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Miyamoto Musashi
宮本 武蔵

Miyamoto Musashi in his prime, wielding two bokken.
Born Shinmen Musashi No Kami Fujiwara No Genshin
c. June 13, 1584(1584-06-13)
Harima Province, Japan
Died c. June 13, 1645 (aged 61)
Higo Province, Japan
from natural causes (probably stomach cancer)
Other names Shinmen Takezō; Miyamoto Bennosuke; Niten Dōraku; Shinmen Musashi no Kami Fujiwara no Genshin
Residence Japan
Style Kenjutsu
Teacher(s) none verified
Notable students Terao Magonojo; Terao Motomenosuke; Furuhashi Sozaemon
In this Japanese name, the family name is Miyamoto.

Miyamoto Musashi (宮本 武蔵?) (c. 1584–June 13 (Japanese calendar: May 19), 1645), also known as Shinmen Takezō, Miyamoto Bennosuke, or by his Buddhist name Niten Dōraku[1], was a Japanese swordsman and samurai famed for his duels and distinctive style. Musashi, as he was often simply known, became renowned through stories of his excellent swordsmanship in numerous duels, even from a very young age. He was the founder of the Hyōhō Niten Ichi-ryū or Niten-ryū style of swordsmanship and the author of The Book of Five Rings (五輪書 Go Rin No Sho?), a book on strategy, tactics, and philosophy that is still studied today.

Contents

Biography

Birth

The details of Miyamoto Musashi's early life are difficult to verify. Musashi himself simply states in Gorin no Sho that he was born in Harima Province.[2] Niten Ki (an early biography of Musashi) supports the theory that Musashi was born in 1584: "[He] was born in Banshū, in Tenshō 12 [1584], the Year of the Monkey."[3] The historian Kamiko Tadashi, commenting on Musashi's text, notes: "[...]Munisai was Musashi's father...he lived in Miyamoto village, in the Yoshino district [of Mimasaka Province]. Musashi was most probably born here."[4] His childhood name was Bennosuke 弁之助.

Musashi gives his full name and title in Gorin no Sho as "Shinmen Musashi no Kami Fujiwara no Genshin."[5] His father, Shinmen Munisai 新免無二斎, was an accomplished martial artist and master of the sword and jutte (also jitte).[6] Munisai, in turn, was the son of Hirata Shōgen 平田将監, a vassal of Shinmen Iga no Kami, the lord of Takeyama Castle, in the Yoshino district of Mimasaka Province.[7] Hirata was relied upon by Lord Shinmen, and so was allowed to use the Shinmen name. As for "Musashi," Musashi no Kami was a court title, making him the nominal governor of Musashi province. "Fujiwara" was the lineage from which Musashi claimed nominal descent.

Munisai and Musashi's birth date

Mysteriously, Munisai's tomb says he died in 1580, which obviously conflicts with the accepted birth date of 1584 for Musashi. Further muddying the waters, according to the genealogy of the extant Miyamoto family, Musashi was born in 1582. Kenji Tokitsu has suggested that the accepted birth date of 1584 for Musashi is wrong, as it is primarily based on a literal reading of the introduction to the Go Rin No Sho where Musashi states that the years of his life "add up to 60" (yielding the twelfth year of the Tensho era, or 1584, when working backwards from the well-documented date of composition), when it should be taken in a more literary and imprecise sense, indicating not a specific age but merely that Musashi was in his sixties when he wrote it.

Because of the uncertainty centering on Munisai (when he died, whether he was truly Musashi's father, etc.), Musashi's mother is known with even less confidence. Here are a few possibilities:

  1. Munisai's tomb was correct. He died in 1580, leaving two daughters; his wife adopted a recently born child, from the Akamatsu clan, intended to succeed Munisai at his jitte school. Omasa, Munisai's widow, was not truly Musashi's mother.
  2. The tomb was wrong. Munisai lived a good deal longer, later than 1590 possibly. Musashi, then, was born to Munisai's first wife, Yoshiko (daughter to Bessho Shigeharu, who formerly controlled Hirafuku village until he lost a battle in 1578 to Yamanaka Shikanosuke). Munisai divorced her after Musashi's birth, whereupon she decamped for her father's house, leaving Musashi with Munisai. Musashi grew up treating Munisai's second wife, Omasa (daughter to Lord Shinmen) as his mother. This second scenario is laid out in an entry to the Tasumi family's genealogy.
The daughter of Bessho Shigeharu first married Hirata Muni and was divorced from him a few years later. After that she married Tasumi Masahisa. The second wife of Tasumi Masahisa was the mother of Miyamoto Musashi. Musashi's childhood name was Hirata Den. He later became famous on account of his swordsmanship. During his childhood, he went to Hirafuku to find his real mother. He moved in with the Tasumi family.
[8]
  1. A variant of this second theory is based on the fact that the tombstone states that Omasa gave birth to Musashi on 4 March 1584, and died of it. Munisai then remarried to Yoshiko. They divorced, as in the second theory, but Yoshiko took Musashi, which was 7 at the time, with her, and married Tasumi Masahisa.
  2. Kenji Tokitsu prefers to assume a birth date of 1581, which avoids the necessity of assuming the tombstone to be erroneous (although this poses the problem of from whom then Musashi received the transmission of the family martial art).

