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Raising Troops

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Raising Troops

Code of the Samurai by Taira Shigesuke and The Methods of the Ssu-Ma (author unknown) both focus a lot on a sort of “code” for warriors during warfare. My question is what is the best way to raise troops? These two readings explain different answers to my question, but to answer it myself I would say the best way to raise troops would be to not focus solely on things such as strength or marksmanship, but to focus also on the mindset of a troop and how to pull through in times of difficulty and how to respect warfare and their unit and how to face fear and overcome obstacles. Taira Shigesuke writes about how, first and foremost, a warrior should consider it his first concern to keep death in mind at all times. But you don’t just have a duty to the military; you have to fulfill your loyalty to your family as well. Unlike the warrior ways described in the Ssu-Ma, Samurai warriors focused day and night on their duties as a warrior, whether they were a farmer, or merchant, etc. They always carried a sword with them as to always be prepared and keep death in mind at all times. Education was not important early on, and even 12 and 13 year olds were learning martial arts instead of focusing on becoming literate. Their sole focus was the way of a warrior. Now, however, those born in the present era focus on literature and reading and writing from the time they are seven or eight in times of peace. A big difference between the Ssu-Ma and the code of the Samurai is how much the Samurai focus on their familial duties. They are taught to take good care of their parents, as to appreciate and do right from “root to branch” as stated in the reading. A quote from the reading better explains it, “Knowing the root and the branch means understanding that our parents are the root of our bodies, and our bodies are branches of the flesh and bones of our parents.” The Samurai also have two kinds of principles with four different levels. The ordinary principles are principles of knighthood and principles of weaponry, and the emergency principles are army principles and combat principles. These principles really shape the answer to the question, “what is the best way to raise troops?” According to the code of the Samurai, one must wash hands and feet and bath morning and night, keep their body clean, shave and dress your hair every morning, dress formally according to the season and occasion, always keep a fan in your belt and always have a sword on you. Treat guests courteously, avoid useless talk and don’t be slovenly when eating a bowl of rice or drinking a cup of tea. Those are some of the knighthood principles. As for weaponry, the first thing to learn is swordsmanship, then lancing, riding, archery, shooting, and martial arts. The reading states that Samurai are to practice these and master them so they are always ready with them. Those are the ordinary principles. The army principles basically focus on setting aside knightly ways during times of a civil disturbance, and to exchange formal suits for armor. Last are the combat principles. The most the reading explains about the combat principles is this—when enemies and allies clash in battles you must make sure your maneuvers and dispositions work as planned, otherwise you will lost advantage and suffer defeat. The Code of the Samurai goes a lot further in depth as to the best way to raise troops, but there is another reading to discuss as to raising troops, so we’ll move on to that. The Ssu-Ma focuses a lot on righteousness and benevolence of soldiers and the army as a whole. A quote from the text explains this, “In antiquity they did not pursue a fleeing enemy more than one hundred paces or follow a retreating enemy more than three days, thereby making clear their observance of the forms of proper conduct. They did not exhaust the incapable and had sympathy for the wounded and sick, thereby making evident their benevolence. They awaited the completions of the enemy’s formation and then drummed the attack, thereby making clear their good faith. They contended for righteousness, not profit, thereby manifesting their righteousness…” as you can see, raising these soldiers involved a lot of honor and valor, as well as courage and wisdom. These warriors are very respectful when it comes to the art of war, as well as toward their enemies and their enemies’ civilians and gods. They were more focused on warfare that involved the destruction of government evil, rather than fighting for land or power. Their training involved having controlled movement, and the proper balance between exertion of an attack and exhaustion. They were taught to keep doubt out of their minds, to endure through strength but to gain victory through spirit. The Ssu-Ma focused not only one the best tactics and physical strength of a soldier and an army, but also on the best mindset and how victory will come only if you are prepared physically, yes, but also mentally. They see fear as one of the biggest weaknesses you can have during times of warfare, so soldiers are trained to see victory, and not fear. Another main thing the Ssu-Ma describes about raising troops is that the troops must avoid being misled by minor advantages of and army, they must weigh the balance of enemy forces, and they should always fully utilize the advantages of terrain. As you can see, these two texts do have similarities and differences as to the best way to raise troops. I feel that both bring about good tactics, and both explain that raising troops is not all about physicality, but also mentality as well. Whether it’s the mentality of always being prepared for death and understanding your roots, or the focus of benevolence and righteousness, both texts describe, in depth, how two different types of warriors should or could be raised.


Sawyer, Ralph. The Methods of the Ssu-Ma. 1-21.

Cleary, Thomas. Shigesuke, Taira. Code of the Samurai. 43-68.

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