What We Can Learn from Bushido: The Samurai Honour Code

Becoming a Samurai wasn’t easy. Not only was it an enormous physical challenge, it was also extremely demanding on a mental level. The Japanese warriors had to adhere to bushido, a type of honour code, that has evolved over centuries.

The seven virtues of bushido

Although bushido has continued to change over hundreds of years, the seven virtues connected to it have remained the same.

In ancient Japan, to live as a true Samurai and avoid the punishment of seppuku (or suicide by disembowelment) warriors were expected to be righteous, always making the correct decisions. It goes without saying that they also needed to be courageous, but never arrogant or prideful. Empathy was also a very important aspect: they might have been in a position to kill people, but they needed to strike the right balance and not take an enemy’s life lightly.

Having respect was also essential:  Samurai had to respect everything they believed in. Life, the opinions of others, their parents—the list goes on. Alongside this, the code of honour demanded honesty. People believed you were only worthy of respect when you were honest in all that you did. Samurai also had to live and die with honour. In fact, all of their actions had to be honourable.  Finally, (and this will come as no surprise) the Samurai had to be loyal. This was probably the most important virtue of them all: to show loyalty towards their fellow Samurai, who they were expected to treat as family and be willing to die for.


Bushido for today

As a modern-day Samurai, you’d be well-served to follow these guidelines as well. For example, you can show more respect for the people around you by putting down your smartphone once in a while. If you wish to be more empathetic, why not give meditating on the subject of compassion a try? To lead a more righteous life, study some heroes from history, like the incomparable Mahatma Gandhi.


If you try to incorporate at least one of the different bushido virtues into your life each day, becoming a better person is soon to follow. Create your own rituals centered around bushido and face each day with honour.