith warriors, corrupt Force users, will have a hand in eradicating the Order. These things will be confirmed or not when Episode III: Revenge of the Sith is released in theaters in 2005.

If rumors are true, there is one thing we can be fairly certain of at this point. The downfall of the samurai does not mirror that of the Jedi in that it was not due to war or conflict. In fact, if anything, peace made the samurai obsolete. The last shogun resigned his leadership in 1867 and the Emperor was installed as Japan’s formal leader. Ultimately the Emperor purchased the lands of the daimyo and even went so far as to ban the samurai from carrying their swords. In 1877, Saigo Takamori, one of the last samurai, led a small group of warriors in open rebellion against the might of the Emperor’s forces. Before the final battle, however, Takamori realized the odds were insurmountable and committed ritual suicide rather than sacrifice what remained of his forces and submit to capture.19

This act of seppuku, ritual suicide, was commonplace among samurai defeated on the field of battle. It is something we do not see in the Jedi Order. No matter how grave the odds against them, the Jedi seem to prefer living to fight another day. Even so, there is one aspect of death the samurai and the Jedi have in common. Another samurai philosopher, Miyamoto Musashi, once wrote, “generally speaking, the Way of the Warrior is the resolute acceptance of death.\"20 Those words ring true many times in Star Wars films, most notably with the deaths of four prominent Jedi: Qui-Gon Jinn, Yoda, Obi-Wan Kenobi and even the redeemed Anakin Skywalker. None of these Jedi feared death when it came to them. Indeed, they all faced it bravely, as true and honorable warriors.

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