Distrustful vagabonds, revolutionary warriors, or ruthless mercenary? Who were these enigmatic masterless ex-Samurai of feudal Japan?
Horibe Yasubei Taketsune of the 47 Ronin, woodblock print by Ogata Gekko
A Samurai without a master was known as a Rōnin, which translates to ‘drifter’ or ”wanderer.’ A trained warrior left to their own devices, without a master to serve nor a duty imposed upon them, was an unpredictable person.
Ostracized from society, stripped of lands, money, power, and status, many became mercenaries, bandits, or petty thieves.
In earlier years Samurai who lost their masters would simply swear to another master, as a means of maintaining their social status.
During the contentious Edo period (1603-1868) Samurai were heavily restricted, and were not allowed to swear service to a new master if they lost their original.
I started training jiu-jitsu at a crossroads in my life. I’m on the verge of change while forging my own path forward.
Miyamoto Musashi Slashing a Tengu (1865) woodblock print by Tsukioka Yoshitosh
I’m about to graduate from university, and after three years of going back to school I am pained with wanderlust, I want to relocate (at least for a bit), and I want to start working professionally.
Meanwhile I have totally fallen in love with jiu-jitsu and I don’t want to stop training.
Life sends obstacles ~ Forming our priorities ~ Action shapes our fate
Jiu-Jitsu is the gentle art because it uses intelligence and technique to conquer even the strongest foe.
The restlessness in my heart, my uncertain future, and my inability to commit to an academy long-term makes me identify with the wandering warrior-poets of feudal Japan: the Rōnin.
Hence the name.