Thursday, February 26, 2009

Geng: Pengembaraan Bermula... Penampilan IStimewa Upin dan Ipin

Mak aii... pertama kali dalam sejarah aku tengok orang ramai berpusu-pusu pegi panggung wayang nak tengok wayang. Bukan saja keluarga malah pasangan kekasih, geng-geng bujang dan solo, semua turun untuk menyaksikan filem animasi pertama Malaysia ni. Tahniah kepada semua ahli kumpulan Les 'Copaques. Tak sesia korang kurang tidor malam, malah disebabkan dahsyatnya sambutan kat korang memang lagilah korang takyah tidor langsung hehehe!! Tak pepasal watak Upin, Ipin, Rajoo, Kak Ros, Uncle Muthu, Tok Dalang, Opah, Ah Tong, Singh, Pak Mail dan oppss Lim dan Badrul skali menjadi popular dan bualan dari kanak-kanak sampailah ke orang-orang veteran... hehe

Aku sangat menyokong usaha Les Copaques untuk mewujudkan karakter kartun dari Malaysia untuk Malaysia. Sekurang-kurangnya mereka ini menyemarakkan kembali dunia kartun kita yang semakin ditenggelami oleh animasi-animasi dari Jepun, Barat, Korea, China dan pelbagai negara lagi. Dulu kita ada karakter-karakter yang dipelopori oleh Pakcik Jaafar Taib, Zainal Buang Hussein, Ujang, Manggis, Lat dan sebagainya. Namun setakat ini, hanya Datuk Lat dan kartunis Keluangman saja yang berjaya mengembangkan kartun mereka ke layar televisyen. Yang lain-lain tu ada potensi tapi entah kat mana silapnya mereka masih lagi berada di era majalah sahaja. Tapi aku percaya lepas ni mesti industri kartun kita meletup, sekurang-kurangnya kanak-kanak Malaysia tidak lagi mengagungkan kartun-kartun luar.

Aku ingat lagi zaman aku, kartun yang popular Tan Tin Tun, 3 Dara Pingitan, Aku Budak Minang, Gelagat Kota (kat sekabo Utusan), Jibam, Lat (tu pon kat kalender), Kurma Untuk Anita, Professor Serba Tahu, Blues Selamanya, dan banyak lagi. Masa tu Majalah Gila-Gila paling mantop lah! Pastu diikuti era Majalah Ujang, Lanun, Utopia, dan sebagainya.... Pastu aku dah malas nak ikut sebab karakter-karakter kartun malaysia dah hilang. Aku dah jadi bohsan...

Dengan kedatangan Upin & Ipin ni, aku harap industri kartun negara akan kembali berkembang sehingga ke arena antarabangsa. Betol! Betol! Betol!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Japanese Bushido: The of Life of a Warrior


Bushido in dictionary

Today if you search for "Bushido" (pronounced Boó-shee-doh') online, you will find an array of varied results. From animated television series to mixed martial arts competitions, you will find that Bushido has taken on some new meanings. But what did it truly stand for in its time?

Bushido in Kanji

Bushido actually comes from a combination of words. "Bushi" which means "Warrior" and "Do" which means way (Gaskin & Hawkins 1994). To simplify it, you can say it means "the way of the warrior". Bushido though, is not a very simple concept. This is especially true when seen through a "modern" Western perspective. Another way to interpret Bushido is that it is a way of preserving peace through the use of force (Binder 1999).

Bushido Script

An image of a samurai.

The emergence of the Bushido Code is primarily attributed to the emergence of the Samurai. Nitobe wrote in his book "Bushido: Soul of Japan":
"What Japan was she owed to the samurai. They were not only the flower of the nation but its root as well. All the gracious gifts of Heaven flowed through them. Though they kept themselves socially aloof from the populace, they set a moral standard for them and guided them by their example. I admit Bushido had its esoteric and exoteric teachings; these were eudemonistic, looking after the welfare and happiness of the commonalty, while those were aretaic, emphasizing the practice of virtues for their own sake." (Nitobe 1908)

The samurai, in this case, had direct influence on the formation of Bushido and its effect on Japan in general. As in the image above, the samurai carries two swords (Gaskins & Hawkins 2003). The first being a katana and the second a wakizashi or smaller dagger (Ibid.). The wakizashi was used to decapitate enemies and to perform seppuku (Ibid.).

