Zen, Confucius & the Art of the Samurai

imperial seal musashi

Miyamoto Musashi (c.1584 – 1645), was a Japanese swordsman, artist, poet and samurai, famed for both his duels and his personal philosophy. 'Musashi', as he was often simply known, is renowned through stories of his remarkable skill in swordsmanship, surviving as many as sixty duels from the age of thirteen.


In Japan, swordsmanship was a philosophical fusion of Confucianism and Zen Buddhism.


Zen Buddhism directly related the correct practise of swordsmanship to exercises for achieving enlightenment and to the desired and sought-after condition of selflessness. This was the complete non-conscious blending of weapon, weapon-bearer and action. It is nothing other than the condition of complete emptiness; a condition which is also the goal of other Zen exercises. In contrast, Confucianism, emphasised the ethical meaning of swordsmanship, although it agreed with Zen in method, despite differences in terminology.


For the Confucian, swordsmanship was only secondarily a renunciation of the self. Primarily it meant  the search for ethical perfection and therefore, since the Confucian ethic is basically the ethic of the State, service to the State.

Simon Moores is a 3rd Dan practitioner in Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu, a koryū sword art, taught since the sixteenth century. With nearly twenty years of experience and a member of the Kaigan Dojo, Simon is presently exploring the intuitive and practical benefits of the art and discipline of IaiJutsu in relation to the latest cognitive research on 'flow-states' and mindfullness meditation.

"I have been many years training in the Way of strategy, called Ni Ten Ichi Ryu, and now I think I will explain it in writing for the first time. It is now during the first ten days of the tenth month in the twentieth year of Kanei (1645). I have climbed mountain Iwato of Higo in Kyushu to pay homage to heaven, pray to Kwannon, and kneel before Buddha. I am a warrior of Harima province.


Shinmen Musashi No Kami Fujiwara No Geshin, age sixty years."

Iaido crop