The Last Samurai – Elements of Character

The Samurai. A group of powerful warriors that existed in Japan until the late 1800′s. In The Last Samurai, we learn about the positive characteristics of a Samurai. Respect for all of those you meet, even those who have wronged you. Compassion is an emotion which the Samurai humbly express. Finally, perhaps the most important trait of the Samurai, is discipline. As Captain Algren mentions in the film: “The Samurai are the most disciplined people I have ever met”. Without great discipline and perseverance, the Samurai would not have accomplished as much as they did.

All throughout the movie, the Samurai were shown to be extremely polite. No other group of people can act so polite to others, even to a man who has killed a close family member. In the movie, Taka is very polite to Captain Algren, in spite of the fact that he killed her husband. In our present time, it is very hard to imagine a person who respects everyone (even their greatest enemies). But there are many people who show respect for others, and that is one of the great traits of the Samurai.

Compassion is an emotion that the Samurai have mastered. It is a feeling that occurs when seeing others in physical/mental/emotional pain. There is no mystery as to why the Samurai have it, because respect and compassion go hand-in-hand. If the Samurai felt remorse towards anyone, they would do whatever is possible to make the sufferer feel better. For example, because Katsumoto felt remorse towards Algren, he offered him a chance to commit Seppuku, an honorable custom for the Samurai to end their own life after shameful defeat. Even though Algren declined, Katsumoto gave him a temporary place to live, his sister Taka’s home. To let your sworn enemy live in your closest family member’s home is a true act of compassion. This is a great emotion to develop, because of the great long term advantages for yourself and others.

Discipline is a very difficult skill to obtain; once you have it, you must constantly work on it every day. Otherwise, it will go away quicker than you got it. One can argue that in the 1800′s, discipline was a much easier skill to develop. Back then, they didn’t have the modern distractions of computers, television, AIM, Facebook, and there were not many forms of instant entertainment (Movies, Music, etc.). Nowadays, we can be entertained on demand for virtually no cost, providing us an outlet from hard work and discipline whenever we want it. This has, in a sense, created a ‘lazy’ society. The Samurai took advantage of an environment with few distractions, and developed a great sense of self-discipline. Whatever skill/craft they chose to learn, they became extremely disciplined and worked until they became masters of their craft. For most, it was the sword; but the Samurai were disciplined in everything that they did. If our society today had the discipline of the Samurai, there would be nothing unachievable by our civilization.

Although the Samurai have officially been gone for over 100 years, there are many emotional skills which we can learn from them. Respect is often used today, and it is a great symbol of appreciation towards others. If you have respect, then you aren’t far from being compassionate. If you are compassionate, people in-turn will respect you. Finally, perhaps the most important trait of the Samurai, is discipline. With the right use of self-discipline, there is virtually nothing you can’t achieve. There are many emotional skills which can make you similar to a Samurai. Even though they existed a long time ago, we still admire and use many of their extraordinary emotional abilities.

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