A Katana

What is seppuku? Seppuku is the formal term for hara-kiri or ritual suicide (Ibid.). Samurais would perform this act if they felt they disgraced their house. On the battlefield, sometimes, rather than dying at the hands of an unworthy opponent, the samurai would give his own life to avoid disgrace or shame. The bushi class or warrior class was particularly known for this act. This has been known to be an active search for death through battle or suicide and has even been described as a "death culture" (Morillo 2001). Nitobe defended seppuku and argued that it was not just suicide but:
"It was an institution, legal and ceremonial. An invention of the middle ages, it was a process by which warriors could expiate their crimes, apologize for errors, escape from disgrace, redeem their friends, or prove their sincerity. When enforced as a legal punishment, it was practiced with due ceremony. It was a refinement of self-destruction, and none could perform it without the utmost coolness of temper and composure of demeanor, and for these reasons it was particularly befitting the profession of bushi." (Nitobe 1908)

It is hard for us sometimes to understand how one can give up his/her own life if they fail to complete duties. Usually, we’ll just brush it off and say, "I’ll do better next time.. I guess." But in Bushido, one will take his or own life if they gravely commit misconduct in their duties.
Bushido has also been associated with seven virtues, these being: Gi (Rectitude), Yu (Courage), Jin (Benevolence), Rei (Respect), Makoto (Honesty), Meiyo (Honor), and Chugi (Loyalty) (Unknown Author 2006).


Chief among all the virtues of the samurai was loyalty. Everyone within the samurai structure had a master to whom he owed his loyalty. Even the shogun, who stood at the top of the pyramid, owed loyalty to god, and bore the duty to do what he believed god commanded. Each of them needed to subsume his own will to the will of his master. This, more than anything else, is why they were not simply called bushi - "warriors" - but samurai "those who serve." In the modern, Western world, we usually see loyalty as something which is given. In feudal Japan, it was something which was owed; it was the purpose of living. "If he will only make his master first in importance," explains the Hagakure, "his parents will rejoice and the gods and Buddhas will give their assent. For a warrior, there is nothing other than thinking of his master." If, by your life and your death, you served your master well, then you lived a good life. No personal goal or satisfaction could equal that of service.

The samurai concept of morality was not the same as the Western concept of the avoidance of sin. It was more a matter of choosing your course of action based on the rational knowledge of right and wrong, and not wavering from the decision. Emotions cause us to waver. Selfish feelings tempt us away from the just path, and generosity can also lead us away from doing what we know in our minds to be correct. Both are examples of weakness. If morality is acting on principle in spite of self-interest, then perhaps justice is making the principled choice when no self-interest is involved. In the samurai ethic, these were very much the same concept. If you knew what was right, you had to do it. The strength to turn that knowledge into action was essential to the warrior, as it is to any just and moral person.

Sincerity may be thought of as a form of truthfulness. In the modern world, we often take it to mean that your words are true to your feelings. But in the samurai world, it meant something much more far-reaching: that your actions would be true to your words. It was not simply a truthful expression of your state of mind; it was a promise. An expression of sympathy was deemed empty unless it was accompanied by action. A samurai's word was quite literally his bond; written contracts were rarely entered into. Where Judeo-Christian culture considered lying to be a sin, to the samurai saw it as weakness. So, equally, was equivocation. The strong man or woman would speak the truth, and have the courage to live with it and by it.

The Japanese customs of politeness are renowned the world over. To some cultures, they seem extreme and difficult to understand. The Japanese view might be summed up by saying that courtesy places others on an equal footing with one's self, or perhaps a little higher. Courtesy is an expression of complete sympathy. It springs from the same ideal as the Christian "golden rule," but it is carried out with a high degree of awareness. Care is taken not to do anything that would make another feel self-conscious or obligated. If two acquaintances meet in the rain and only one has an umbrella, what is the courteous thing to do? He could give the umbrella to the uncovered person, but that would make the receiver feel obligated. He might share the umbrella if they are close friends, but if not, it would force the receiver to accept a situation of closeness which could make him emotionally uncomfortable. The one with the umbrella might well put down his umbrella, to tell his acquaintance that rather than risk embarrassing him, he will gladly share his predicament and get wet.

As with many Japanese words, a single, direct English translation is not always possible. Jin may also be thought of as "benevolence", a word we derive from Latin meaning "good wish" or "good will", but which we often understand as the good will of a superior to his inferiors. Compassion or benevolence was believed to be the true foundation of leadership and, indeed, of rulership. The benevolent leader had the respect of those he led. The prince or shogun need not rule through fear or sheer brutal power those who would follow him willingly. It is also related to the European concept of noblesse oblige - that high rank creates obligations to those of lower standing. In the case of the samurai, it was the recognition that one who commanded the absolute loyalty of those beneath him in society had the obligation to use well and compassionately the lives that he controlled. The cultivation of the arts and poetry - ostensibly to give the samurai a means of expressing his finer sensitivities -- was also a means of developing those feelings. It was held that without such sensitivities, a man would not be capable of benevolence, of compassion.

