Greetings. This week will be a return to The Book Of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi. I’ve been posting from the Fire Scroll, and though there are many more useful pieces of practical information that I haven’t covered still from the Fire Scroll, I thought this week I’ll do something a little different and move on to the Wind Scroll.
This scroll explores the methods of other martial art schools at the time of the writing, and how they differ from Musashi’s own school of Two Swords. As he states in the introduction of this scroll, “Other schools become theatrical, dressing up and showing off to make a living, commercializing martial arts; therefore it would seem they are not the true way.”
The first thing Miyamoto Musashi takes issue with is schools that wield extra long swords. This is a very interesting passage:
“There are some other schools that are fond of extra- long swords. From the point of view of my martial art, I see them as weak schools. The reason for this is that these other schools do not know about prevailing over others by any means necessary; considering the length of the sword its virtue, they must want their swords to be extra long so that they can beat opponents from a distance. The conventional saying about winning by even an inch in reach is something that refers to people who know nothing about martial arts. Therefore, to try to win from a distance by an advantage in sword length without knowing the principles of martial arts is something that people do because of weakness of heart. That is why I consider this weak martial art. At times when you are engaged with an opponent at close quarters, the longer your sword is, the harder it is to strike with it; you cannot swing the sword back and forth enough, and it becomes a burden. Then you are in a worse situation than someone wielding a small side- arm sword. For those who prefer extra- long swords, they have their own reason, but it is logical for themselves alone; from the point of view of the real Way of the world, it is illogical. Will you necessarily lose if you use a shorter long sword and not an extra- long sword? And suppose the physical situation is such that above, below, and/ or sides are blocked; or suppose the social situation is one where only side arms are worn; to wish for an extra- long sword under these conditions is a bad attitude, because it is to doubt the science of martial arts. Furthermore, there are people who lack the requisite physical strength. Since ancient times it has been said that the great includes the small, so it is not a matter of indiscriminately disliking length; it is a matter of disliking the attitude of bias in favor of length. In the context of large- scale military science, an extra- long sword is a large contingent, a shorter one is a small contingent. Is a battle between a small contingent and a large contingent impossible? There are many examples of a small contingent winning over a large contingent. Thus in my individual school there is an aversion to a narrow, biased attitude. This calls for careful examination.”
On “powerful sword blows in other schools:”
“There should be no such thing as strong sword blows or weak sword blows. A swing of a sword made with the intention to swing powerfully is rough, and you can hardly win by roughness alone. Furthermore, if you slash with unreasonable force when you are going to kill someone, intending to deal a powerful blow of the sword, you will not be successful. Even when you are making a test cut on a dummy or something, it is wrong to try deliberately to slash powerfully. When facing an enemy in mortal combat, nobody thinks of striking weakly or powerfully. When one only thinks of killing the other, there is no sense of strength, and of course no sense of weakness; one only thinks of the death of the enemy. If you hit someone else’s sword forcefully, your own sword will be delayed. So there is no such thing as a particularly powerful sword blow. Even in large scale military science, if you have a powerful contingent wishing to gain a forceful victory in battle, the fact is that your opponent also has powerful people and wants to fight forcefully. In that respect, both are the same. When it comes to winning victory in everything, it is impossible to prevail without reason. In my school, no consideration is given to anything unreasonable; the heart of the matter is to use the power of knowledge of martial arts to gain victory any way you can. This must be worked out thoroughly.”
I like how Miyamoto Musashi seems to cut to the heart of martial arts in every thing he writes about.
Here is one more for this week; then I am going to excuse myself. It’s been a long few days for me and I will be happy to be getting some needed rest.
“The Use Of Shorter Long Swords In Other Schools”
“To think of winning by means of a shorter long sword alone is not the true Way. Since ancient times long and short swords have been distinguished in terminology. Physically powerful peoplecan wield even a large long sword with ease, so there is no point in unreasonable fondness for a shorter sword. The reason for this is that spears and halberds are also carried to make use of their length. The idea that you are going to use a shorter long sword to cut through, plunge in, and sieze an opponent in the interval between swings of his sword is biased and therefore wrong. Furthermore, when you watch out for gaps, everything else is neglected, and there comes to be a sense of entanglement, which is to be avoided. And if you try to use a short weapon to penetrate the enemy’s defense and take over, that will not be of any use when in the midst of numerous opponents. Even if you think that what you gain from a shorter weapon is the ability to cut through a crowd, leap freely, and whirl around, in each case you are in a defensive mode of swordplay and are thus in a distracted state of mind. This is not a reliable way to go. You might just as well chase people around in a powerful and straightforward manner, making people jump out of the way, contriving to throw them into confusion, taking them the route that aims solely as certain victory. This logic also applies to large- scale military science. All else being equal, you might as well take a large contingent, attack the enemy all of a sudden, and destroy them at once. This attitude is the focus of military science. What people of the world ordinarily study when they practice martial arts is to parry, deflect, get away, and get through safely; therefore their minds are drawn by this method and wind up being maneuvered and manipulated by others. Since the Way of martial arts is direct and straightforward, the intent to stalk and overcome people rightly is essential. This should be considered carefully.”