Upbringing

Regardless of the truth about Musashi's ancestry, when Musashi was seven years old, the boy was raised by his uncle, Dorinbo (or Dorin), in Shoreian temple, three kilometers (~1.8 mi.) from Hirafuku. Both Dorin and Musashi's uncle by marriage — Tasumi — educated him in Buddhism and basic skills such as writing and reading. This education is possibly the basis for Yoshikawa Eiji's fictional education of Musashi by the historical Zen monk Takuan. He was apparently trained by Munisai in the sword, and in the family art of the jitte. This training did not last for a very long time, as in 1589, Munisai was ordered by Shinmen Sokan to kill Munisai's student, Honiden Gekinosuke. The Honiden family was displeased, and so Munisai was forced to move four kilometers (~2.5 mi.) away to the village of Kawakami.

In 1592, Munisai died, although Tokitsu believes that the person who died at this time was really Hirata Takehito.

Musashi contracted eczema in his infancy, and this adversely affected his appearance.[citation needed] Another story claims that he never took a bath because he did not want to be surprised unarmed. While the former claim may or may not have some basis in reality, the latter seems improbable.[9] An unwashed member of the warrior caste would not have been received as a guest by such famous houses as Honda, Ogasawara and Hosokawa. These and many other details are likely embellishments that were added to his legend, or misinterpretations of literature describing him.

His father's fate is uncertain, but it is thought that he died at the hands of one of Musashi's later adversaries, who was punished or even killed for treating Musashi's father badly. However, there are no exact details of Musashi's life, since Musashi's only writings are those related to strategy and technique.

Training in swordsmanship

Miyamoto Musashi having his fortune told. Print by Utagawa Kuniyoshi

The name "Musashi" was thought to be taken from the name of a warrior monk named Musashibō Benkei who served under Minamoto no Yoshitsune, but this is unconfirmed.

It's said that he may have studied at the Yoshioka ryu school, which was also said to be a school Musashi defeated single-handedly during his later years, although this is very uncertain. He did have formal training either by his father until he was 7 years old or from his uncle beginning at the age of 7. Ultimately the name was taken from his own original kanji, 武蔵, which can be read as Takezō or as Musashi, as stated in Eiji Yoshikawa's book Musashi.

First duel

I have trained in the way of strategy since my youth, and at the age of thirteen I fought a duel for the first time. My opponent was called Arima Kihei, a sword adept of the Shinto ryū, and I defeated him. At the age of sixteen I defeated a powerful adept by the name of Akiyama, who came from Tajima Province. At the age of twenty-one I went up to Kyōtō and fought duels with several adepts of the sword from famous schools, but I never lost.
—Miyamoto Musashi, Go Rin No Sho

According to the introduction of The Book of Five Rings, Musashi states that his first successful duel was at the age of thirteen, against a samurai named Arima Kihei who fought using the Kashima Shintō-ryū style, founded by Tsukahara Bokuden (b. 1489, d. 1571). The main source of the duel is the Hyoho senshi denki ("Anecdotes about the Deceased Master"). Summarized, its account goes as follows:

In 1596, Musashi was 13, and Arima Kihei, who was traveling to hone his art, posted a public challenge in Hirafuku-mura. Musashi wrote his name on the challenge. A messenger came to Dorin's temple, where Musashi was staying, to inform Musashi that his duel had been accepted by Kihei. Dorin, Musashi's uncle, was shocked by this, and tried to beg off the duel in Musashi's name, based on his nephew's age. Kihei was adamant that the only way his honor could be cleared was if Musashi apologized to him when the duel was scheduled. So when the time set for the duel arrived, Dorin began apologizing for Musashi, who merely charged at Kihei with a six-foot quarterstaff, shouting a challenge to Kihei. Kihei attacked with a wakizashi, but Musashi threw Kihei on the floor, and while Kihei tried to get up, Musashi struck Arima between the eyes and then beat him to death. Arima was said to have been arrogant, overly eager to fight, and not a terribly talented swordsman.
—William Scott Wilson, The Lone Samurai[10]

The duel is odd for a number of reasons, not least of which is why Musashi was permitted to duel Arima, whether the apology was a ruse, and why Arima was there in the first place.

