Ronin

Ronin were samurai who had lost their master and were 'Lordless'. To be Ronin was to be without the protection and support of a clan. Ronin means 'wave person' and lordless samurai would wander Japan like scrap wood floating on the waves of war drifting from one province and war to the next often turning to banditry or becoming swords for hire. A few retained their honour and sought out a new lord and clan worthy of their respect, others became monks. during the warring periods in medieval Japan there were no shortage of opportunities for a Ronin to redeem themselves and Japanese history and myth is full of tales of Ronin who fought to regain their honour. One of the best films about ronin is Akira Kurosawa's The Seven Samurai.

Books and Videos from Amazon (U.S. and U.K.)

A Book of Five Rings, Miyamoto Musashi. Translated by Victor Harris. An excellent and fascinating short book and a must have for any serious student of Samurai history. The book has an excellent historical introduction and the section on the life of the author is as good as the book itself. The focus of book is the way of the warrior, especially the swordsman and has much thought provoking text for the careful and diligent reader. Detailed footnotes add to the translation and the text is very interesting for any interested in Kendo or the martial arts, mixing philosophy with strategy, giving a real insight into the life and beliefs of a samurai.
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cover Seven Samurai A classic of Japanese cinema and a must for anyone with an interest in the Samurai. Set in 1600 Japan it tells a tale of a group of samurai hired to protect a village against bandits. Beneath this simple plot lies brilliant characterizations and insight into the role of peasants and samurai in this period. With some excellent set pieces and thankfully subtitled not dubbed this is a classic not to be missed. Available as a video or DVD.
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cover Ran Another classic from this masterful director, Ran meaning Chaos is a reworking of King Lear with dutiful sons replacing the daughters. It tells the tale of a kingdom torn apart by the greed of a Lords sons and the scheming revenge of a woman. In colour with spectacular battles showing use of arquebus and cavalry and a stunning attack on a fortress it is a must for those interested in samurai warfare.
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How to cite this article: Dugdale-Pointon, T. (24 March 2002), Ronin, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/concepts_ronin.html

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