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Warrior Culture at Peace

“I can teach you to fight with the Green Destiny, but first you must learn to hold it in stillness.”
– Li Mu Bai, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon

When we talk about warriorship on this site, we’re referring to the ancient traditions of spiritual warriorship. Warriorship, much like athletic contest, was an apt metaphor for spiritual endeavour and personal development which took on a life of its own in many authentic ancient traditions. Sometimes, as with the Shaolin Temple or the Japanese Ninja, the spiritual and physical realms of warriorship intersected.

But more often, the popular warriorship of a culture had no clue. That’s why the ultimate test of the spiritual value of any warrior culture is not how it deals with war, but how it deals with peace.

The Ninja, or Shinobi, were despised by the official Samurai warrior class because they did not offer absolute obedience to a feudal overlord or conform to the rigid social order of the period. Instead, the Ninja were loyal only to their families, and would fight to protect them. Rather than fighting and dying on the battlefield by the thousands as the samurai did, they would endeavour to find the single weak spot of the enemy, perhaps one person who could be removed to prevent a fight.

That’s why Stephen Hayes, disciple of the last living Ninja grandmaster Masaaki Hatsumi, writes that to follow the spiritual warriorship of the Ninja in this time does not simply mean learning their ancient martial arts. It means learning to integrate effectively and peacefully into society. For the Ninja, war was never the goal. To be left in peace by the authorities was. Because of their spiritually-grounded understanding of warriorship, the Ninja can happily adapt themselves to more peaceful external circumstances.

A far cry from the Samurai, for whom death in service to their lord was the very purpose of life, and who even in peacetime were legally obliged to kill commoners under certain circumstances.

Similarly, the Shaolin monks did not merely train themselves to be deadly and resilient warriors, they also prepared themselves to be resilient people, through their emphasis on the inner cultivation of gongfu, the quality of peaceful inner power that underlies all of the truly spiritual martial arts. The 72 Arts of the Shaolin, the great pre-Revolutionary compilation of Shaolin training methods, says:

“The pugilistic arts are like fire, while Gong Fu gives a stable ground for shaping a man.”

When undertaking these methods, “the main point is peace of mind and concentration. It is necessary to give up extraneous thoughts.” There are very detailed requirements for the mindset and way of life of the practitioner, without which health benefits and skills will not materialize.

When we consider the warrior cultures which did not assimilate this quality and were therefore unable to make peace either within themselves or with the rest of the world, we can see a pattern. The Spartans defeated the Athenians, but made themselves intolerable to the rest of Greece. Athens was left standing out of respect for its cultural achievements. Sparta was wiped off the map.

Similarly, the warriorship of the samurai resulted in hundreds of years of civil war, and ultimately, the leveling of most of Japan’s major cities in the Second World War.

Discerning Worthwhile Warrior Traditions

It is important for us to understand that the goal of spiritual warriorship in physical conflict is to seek to create peace whenever possible, and to pass through the storms of war not with the idea of vanquishing the enemy, but with the idea of avoiding his force and bringing the conflict to a close as decisively as possible, so as to minimise suffering. To try to prove one’s warriorship by seeking combat is like trying to prove the strength of your skull by hitting it against harder and harder objects- eventually, you will find the one that cracks you open, and long before that, you will have killed so many brain cells that it really won’t matter anyway.

Why the Spartan Beat the Ninja…

So there I was last night flipping channels (a bad habit) when I got “trapped” by this fascinating show on Spike TV about who’s the “deadliest warrior”, the Spartan or the Ninja.

They were out to establish with ruthless scientific rigor who would have won in a 1-on-1 battle to the death between a single Ninja and a single Spartan soldier.

And scientific it was: they had living practitioners of both fighting systems, all the authentic weapons and equipment, 2 kinds of test dummies, equipment for measuring weapon speed and penetration, and two medical experts to assess the effects of individual blows.

Artificial, Of Course…

Yeah, the premise was a bit artificial in that the Spartan of c. 500 BC and the Ninja of c. 1500 AD were obviously never going to run into each other. Still, each in his own time had the reputation as the most feared adversary alive.

The other part of the artificiality was they would never likely face off anyway, since the Spartan was a soldier who fought conventional battles in large formations, whereas the Ninja was much more akin to a modern Special Forces guy who operates alone or in small groups. And tossing your Special Forces folks onto a conventional battlefield is a giant no-no 😉

The Tests

These guys tested all manner of weapons and protective equipment from both sides for over 3 long days! They concluded the Ninja’s sword – the “ninjato” (basically a straight version of the Samurai’s “katana”, itself the most lethal sword every devised) was FAR superior to the Spartan’s shorter, bronze age sword.

The Ninja’s weaponry was generally more robust and inventive. It included a lethal and accurate poison blow gun, the deadly “shuriken” throwing stars, and even the ability to attack the opponent’s eyes with crushed glass or primitive pepper spray. He also wielded a ball and chain device that could deliver a killing blow right through the Spartan’s bronze helmet.

So you’d think after all that the Ninja would win, right?

Guess again. After all the data was in, they fed it into a computer and then ran the 1-on-1 combat simulation 1000 times. And the Spartan won 65% of the time!


Simple, really: he was better protected than the Ninja. Yes, the Ninja had great weapons, but his bladed weapons couldn’t penetrate the Spartan’s bronze body armor and he could never get to the soft, unarmored spots because of the Spartan’s expertise with his massive 4-foot diameter shield.

In other words, the reason the Spartan won comes down to one single principle; the same principle I’ve been trying to get you to pay attention to for a long time now…


So despite all the sophisticated weapons and strategies employed by both sides (and especially the Ninja), it all came down to resilience. And that principle says, “if your opponent can’t hurt you, but you can hurt him, you win.”

If you’re saying, “that’s all very nice, but I can’t remember the last time I was attacked on the street by a Ninja,” then consider the following:

Whatever goal you wish to achieve and, by extension, whatever fate you wish to avoid, there are typically only 1-3 key skills that you need to master in order to do so.

That means that if you want to get in great shape, you have to consider only 3 things – strength, flexibility and endurance. And you can get in better shape than 95% of the population by concentrating on only 3 exercises.

If you want to avoid cancer, then you need to boost your immune system to its optimal state. And you can do this by mastering 3 skills – diet, superfoods and undoing the 7 deadly spirals of disease (which is what Rock Solid Health Qi Gong does).

If you want to achieve wealth in your business, then there is only one skill you need to master. That’s marketing. Everything else in business is just a postscript to that.

So now here’s my challenge to you personally… Think about any one goal you want to achieve and figure out scientifically what are the 1-3 skills you must master to get there.

And that’s the lesson from the Spartan warrior. Keep it simple and focus your energy on the essentials.

~ Dr. Symeon Rodger