Week number 50. It’s hard to believe- that’s almost a year of weekly blog posts. This week I am going to continue with Miyamoto Musashi’s Wind Scroll, one of the five scrolls from his 1643 classic The Book Of Five Rings. In this scroll Miyamoto Musashi explains and critiques the techniques of other martial art schools contemporary to his own school of Two Swords.
I will start with his passage “Footwork In Other Schools.”
“There are various ways of quick- stepping, such as those known as the floating step, the leaping step, the springing step, the stomping step, the crow step, and so on. From the point of view of my martial art, all of these seem deficient. The reason why I dislike the floating step is that one’s steps are in any case likely to become unsteady in battle, so the proper course is to stride as surely as possible. The reason I do not like the leaping step is that there is a sense of excitement in the leaping and a sense of fixation on leaping. Since there is no reason to leap over and over again, a leaping step is bad. Also, the springing step is ineffective because there is a sense of bounding. The stomping step is a passive stance and is especially objectionable. Other than these, there are also various quick- steps such as the crow step. Since you may engage opponents in marshes or swamps, or in mountains and rivers, or on rocky plains, or on narrow roads, depending on the place, there are situations in which it is impossible to leap and spring or to quick- step. In my martial art, there is no change in footwork; it is just like walking along a road as usual. Following the rhythm of the opponent, finding the right physical position in conditions of both hurry and calm, the stride should be orderly, without slack or excess. In large- scale military science as well, footwork is critical. The reason for this is taht if you attack indiscriminately without knowing the intentions of your adversary, you sill miss the rhythm and find it hard to win. Also, if you are striding calmly and do not notice when opponents are demoralized and crumbling, you will let victory elude you and will be unable to effect a quick settlement of the contest. It is essential to perceive discouragement and crumbling, then overwhelm adversaries by not letting them relax for even a moment. This requires thorough training and practice.”
“The Use Of Speed In Other Schools”
“In martial arts, speed is not the true Way. As far as speed is concerned, the question of fast or slow in anything derives from failure to harmonize with the rhythm. When you master an art or science, your performance does not appear to be fast. For example, there are professional courier runners who travel a route of about fifteen miles; but even so, they do not run fast from morning to night. As for those who lack the training, even if they seem to run all day, they do not reach the goal. In the art of the dance, if a poor singer accompanies the song of a skilled singer, there is a sense of lag, which results in haste. Also, when “Old Pine” is played on the drums, it is a quiet piece, but in this case too, someone who is unskilled will tend to fall behind or get ahead. And while “High Dunes” has a rapid tempo, it is wrong to perform it too fast. As the saying goes, the fast one stumbles and fails to get there on time. Of course, being too slow and too late is also bad. The performance of an expert seems relaxed but does not leave any gaps. The actions of trained people do not seem rushed. The principle of the Way can be known from these illustrations. Speed is particularly bad in the context of the science of martial arts. The reasons for this are as follows. Here too, depending on the place, say for example in a bog, it is impossible to move and run fast. With a long sword, there is no such thing as killing with a greater speed; unlike a fan or short sword, if you try to cut quickly, you will not be able to cut at all. This calls for careful discernment. In large- scale military science as well, the feeling of speed and hurry is bad. With the attitude of “holding down the pillow,” there is no being slow. Furthermore, when people speed rashly, it is essential for you to be the reverse, becoming calm and quiet, not being drawn in by them. The way to work on this state of mind requires training and practice.”
This brings me to the blurb on the back of the edition of The Book Of Five Rings I have (A New Translation by Thomas Cleary) which explains its designation in the category of Business as well as Martial Arts:
“Today’s business people will find Thomas Cleary’s new translation of The Book of Five Rings- Miyamoto Musashi’s 350- year- old martial arts classic- compelling and tantalizingly relevant. Perseverance, insight, self- understanding, inward calm even in the midst of chaos, the imortance of swift but unhurried action: Musashi’s teachings read like lessons from the latest business management gurus. Who couldn’t succeed in business by applying Musashi’s insights on conflict and strategy!”
-Jeffrey Seglin, Senior Editor, Inc. magazine
To Be Continued…
Tomorrow I continue Instructor Training with Primitive Pursuits (our local wilderness survival skills teaching organization) and then pick up my kids from Pennsylvania for the weekend. My little Rio will be 7 next Wednesday! Where does the time go?
Enjoy your time!