There have been various translations made over the years, and it enjoys an audience considerably broader than only that of martial artists and people across East Asia : for instance, some foreign business leaders find its discussion of conflict and taking the advantage to be relevant to their work in a business context.
Musashi establishes a "no-nonsense" theme throughout the text. For instance, he repeatedly remarks that technical flourishes are excessive, and contrasts worrying about such things with the principle that all technique is simply a method of cutting down one's opponent. He also continually makes the point that the understandings expressed in the book are important for combat on any scale, whether a one-on-one duel or a massive battle.
Descriptions of principles are often followed by admonitions to "investigate this thoroughly" through practice rather than trying to learn them by merely reading. However, he only explicitly describes wielding two swords in a section on fighting against many adversaries.
The stories of his many duels rarely refer to Musashi himself wielding two swords, although, since they are mostly oral traditions, their details may be inaccurate. Musashi states within the volume that one should train with a long sword in each hand, thereby training the body and improving one's ability to use two blades simultaneously.
Though ideas are taken from other sources, the text is predominantly seminal. The five "books" refer to the idea that there are different elements of battle, just as there are different physical elements in life, as described by Buddhism , Shinto , and other Eastern religions.
The five books below are Musashi's descriptions of the exact methods or techniques which are described by such elements. The translation, "Two Swords, one Dragon" was thought to be a misinterpretation of the Kanji word Ryu.
It is said to be how to distinguish the Way through "Sword-Fencing", or "Swordsmanship".
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The idea of strategy would be encouraged to be very astute in their study and strategy:. Know the smallest things and the biggest things, the shallowest things and the deepest things. As if it were a straight road mapped out on the ground These things cannot be explained in detail.
From one thing, know ten thousand things. When you attain the Way of strategy there will not be one thing you cannot see. You must study hard.
Upon their mastery of the strategy and timing listed in the five books, Musashi states that you will be able to defeat ten men as easily as you could defeat one, and asks: "When you have reached this point, will it not mean that you are invincible? The strategies listed in this discipline or book relate to situations requiring different weapons and tactics, such as indoor weapons.
Musashi states that the use of glaive -like naginata and spears are purely for the field, whereas the longsword and accompanying short-sword can be used in most environments, such as on horseback or in fierce battle.
Musashi also remarks on the gun as having no equal on the battlefield, until swords clash, when it becomes useless. He does note that the gun had the disadvantage of being unable to see a bullet and adjust aim as one would with a bow.
He writes, "The bow is tactically strong at the commencement of battle, especially battles on a moor, as it is possible to shoot quickly from among the spearmen. However, it is unsatisfactory in sieges, or when the enemy is more than forty yards away. For this reason there are nowadays few traditional schools of archery. There is little use for this kind of skill. Musashi indicates that during battle you should not overuse one weapon—this is as bad as using the weapon poorly since it becomes easy for an enemy to find a weakness in your style after countless uses of the same weapon.
Timing, as explained by Musashi, is the core principle in strategy which is listed in the Earth Book.
The idea of timing as explained within the Earth book is that you must be able to adapt your strategy to timing with your skill, in that you must know when to attack and when not to attack. Timing and rhythm are also involved in the military arts, shooting bows and guns, and riding horses. In all skills and abilities there is timing There is timing in the whole life of the warrior, in his thriving and declining, in his harmony and discord.
Similarly, there is timing in the Way of the merchant, in the rise and fall of capital.
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All things entail rising and falling timing. You must be able to discern this. In strategy there are various timing considerations. From the outset you must know the applicable timing and the inapplicable timing, and from among the large and small things and the fast and slow timings find the relevant timing, first seeing the distance timing and the background timing. This is the main thing in strategy.
It is especially important to know the background timing, otherwise your strategy will become uncertain. The water book concerns strategy , spirituality and philosophy. The meaning of water in relation to life is flexibility. Water demonstrates natural flexibility as it changes to conform with the boundaries which contain it, seeking the most efficient and productive path. A person should master many aspects of life allowing them to possess both balance and flexibility. The spiritual bearing in strategy, which Musashi writes about concerns your temperament and spirituality whilst in the midst of, or in formulation of a battle.
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Being a buddhist, most of what is written in the section concerning spirituality refers to principles of calmness, tranquility and spiritual balance;. In strategy your spiritual bearing must not be any different from normal.
Both in fighting and in everyday life you should be determined though calm. This balance refers to what could be thought of as yin and yang within yourself.
