Principles of Bushido

As explained by Taira Shigesuke in Bushido Shoshinshu1

  1. Always keep death in mind. This keeps the mind focused on behaving correctly in all circumstances. This does not mean to fixate on death in the manner of some monks. This would lead to a kind of paralyzed inaction.
  2. A warrior should be well educated. A strong education is essential for a samurai to carry out the administrative responsibilities of his rank. A lack of education may be excused during a period of continuous war when military training must take precedence.
  3. Always respect your parents. The respect a person gives his parents is a reflection of the respect and attention he will give his employer.
  4. Never forget the spirit of combat. A samurai should be ready for combat at all times because the time and place of conflicts cannot be predicted.
  5. Know the difference between right and wrong and always strive to do what is right. "As long as it is realized and accepted that warriors must comprehend right and wrong, and strive to do right and avoid wrong, then the way of warriors is alive."
  6. Three characteristics are essential: loyalty, duty and valor. It is rare to find a samurai who combines all three of these.
  7. Warriors should always be courteous and respectful. It is not enough to be courteous and respectful in public; courtesy and respect should even be observed when alone in the middle of the night.
  8. Warriors should practice horsemanship. Because good mounts are usually only available to senior samurai it is important to be able to manage mounts that are unruly.
  9. A warrior should select a mentor from whom to receive instruction. Good guidance is essential if one is to avoid becoming an infectious source of misinformation and half-baked ideas.
  10. A warrior never abuses someone who cannot fight back. This specifically includes children and wives.
  11. A warrior should take care in managing his household.
  12. Great care should be taken in relationships with relatives. Your oldest brother's son should be treated with respect as he will be the head of the house. With younger sons of your oldest brother and the sons of younger brothers a traditional uncle-nephew relationship will do. It is appropriate to be distant from the sons of your sisters since, by marriage, they are of a different house.
  13. Warriors should always be frugal and careful not to overspend. A warrior should not, however, hesitate to spend money on necessities for fear of being perceived a skin-flint.
  14. A warrior should not construct a fancy house. Houses are expensive and impermanent. In time of war it may be necessary to sacrifice a home, especially one in the outer circle of a city or castle, so there is no point in spending excessively on it. The outward appearance, however, should be clean and peaceful as befits a warrior's status.
  15. Military equipment should not be neglected. Specifically a samurai in service should always keep the military equipment required by every house and the equipment required by his employer available at all times. It's said that those who are killed by their own allies because they skimped on recognition emblems died for nothing.
  16. Don't skimp on equipment for subordinates.
  17. A warrior should not abuse his position with respect to lower classes. It is the responsibility of the samurai to supress thieves; it is clearly inappropriate for a samurai to act like one.
  18. Be modest in discussion. This refers to all manner of personal affairs including subjects like sex and income.
  19. Choose your friends carefully. Warriors should not associate with people casually or just "for a good time."
  20. Consider carefully before making commitments. It is good to be considered dependable and a warrior may take pride in it but there is a fine line between being dependable and meddling.
  21. Choose your words carefully. Tact is important in all situations, especially when dealing with people outside the family. When you have become close to someone you should always be honest and forthright.
  22. Be supportive of your juniors.
  23. Be heroic in all things. If you have to give up your life you should do so in a way that will cause your name, your family and your actions to be remembered.
  24. Always avoid gossip.
  25. Relinquish guardianship as quickly as possible. If you are acting as guardian for an underage child you should return authority to him as soon as he is of age and turn down any requests from your employer to continue in the guardian role.
  26. A warrior's greatest concern is how he will behave at the moment of his death. Years of exemplary conduct can be wiped out by an unseemly death.
  27. Do not begrudge financial requests from your overlord. Unforseen circumstances may necessitate lending money to your overlord. Since this is for the public good it should not be begrudged.
  28. Avoid unhealthy habits. Since you never know when you may be called on for service you should always avoid unhealthy habits such as overeating, heavy drinking, smoking and promiscuity.
  29. Generally speaking a warrior has two responsibilities: combat and construction. Construction refers to the preparation of military fortifications: castles, barricades, fences, outposts, etc.
  30. A warrior should always be discrete. This refers broadly to behaving in a way that will not cause you to be held in contempt by your peers.
  31. Accept fate graciously and without reluctance. Even a small show of reluctance will cause any success you may have to be seen as the result of luck rather than the skill you felt you lacked.
  32. Be aware of the history of your employer and his house. Being uninformed in this area will cause others to doubt your seriousness.


1 Bushido Shoshinshu, literally "Bushido for Beginners", is a classic text written by Taira Shigesuke. Shigesuke's goal was to create a book that explained all the basic principles of bushido for the education of young samurai.