16. The Warrior Tradition

What are some of the universal requirements of becoming a warrior?

According to Wikipedia,

Warrior codes often have common features and usually value honour in the forms of faith, loyalty and courage. Examples include the medieval knights‘ code of chivalry, the Kshatriya code of Dharma in India or Japan’s samurai class which uses a warrior code known as Bushido (The Way Of The Warrior).

However, there are some features that Wikipedia has missed out. From our class discussions about various warrior-related films, books, and articles, I have narrowed down the Warrior Tradition into three main categories.

The first one is gender stereotype. For many centuries, and even nowadays, a warrior is considered a true warrior only if the warrior is a male.

Spaniard from Gladiator

Spaniard from Gladiator

The above video is a scene from Crouching Tiger. When the thief (played by Zhāng Zǐyí) appears, we can quickly realize that she is dressed up as a man. When the villagers yell out, “The thief has stolen the Green Destiny!” they automatically assume the thief to be a “he.” Indeed, most of the warrior movies star male warrior, like Gladiator, Conan the Barbarian, and Skywalkers from Star Wars.

The second noticeable characteristic of being a warrior is “Qi” (or Ch’i).

In traditional Chinese culture, qi () is an active principle forming part of any living thing. It is frequently translated as “energy flow”, and is often compared to Western notions of energeia or élan vital (vitalism) as well as the yogic notion of prana. The literal translation is “air”, “breath”, or “gas” (compare the original meaning of Latin spiritus “breathing”; or the Common Greek πνεῦμα, meaning “air,” “breath,” or “spirit”; and the Sanskrit term prana, “breath” ).

The “warriors” from the Eastern cultures, such as Bruce Lee, have definite composures and poises. They are able to express their inner potential energies and control their minds. Some Western movies, such as Star Wars, includes this theme of Qi. The universally-beloved cliche, “May the force be with you,” is an example of Westernized interpretation of Qi.

Last but not least, the warrior tradition embeds some supernatural elements, animalistic features, and the idea of origin, master, and “respect.” In the first two chapters of Woman Warrior, the readers can find numerous supernatural and animalistic insinuations in the warrior life. When Fa Mu Lan gets the training from the old couple, she learns the movements of animals.

Every creature has a hiding skill and a fighting skill a warrior can use. (Pg.23)

She learns how to run with the deers, leap like a monkey, and be wary like the birds.

The idea of “respect” becomes evident in the film Crouching Tigers. No one ever dies (except for the one poor man). The goal of the warrior is not to kill, but to be respected and force the submissions from the losers. Also, in the film, the characters are able to identify the origin of the enemy by observing their moves. Their moves represent their masters.

Overall, the Eastern idea of warrior tradition focuses more on the themes of respect, supernatural, animals, gender role, and masters.


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