The Odds of Surviving

By Sensei George Rego
Jukido Academy • Jiu Jitsu Palm Coast, Florida

The Bushi (warriors) of Japan believed that there were only three possible outcomes to battle. The first possible outcome is that they would be victorious and live. The second possible outcome is that they would be defeated and thus lose their own life. The third possible outcome would be a “draw” — in which both bushi were equally as skilled and mentally determined. The result of this so-called draw would be death for both warriors. Given this, the warrior knew that the odds of him surviving battle were only 1 in 3 or roughly 33%.

This had several effects on the ko-bushi (ancient warriors) and it should have several effects on the kon-bushi (modern day warriors, kokondo-ka, etc.). The first and most obvious effect this had is that the true bushi would only do battle for what they felt was a just cause — with a 1 in 3 chance of surviving, they weren’t going to do serious battle for a senseless reason. Secondly, the warriors lived with an assumption–an assumption that they would die tomorrow.

By assuming that they would die tomorrow they did their absolute best to live an honorable, righteous, and noble life today (following the code of bushido)! This idea is similar to those in modern times who live by motto (through actions, not words), “No one is guaranteed tomorrow.” This made the warrior realize what the most important things in life were. Should they survive “tomorrow” they were grateful and in a sense “blessed” to have been given another day of life. They cherish each day as if it was their last. The bottom line being — if you are going to die tomorrow, be the best person you can be today.

Some in our modern times live life as if they will live forever — usually leading to destructive life styles and broken relationships. They have the attitude that they can fix their problems or relationships tomorrow, later, or another day down the road — they assume they’ll be around. They could benefit from the ko-bushi attitude and approach to making life the best it can be.

Another effect the 1 in 3 approach gave to the samurai was their mentality and attitude in their martial studies and training. With the odds being against you (only 1 in 3 chance of surviving) how seriously would you take your time in the dojo, the words of your sensei, and the lesson being taught? As Master Gichin Funakoshi stressed to early karate-ka – you would take your training deadly serious!

Does this mean that we should live with this way today? Maybe, maybe not. That is the individual’s choice. However, no matter what position one takes — everyone can greatly benefit from fully understanding the lessons of the warriors from the past to better their lives in the present.