Travels and duels

In 1599, three years later, Musashi left his village, apparently at the age of 15 (according to the Tosakushi, "The Registry of the Sakushu Region", although the Tanji Hokin Hikki says he was 16 years old in 1599, which agrees time-wise with the age reported in Musashi's first duel).[8] His family possessions such as furniture, weapons, genealogy, and other records were left with his sister and her husband, Hirao Yoemon.

He spent his time traveling and engaging in duels, such as with an adept called Akiyama from the Tajima Province.

In 1600, a war began between the Toyotomi and Tokugawa clans. Musashi apparently fought on the side of the Toyotomi's "Army of the West", as the Shinmen clan (to whom his family owed allegiance) had allied with them. Specifically, he participated in the attempt to take Fushimi castle by assault in July 1600, in the defense of the besieged Gifu Castle in August of the same year, and finally in the famed Battle of Sekigahara. Some doubt has been cast on this final battle, as the Hyoho senshi denki has Musashi saying he is "no lord's vassal" and refusing to fight with his father (in Lord Ukita's battalion) in the battle. Omitting the Battle of Sekigahara from the list of Musashi's battles would seem to contradict the Go Rin No Sho's statement that Musashi fought in six battles, however. Regardless, as the Toyotomi side lost, it has been suggested that Musashi fled as well and spent some time training on Mount Hiko.

Ichijoji Sagarimatsu, Location of the battle between Musashi and the Yoshioka school

After the battle, Musashi disappears from the records for a while. The next mention of him has him arriving in Kyoto at the age of 20 (or 21), where he famously began a series of duels against the Yoshioka School. Musashi's father, Munisai, also fought against a master of the Yoshioka school and won 2 out of 3 bouts in front of the shogun at the time, Ashikaga Yoshiaki who granted him the title of "Best in Japan". The Yoshioka School (descended from either the Tenshin Shōden Katori Shintō-ryū or the Kyo-hachi-ryū) was the foremost of the eight major schools of martial arts in Kyoto, the "Kyo-ryū" / "Schools of Kyoto". Legend has it that these eight schools were founded by eight monks taught by a legendary martial artist resident on the sacred Mount Kurama. At some point, the Yoshioka family also began to make a name for itself not merely in the art of the sword but also in the textile business and for a dye unique to them. They gave up teaching swordsmanship in 1614 when they fought in the Army of the West against Tokugawa Ieyasu in the Battle of Osaka, which they lost. But in 1604, when Musashi began duelling them, they were still preeminent. There are various accounts of the duels — the Yoshioka family documents claim that there was only one, against Yoshioka Kenpō, which Musashi lost.

Musashi challenged Yoshioka Seijūrō, master of the Yoshioka School, to a duel. Seijūrō accepted, and they agreed to a duel outside Rendaiji in Rakuhoku, in the northern part of Kyoto on 8 March 1604. Musashi arrived late, greatly irritating Seijūrō. They faced off, and Musashi struck a single blow, per their agreement. This blow struck Seijūrō on the left shoulder, knocking him out, and crippling his left arm. He apparently passed on the headship of the school to his equally accomplished brother, Yoshioka Denshichirō, who promptly challenged Musashi for revenge. The duel variously took place in Kyoto outside a temple, Sanjūsangen-dō. Denshichirō wielded a staff reinforced with steel rings (or possibly with a ball-and-chain attached), while Musashi arrived late a second time. Musashi disarmed Denshichirō and defeated him. This second victory outraged the Yoshioka clan, whose head was now the 12-year old Yoshioka Matashichiro. They assembled a force of archers, musketeers and swordsmen, and challenged Musashi to a duel outside Kyoto, near Ichijoji Temple. Musashi broke his previous habit of arriving late, and came to the temple hours early. Hidden, Musashi assaulted the force, killing Matashichiro, and escaping while being attacked by dozens of his victim's supporters. With the death of Matashichiro, this branch of the Yoshioka School was destroyed.