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The over-familiarity or over-use of one weapon is discouraged by Musashi, as it would be seen to reveal your spirituality to your enemy. The idea is that a perfectly balanced spirit is also a perfectly balanced physical presence, and neither creates weakness nor reveals it to your enemy.
During battle, the spirituality and balance is something of which Musashi notes that you should take advantage. Since small people know the spirituality of big people, they can thus note differences and weaknesses between each other. This is something which seems easy, but it is said to change when you are on the battlefield, as then you must know to both adjust your spiritual balance according to what is around you, and to perceive the balance of those around you to take advantage accordingly.
Just as your spirit should be balanced, your various techniques be honed to a perfectly balanced demeanor. In terms of stance, much like balance within the trooper, Musashi notes that stance is an important part of strategy, or battle: Adopt a stance with the head erect, neither hanging down, nor looking up, nor twisted.
This is part of what Musashi notes as wedging in.
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In regards to the gaze of someone, he notes that a person must be able to perceive that which is all around him without moving their eyeballs noticeably, which is said to be a skill which takes an enormous amount of practice to perfect.
He notes that this is again one of the most important parts of strategy, as well as being able to see things which are close to you, such as the technique of an enemy. It is also used to perceive things far away, such as arriving troops or enemies, as that is the precursor to battle.
You can then change your actions according to what you see. The five attitudes of swordsmanship are referred to as the five classifications of areas for attack on the human body. These are areas which are noted for their advantages when striking at an enemy, and the strategist is said to think of them when in situations where, for any reason, you should not be able to strike them.
Then his mind should adjust accordingly. Your attitude should be large or small according to the situation. Upper, Lower and Middle attitudes are decisive. Left Side and Right Side attitudes are fluid. Left and Right attitudes should be used if there is an obstruction overhead or to one side. The decision to use Left or Right depends on the place.
As each is thought of as an attitude, it could be thought of that Musashi means to practice with each "attitude" so that you do not become over-reliant upon one, something which Musashi repeatedly notes as being worse than bad technique. This is similar to taking chances as opposed to making chances. The attitude of "Existing - Non Existing", mixes the Five Attitudes with the Attitude of "No Attitude", meaning that the user of the longsword uses the techniques and principles of both at whichever moment he or she finds most opportune.
Although this is said to be difficult, Musashi notes that masters of this technique are usually masters of the five attitudes because they must be perceptive of weaknesses.
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It is rumored that Musashi disgraced a former sword master by using such a technique with a Bokken , but there are no descriptions mentioning "In one" timing.
Although the technique seems relatively simple, Musashi lists this as one of the hardest techniques to time correctly. Aside from this philosophical approach to the meaning, the technique is relatively simple to explain: if you are in a deadlock with the enemy, using the force from the cut, you push with your body and use the disciplines outlined in the Void Book to knock the enemy over.
This is the most important method of hitting. It is often used. You must train hard to understand it.
When attacking fast, Musashi notes that you will always be at stalemate, so like Stagnant water, you must cut as slowly as possible with your long sword.
At the beginning of this technique you and your opponent will be searching for an opening within each other's defense. When your opponent either tries to push off your sword, or to hasten back as to disengage it, you must first expand your whole body and your mind. By moving your body first and then that of your sword, you will be able to strike powerfully and broadly with a movement that seems to reflect the natural flow of water.
Ease and confidence will be attained when this technique is continuously practiced upon. In one motion, when your sword springs away from theirs, Musashi says to use a continuous motion to slash their head, body, and legs.
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Without raising your sword, you cut as strongly as possible. This means cutting quickly with hands, body, and legs.
The Fire Book refers to fighting methods unlike the specific fighting techniques listed in the Water Book. It goes into a broader scope in terms of hints as to assess a situation, as well as specific situational instructions.
He notes obvious advantages of armor and preparedness before a duel or battle as it applies to one man or a whole group of men:. As one man can defeat ten men, so can one thousand men defeat ten thousand. However, you can become a master of strategy by training alone with a sword, so that you can understand the enemy's stratagems, his strength and resources, and come to appreciate how to apply strategy to beat ten thousand enemies.
The dependence of location according to the Go Rin No Sho is crucial. You must be in a place where man-made objects such as buildings, towers, castles, and such do not obstruct your view, as well as facing or standing in a position where the sun or moon does not affect your vision.
This is purely so that your vision is focused on nothing but the enemy, and thus there is more concentration upon the enemy's stratagems. Musashi also seems to note the age old strategy of the High Ground :. Other kinds of tactics which of Musashi tells are way of ensuring that the enemy is at a disadvantage.