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Traditional Japanese Martial Arts for Adults
The Classic Japanese Text on the Way of Strategy 
by Miyamoto Musashi (1584-1645)
Part 2 of 6

by Sean Hannon
The first book is called the Earth book because its purpose is to ground you in reality and to develop an acute and complete awareness of your life.  In order to be victorious in battle and in life, you have to live life at ever-increasing levels of consciousness.  Simply remaining the same is a form of regression.  This perpetual process requires constant self-examination and it requires having an accurate perception of the world around you.  It means not making stuff up, not exaggerating, and not believing in things that simply aren’t true.  It means thinking for yourself and formulating your own opinions – not relying on dogma simply because it is easier to do so.
Take this principle off the mat and into your daily life.  See your life as it truly is.  Don’t do what most people do.  Don’t lie to yourself.  Don’t be dishonest.  Dishonesty inhibits your development, your growth, and your evolution.  

“It is hard to understand the true Way just from use of the sword.”

“If you know the Way widely, you will find the Way within everything. 
Each man must pursue his particular way.”

I was pleased to read that Musashi does not see the sword as the only means to learning the Way.  He obviously is a proponent of diversity of study.  He seems to recommend knowing the world microscopically and macroscopically, and perhaps paradoxically, Musashi probably sees very little difference between the two even though he values the contributions of each.  In his later years, Musashi was quite an accomplished artist.  His paintings to this day are still some of the most popular in Japan.  

“When you are about to battle for your life, you must make full use of your weaponry. It is false not to do this, and to die with a sword undrawn.”

Translation: Go for it!  Don’t hold back in life.  This is your one shot to be great, to be everything you every dreamed of being.  There is nothing you can’t do or achieve in this life if you “draw both swords” and utilize all of your inner resources and passion.

Some Aikido students may wonder why then do we train with only one sword in weapons class?  Musashi goes on to say that, “when you have difficulty striking down your opponent with one hand, you then should use both of your hands.”  He recognizes that when we are beginners, we must learn to crawl before we walk or run.  So, too, with the sword. 

“…you can be victorious with either a long weapon or a short weapon… 
The way of the ichi school is the sprit of victory, whichever weapon is used, whatever its size might be.”

This statement echoes what was said in the introduction portion of the Book of Five Rings.  Simply put, spirit trumps weaponry, skill, or training.  It reminds me of a great quote in the 2005 movie, Batman Begins, where one of the main characters instructs a young Bruce Wayne, “The training is nothing.  The will is everything!”

The next two quotes, in my opinion, reflect a similar sentiment.

“When you have acquired the Way of Strategy, 
there will not be a thing that you can’t understand.”

“…to master the long sword means mastering of yourself, and of the whole world,
so the long sword becomes the basis of strategy.”

Musashi sees himself as one with nature, in a way that is almost identical to that of Aikido’s Founder, Morihei Ueshiba.  Not surprisingly, both Musashi and Ueshiba are often considered two of the most revered martial arts of Japan, if not the world.  Musashi is truly a holistic person, who recognizes the patterns, the geometry, and the predictable rhythms of nature.  Furthermore, he acknowledges his existence and place within those patterns and rhythms.  At the same time, he refuses to acknowledge himself as anything separate from nature.  Perhaps it is because of this groundedness and complete awareness that he was undefeated at the sword his whole life.  Perhaps we can benefit from this acknowledgement as well.

Musashi refers to masters of the long sword (katana) as “strategists.”  He contrasts this with the name of masters of other weapons such as archers, spearmen, marksmen, and scythe carriers.  Despite being masters of their respective weapons, he does not seem to hold the same level of value for these masters as he does strategists.  He specifically points out that masters of the long sword are not “longswordsmen,” but “strategists.”  Musashi appears to hold the sword in higher regard than these other weapons.  It may have to do with the sword being a powerful symbol in historical, Japanese culture.  The sword, in his mind, may be a metaphor for life itself and that is why he uses the term “strategist.”  Bows, guns, spears, and scythes, to Musashi, are the supplemental equipment of his strategy.  

“There is a time and place for the use of every weapon.”

You can’t approach every situation in life the same way and expect satisfactory results.  Each situation is unique and may require a fresh approach or perspective.

“When you use the indoor techniques, you will tend to narrow thinking,
and you will forget the true Way.”

Don’t get too comfortable with that which is comfortable.  You will atrophy your spirit and lose sight of what is important in life.  Constantly reach, challenge your comfort-zone.  It is in this section that Musashi recognizes the value of firearms.  I was initially surprised to discover Musashi’s appreciation for firearms.  My own stereotypes about samurai made me assume that a samurai wouldn’t find value in firearms, but Musashi was an unusual warrior.  

“By practicing, you will be able to attain full mastery over your body
and to influence men with your body.”

“Just as a horse needs to be fit and strong and have no defect, 
so must the weapon.”

Life is too short to go through it being unfit.  Getting grounded in the Earth Book is about assuming control of your life.  Assuming control of your life means assuming control over your body.  Stop making excuses and go handle that part of your life.  Remember: If you don’t take care of your body, where are you going to live?  POWER  IS A PRODUCT OF CONTROL.  IF WE LACK CONTROL OVER OURSELVES, WE CAN HAVE NO CONTROL IN OUR LIVES.

“Timing exists in all aspects of the life of the warrior, in his successes and in his failures, when he is in harmony and when he drifts from his path.”

The right thing, the right way, at the right time.  For example, you may buy the right stock at the right time and make a fortune.  Similarly, you may buy the right stock at the wrong time and lose a fortune.  We all must learn patience.  Successful people may make decisions quickly, but often that decision may be to NOT to participate in something because it may be the wrong time.  

Musashi summarizes his Way of Strategy in 9 steps.  The capitalized words are my own interjections.

1.Do not think dishonestly and to adhere to the Way (PERCEPTION)
2.The Way is to train (ACT)
3.Have knowledge of every art (HOLISM)
4.Know the Way of all professions (COMPREHENSIVE COMPREHENSION)
5.Know the difference between profit and loss in worldly matters (ENTROPY)
6.Develop intuition and an understanding of all things (RECOGNIZE           NATURE’S RHYTHM)
7.See that which cannot be seen (PERCEPTION)
8.Attend even to the seemingly insignificant (SCALE)
9.Do nothing which is useless (LIVE)

“The most important thing is to immerse yourself completely in the strategy.”

Stop fence riding.  Piss or get off the pot.  You can’t be a little bit pregnant.  However you want to phrase it decided to commit yourself to a higher standard of life; to demand more of yourself.  If you’re being honest with yourself, I’m sure you can recognize that the only things you’ve been truly successful with have been those in which you have completely immersed yourself in.  

“…the man who comes out superior will be he who manages his underlings with flexibility…”

This was probably the most meaningful quote to my life in the Earth Book.   To me this is about conquering our lesser selves.  I interpret this not as learning to control others, but as controlling the lesser characters of myself who sometimes (OK, often) emerge in times of stress.  Sometimes I refer to these as my dwarf selves, as in the Seven Dwarves – like greedy, selfishy, procrastinator, etc… My underlings are those traits of my personality that do not serve my highest good.  

If you’d like to read more, be sure to read article three: The Water Book.  Or, if you’re tired of reading my thoughts on the subject and would prefer to read Musashi’s book directly, I would encourage you to do so.  

Read Part One - Introduction to Book of 5 Rings
Read Part Two - The Earth Book
Read Part Three - The Water Book
Read Part Four - The Fire Book
Read Part Five - The Wind Book
Read Part Six - The Void Book

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