After Musashi left Kyoto, some sources recount that he travelled to Hōzōin in Nara, to duel with and learn from the monks there, widely known as experts with lance weapons. There he settled down at Enkoji Temple in Banshu, where he taught the head monk's (one Tada Hanzaburo's) brother. Hanzaburo's grandson would found the Ensu-ryū based on the Enmei-ryū teachings and iaijutsu.

From 1605 to 1612, he travelled extensively all over Japan in Musha Shugyo, a warrior pilgrimage during which he honed his skills with duels. He was said to have used bokken or bokuto in actual duels. Most of the engagements from these times did not try to take the opponent's life unless both agreed, but in most duels, it is known that Musashi did not care which weapon his foe used — such was his mastery.

A document dated 5 September 1607, purporting to be a transmission by Miyamoto Munisai of his teachings, suggests Munisai lived at least to this date. In this year, Musashi departed Nara for Edo, during which he fought (and killed) a kusarigama practitioner named Shishido Baiken. In Edo, Musashi defeated Muso Gonnosuke, who would found an influential staff-wielding school known as Shinto Muso Ryu. Records of this first duel can be found in both the Shinto Muso-ryu tradition and the Hyōhō Niten Ichi-ryū (Miyamoto Musashi's school). The Shinto Muso Ryu tradition states that, after being defeated by Musashi, Muso Gonnusuke beat Musashi in a rematch. There are no current reliable sources outside the Shinto Muso Ryu tradition to confirm that this second duel took place.

Musashi is said to have fought over 60 duels and was never defeated, although this is a conservative estimate, most likely not accounting for deaths by his hand in major battles. In 1611, Musashi began practicing zazen at the Myoshinji Temple, where he met Nagaoka Sado, vassal to Hosokawa Tadaoki; Tadaoki was a powerful lord who had received the Kumamoto Domain in west-central Kyūshū after the Battle of Sekigahara. Munisai had moved to northern Kyūshū and became Tadaoki's teacher, leading to the possibility that Munisai introduced the two. Nagaoka proposed a duel with a certain adept named Sasaki Kojirō. Tokitsu believes that the duel was politically motivated, a matter of consolidating Tadaoki's control over his fief.

Duel with Sasaki Kojirō

In April 13, 1612, Musashi (about age 30) fought his most famous duel, with Sasaki Kojirō, who wielded a nodachi. Musashi came late and unkempt to the appointed place — the remote island of Funajima, north of Kokura. The duel was short. Musashi killed his opponent with a bokken that he had carved from an oar while traveling to the island. Musashi fashioned it to be longer than the nodachi, making it closer to a modern suburito.

Musashi's late arrival is controversial. Sasaki's outraged supporters thought it was dishonorable and disrespectful while Musashi's supporters thought it was a fair way to unnerve his opponent. Another theory is that Musashi timed the hour of his arrival to match the turning of the tide. The tide carried him to the island. After his victory, Musashi immediately jumped back in his boat and his flight from Sasaki's vengeful allies was helped by the turning of the tide. Another theory states he waited for the sun to get in the right position. After he dodged a blow Sasaki was blinded by the sun. He briefly established a fencing school that same year.

Service

In 1614–1615, Musashi participated in the war between the Toyotomi and the Tokugawa. The war had broken out because Tokugawa Ieyasu saw the Toyotomi family as a threat to his rule of Japan; most scholars believe that, as in the previous war, Musashi fought on the Toyotomi side. Osaka Castle was the central place of battle. The first battle (the Winter Battle of Osaka; Musashi's fourth battle) ended in a truce. The second (the Summer Battle of Osaka; Musashi's fifth battle) resulted in the total defeat of Toyotomi Hideyori's Army of the West by Ieyasu's Army of the East in May 1615. Some reports go so far as to say that Musashi entered a duel with Ieyasu, but was recruited after Ieyasu sensed his defeat was at hand. This may seem unlikely since Ieyasu was in his 70s and was in poor health already, but it remains unknown how Musashi came into Ieyasu's good graces.

Other accounts claim he actually served on the Tokugawa side, but such a claim is unproven, although Musashi had a close relationship with some Tokugawa vassals through his duel with Sasaki Kojirō, and in the succeeding years, he did not drop out of sight as might be expected if he were being persecuted for being on the losing side. In his later years, Ogasawara and Hosokawa supported Musashi greatly — an atypical course of action for these Tokugawa loyalists, if Musashi had indeed fought on behalf of the Toyotomi.

