BY: CHARLOTTE LEFAVE
The Onna-Bugeisha were women who knew how to kick ass and take names. Beautiful, powerful and terrifying, they stood heroes among men, commanding armies and striking fear in the hearts of anyone that dared to stand in their way. They fought for honour and dignity and to protect the people they loved, risking life and limb for their homelands. They stared death in the face and it flinched first. Female samurai were written in legend as valiant soldiers that never backed down from a fight.
Today, the enemies that we face are slightly less threatening than battalions marching against us. However, they may seem just as dangerous and we need to know how to conquer them. By taking a few tips from the Onna-Bugeisha, you too can embrace your inner warrior.
Okay, so a cubical is a little bit different than a battlefield, but there are some similarities. Obviously you can’t stab your boss when she slaps a stack of paperwork on your desk and then drive home victorious in your Toyota, but there are ways to become better at your job and even enjoy it a little more. The Onna-Bugeisha trained for years to be the best at what they did, training until they were bruised and bloody, and then training harder.
Not only did they have to train to be the best fighters, they also had to fight doubt and sexism along the way. I know that you haven’t been training since infancy in the fine art of filing paperwork, but the secret to success is all in the way that you look at it. Part of why the Samurai were so incredible was because they exhibited a mental strength to rival the greatest of leaders. For you, this means that instead of shying away from hard work, you need to make things happen. Challenge yourself and find out what exactly you are capable of and I promise you that you’ll be surprised by the results.
Another trait these warrior-women had was dignity. They respected themselves, trusted their own judgement and never compromised their beliefs. One of the most famous Onna-Bugeisha was a woman named Tomoe Gozen. After fighting in a battle alongside her master, he was left wounded and dying. He told her to leave him because he refused to die in battle next to a woman. She didn’t allow herself to be discouraged by his insult and went on to fight in several great battles, becoming a famous war hero still remembered to this day.
I’m not recommending bringing the severed head of your competitor to your boss like Tomoe did, but you get the idea. Never let anyone tell you that you aren’t good enough, even people that you look up to. Female samurai were often mocked by those who believed they weren’t able to fight or be victorious because of their gender, but they did not let themselves be told what they could and couldn’t do. No one knows you better than you know yourself, so hold your head high and keep on fighting for what you want.
One of the most impressive traits of these skilled warriors was that they were humble, despite being incredibly capable. They never placed themselves above their fellow warriors or looked down on people who couldn’t fight their own battles. The comradery among these women was strong and they fought as a unit by watching each other’s backs and working together. This fierce loyalty made them a force to be reckoned with; each one trusting in the soldier beside her so that when they moved together, it was with deadly precision.
The key is confidence, never cockiness. If you let yourself think that you are above others, or above a certain job, you will lose the respect of those around you and never be able to get where you want to be. Putting yourself on a pedestal only isolates you from potential allies. Get to know your own strengths and weaknesses and take into account everything that you bring to the table, recognizing what you still have to learn.
There is a famous quote by Aristotle that reads “the more you know, the more you know you don’t know.” Get to know your colleagues and those around you, and you’ll be surprised by the incredible people you discover and how different minds can work together to make the impossible happen. There is always power in numbers. The Samurai never fought for their own glory, they fought to protect their brothers and sisters in arms, the people that they stood by and the people that supported them.
Warriors are built to withstand the greatest of challenges, and not flinch at the risk of failure. In order to be the best person you can be, you need to work hard to build your strengths and talents, take yourself seriously, and always be humble. With these attributes, you can take on anything.