As a kendo practitioner I am attracted to the concept of being a “modern warrior” but I really don’t know what that means. The concept is seductive and empowering but mis-application can lead to ridicule and even injury.
Step one in exploring this concept is understanding what is a warrior. I completely agree with Wikipedia’s definition of the term “warrior.” It is a person dedicated to the art of war and who’s world view and personal behavior is bound and defined by a personal and philosophical code of honor which dictates his (or her’s) every action.
Definition of honor, in my mind, is the concept of a higher code of ethics and personal responsibility that exceeds the value of the life of the person. In effect, death should be less frightening than dishonor.
Are modern soldiers warriors? The term “warrior” is applied to soldiers in the US as a sign of respect, especially in light of the terrible treatment that Vietnam-era soldiers suffered at the hands of their citizens.
In reality, though, soldiers are not warriors. Their behavior is dictated by military policy that demands obedience over anything else. The reason is sensible and derives from the time of fixed-formation movement as far back as ancient times. A soldier cannot ignore an order even if it goes against his code of honor (though he can ignore an order that goes against military policy but that is not the same thing).
Are mercenaries warriors? They can pick and choose their fights and have more freedom than soldiers. I suppose that is possible but most mercenaries (or contract soldiers like those who protect ships from pirates or who work for military contractors) are usually fighting for money which is not something that appears in ethical or moral codes (unless there is an Ayn Rand-themed band of warriors that I don’t know about!).
I think the door has closed on the warrior concept being realized in current times but that doesn’t mean that we cannot take some of the higher concepts from the warrior codes and apply them to our lives, here and now.
Budo, the Japanese concept of the modern martial arts does this really well. A person can study martial arts (whether a budo practice like kendo or the actual science of swordsmanship like one of the traditional sword styles that do not have a sport application) and just taste some of the deeper concepts that once permeated the air of those ancient warriors.
In practice, one can choose to be just, treat others with dignity, and dedicate one’s life to a physical and mental practice that expands their view of themselves and the world around them.
It may be just a taste of a bygone age, but it can still be a sweet and satisfying one.