Nowhere to call home and no one to go home to, sure on the surface and to many people; the life’s of samurai seems brutally hollow and cold at first glance. But to me their lives are impossibly vast canvas of possibilities with no commitments, no restrictions and a whole lot of adventure. Cowboys and samurai’s represented the type of man I wanted to grow to become.
A Cowboy embodied the type of man I wanted to be; strong, independent and still in possession of the vestiges of chivalry and respect for the land. The life of a cowboy was all about only taking what you needed from the land and giving it back so much more. I’m of course well aware now and had some inkling back then, that what I saw on TV and film was almost always a romanticised notion of the life of a real cowboy. While in realty cowboys spent predominately doing all that was possible to keep their ranches going and their cattle feed, rather than gun slinging and saving damsels from distress. But regardless cowboys were just like superheroes to me; the cowboys I conjured in my mind weren’t apart of reality but that was exactly what endeared them to me so greatly. They stood for something far bigger and more meaningful that I could ever come across in my normal day to day life. They were a symbol of honourable behaviour, respect for all creatures big and small and patriots for their country and their way of life.
They slice a sword through a man like butter. They could kill you in seven different ways before you could even blink and I’m pretty sure some of them can walk on water. The samurai was a one man army, he spent almost the entirety of existence pushing his skill and body to the limit; breaking sweat, bones, and pain fresh holds to achieve mastery of mind, body and spirit. But after he did all this, what did he do? Did he roam the streets boasting of his skill, challenging anyone who questioned his deadliness or using his skill to take whatever he wanted? Like the TV show Samurai Jack abundantly made clear; despite such lethal ability, the samurai instead sought peace, a life of humility and calm. Despite 400 years, it seems that everything samurai can be best represented in a Spiderman quote (probably the greatest quote of all time) “With great power, comes great responsibility”. And damn did samurais have great power! But they always maintained the responsibility of upholding truth and justice in the face of tyranny.
What ignited my love affair with these rouge, mysterious incredible heroes? Well the fondest memories of my childhood could be plotted through endless, enthralled of hours of all things Sergio Leone and Akira Kurosawa. But most importantly the two films that immersed me with the most joy were the Seven Samurai and The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.
What I loved most about The Good, the Bad and the Ugly besides the shear genius of its technical ability and Leone’s genius; it was the friendship between Blonde and Tuco in at the heart of the film. The life of a cowboy could be very lonely, dangerous and painful; yet these two men who despite having little in common were able to bond and connect past any need for an exchange of heartfelt words and stuck together to conquer the vast, harsh and unforgiving great planes; with boldness, gusto and plenty of hilarious mishaps along the way. But that was the best thing about being a cowboy, friendships and relationships are hard to come by but once you find or stumble yourself into one, you often have it for a life time.
Risking your time and life for only the mere return of a couple of bowls of rice and cakes, on the surface this may seem a ludicrous and grossly unfair bargain. But these seven samurai didn’t do it for the food, the money or the glory, but they do it for the challenge and to free a village from oppression and exploitation. Sure Kurosawa’s film is a rather lengthy 207 minutes and at first it may seem a daunting watch, but once the samurais are united and the villagers are no longer content with suffering and obliging to fall to their knees to beg for the lives of the children and are ready to seek revenge, the minutes soon quickly fly by and the concept of time soon escapes you. You are eventually left in your seat captivated by the power of the human spirt ignited by a little thing called hope, which pushes the villagers to doing something they never dreamed possible, defending themselves. Then once the samurai have helped the villagers reclaim their home and livelihood, they watch them sing and rejoice, then quietly slip away when you least expect it, they don’t fight for the glory, the praise or the fame, they do it because it’s the honourable thing to do.
I’ve grown out of being a child, I’ve outgrown being a teenager; but my body would never even dream of outgrowing samurais and cowboys, they are still a massive part of my life because I draw inspiration, guidance and strength from their teachings and ways of life. In life I’m certainly never going to have all the answers, but I feel with the senses of honour and humility I’ve been taught by samurais and the chivalry and independence I leant from cowboys, I will always be one step closer and I’ll become a better person on the way.