Courage is universally admired today. Were the samurai any different? Perhaps only in that they made a sharp distinction between courage for its own sake, which they despised, and courage in a worthy cause. While a true samurai did not fear death, he would not die frivolously or throw his life away simply to display courage. "To die without gaining one's aim is a dog's death and fanaticism," says the Hagakure. Although samurai culture is widely famous for encouraging suicide, the samurai knew equally well that sometimes it requires more valor to live, and the heroically brave man is one who is strong enough to do whichever is right. Courage was a virtue that was taught from an early age. Samurai children faced hardship, and situations of the unknown and of uncertainty... and learned they could survive them. The goal was self-possession, because only a person who was truly in control of himself could willingly give himself to his master. That, of course, was the highest virtue.

The samurai concept of "honor" is perhaps the most difficult to describe. The similarity between the English words "honor" and "honesty" lead us down the wrong path. Meiyo has more to do with a person's "good name". It is in some ways akin to the concept of "esteem". Inazo Nitobe said that the lack of it is shame, loss of face, and pointed out the great lengths to which a man will go to avoid it. Honor, one's own good name and, by extension, the good name of all samurai, was certainly held dear. It was considered unacceptable to do anything "un-samurai-like" that would weaken the reputation of the class. It was equally unacceptable to allow the samurai name to be insulted. During the Edo Period, when the warriors had no wars to fight, honor became a very touchy issue. Stories abound - though perhaps apocryphal - of innocent citizens who inadvertently said or did some small thing that a proud samurai took as an insult... and soon found themselves cut in half. Clearly, abuses like this indicate the strength of the desire to avoid shame. Honor was to be protected. It deferred only to the will of the master. If the master commanded dishonorable action, a samurai could defend his honor by the most sincere form of protest: suicide. But if one acted properly in all things, then no one had the right to criticize. Honor was, truly, the fruit of perfection.


Samurai in Meditation

Bushido has been influenced by several Asian religions. Though the samurai and their code have played a vital role in the development of Bushido, it is undeniable that Asian religions have influenced the way of life. Bushido was influenced by Zen Buddhism and Confucianism (Unknown Author 2005). According to Nitobe, it was also influenced by Shintoism (Nitobe 1908).
Zen Buddhism is a religion that ironically says, "When you see the Buddha on the street, kill him." In contrast to the traditional Buddhism you may know, Zen Buddhism asks you not to attach yourself to scriptures and obligations. It tells you to detach, to let go.
In one of the influential texts of Bushido by Yagyu Munenori, he writes:

"There are many things in martial arts that accord with Buddhism and correspond to Zen. In particular, there is repudiation of attachment and avoidance of lingering on anything. This is the most urgent point. Not lingering is considered quintessential." (Mushashi 1993)

This is the intellectual equivalent of "do what comes natural". In Buddhism you eliminate desire because it causes suffering. In Zen Buddhism, you eliminate your attachment to desire because that is what causes your suffering. The difference is that in Zen, desire may be a natural thing as long you don’t linger. Lingering with the sword in Bushido may cause your downfall.
Confucianism also had influences on Bushido. It is well known that, if one follows Confucianism, they set a standard of ethics in their daily lives. One of the major influences of Confucianism on Bushido is the concept of "filial piety". Shintoism also offered this influence to Bushido (Nitobe 1908). This concept of "filial piety" corresponds to the Bushido Codes necessity of duty and devoutness. One must complete their duties with honor even to the point of death.



Miyamoto Musashi is a prominent figure in Bushido. He is the author of "The Book of the Five Rings". It is a book on the Japanese Way of the Sword. His book offered the warrior a set of guidelines to follow if they wanted to use the sword properly and remain victorious in battle.

Little is actually known about this influential man. According to research, he killed his first man when he was thirteen years old. For a large portion of his life, he was refining his techniques with the sword. At one point, he chose to no longer inflict mortal wounds by not using a real sword. According to legend, he remained undefeated in battle (Musashi 1993).


Bushido in Teen Titans

As mentioned earlier in the article, Bushido has taken a many new meanings in our time. The WB animation, "Teen Titans", has a character named Bushido that is a samurai. One can see here the direct influence the image of the samurai had on Bushido. In mixed martial arts, the term Bushido has been used as a name for their competitions. You can see here the direct connection between the warrior and Bushido. But with all these alterations of a once noble way of life, can one still live the life of a warrior?

Mitsuhirada Ishada in Pride’s Bushido 10

The real question is, why not? Actually, by the mid-19th century, with the legal abolition of the samurai class in 1871, Bushido became the ideal of the nation of Japan (Unknown Author 2005). The emperor became the object of loyalty rather than the feudal lord (Ibid.).

Mitsubishi Logo

After World War Two, a new warrior rose from the ashes of the Japanese Soldier. Business families called Zaibatsu’s were the new keepers of the Bushido Code (Clark 1996). Loyalty to the company became a new value in the modern world. A more popular Zaibatsu that you may know is Mitsubishi (Three Diamonds) (Watkins n.d.).
Also, after being caught in the act of corruption, several Japanese officials have been reported to resign their postions in government. Another example of Bushido today is how many Japanese martial arts still name their schools after the Bushido code. This can be seen as an attempt to promote the values of the warrior.