In 1615 he entered the service of Ogasawara Tadanao (小笠原忠直) of Harima Province, at Ogasawara's invitation, as a "Construction Supervisor," after previously gaining skills in craft. He helped construct Akashi Castle and in 1621 to lay out the organization of the town of Himeji. He also taught martial arts during his stay, specializing in instruction in the art of shuriken-throwing. During this period of service, he adopted a son.

In 1621, Musashi defeated Miyake Gunbei and three other adepts of the Togun-ryu in front of the lord of Himeji; it was after this victory that he helped plan Himeji. Around this time, Musashi developed a number of disciples for his Enmei-ryū although he had developed the school considerably earlier; at the age of 22, Musashi had already written a scroll of Enmei-ryū teachings called "Writings on the Sword Technique of the Enmei-ryū" (Enmei-ryū kenpo sho). 円/"En" meant "circle" or "perfection"; 明/"mei" meant "light"/"clarity", and 流/"ryū" meant "school"; the name seems to have been derived from the idea of holding the two swords up in the light so as to form a circle. The school's central idea is given as training to use the twin swords of the samurai as effectively as a pair of sword and jutte.

In 1622, Musashi's adoptive son, Miyamoto Mikinosuke, became a vassal to the Himeji Domain. Possibly this prompted Musashi to leave, embarking on a new series of travels, winding up in Edo in 1623, where he became friends with the Confucian scholar Hayashi Razan, who was one of the Shogun's advisors. Musashi applied to become a swordmaster to the Shogun, but as he already had two swordmasters (Ono Jiroemon Tadaaki and Yagyū Munenori — the latter also a political advisor, in addition to his position as the head of the Shogunate's secret police), Musashi's application was denied. He left Edo in the direction of Ōshū, ending up in Yamagata, where he adopted a second son, Miyamoto Iori. The two then traveled, eventually stopping in Osaka.

In 1626, Miyamoto Mikinosuke, following the custom of junshi, committed seppuku because of the death of his lord. In this year, Miyamoto Iori entered Lord Ogasawara's service. Musashi's attempt to become a vassal to the lord of Owari, like other such attempts, failed.

In 1627, Musashi began to travel again. In 1634 he settled in Kokura with Iori, and later entered the service of the daimyo Ogasawara Tadazane, taking a major role in the Shimabara Rebellion. Iori served with distinction in putting down the rebellion and gradually rose to the rank of karō — a position equal to a minister. Musashi, however was reputedly injured by a thrown rock while scouting in the front line, and was thus unnoticed.

Later life and death

Miyamoto Musashi, Self-portrait, Samurai, writer and artist, c. 1640

Six years later, in 1633, Musashi began staying with Hosokawa Tadatoshi, daimyo of Kumamoto Castle, who had moved to the Kumamoto fief and Kokura, to train and paint. Ironically, it was at this time that the Hosokawa lords were also the patrons of Musashi's chief rival, Sasaki Kojirō. While there he engaged in very few duels; one would occur in 1634 at the arrangement of Lord Ogasawara, in which Musashi defeated a lance specialist by the name of Takada Matabei. Musashi would officially become the retainer of the Hosokowa lords of Kumamoto in 1640. The Niten Ki records "[he] received from Lord Tadatoshi: 17 retainers, a stipend of 300 koku, the rank of ōumigashir 大組頭, and Chiba Castle in Kumamoto as his residence."[11]

In the second month of 1641, Musashi wrote a work called the Hyoho Sanju Go ("Thirty-five Instructions on Strategy") for Hosokawa Tadatoshi; this work overlapped and formed the basis for the later Go Rin No Sho. This was the year that his third son, Hirao Yoemon, became Master of Arms for the Owari fief. In 1642, Musashi suffered attacks of neuralgia, foreshadowing his future ill-health. In 1643 he retired to a cave named Reigandō as a hermit to write The Book of Five Rings. He finished it in the second month of 1645. On the twelfth of the fifth month, sensing his impending death, Musashi bequeathed his worldly possessions, after giving his manuscript copy of the Go Rin No Sho to his closest disciple (Terao Magonojo)'s younger brother. He died in Reigandō cave around June 13, 1645 (Shōhō 3, 30th day of the 4th month). The Hyoho senshi denki described his passing:

The grave-marker of Miyamoto Musashi, in present-day Kumamoto Prefecture (熊本県).
At the moment of his death, he had himself raised up. He had his belt tightened and his wakizashi put in it. He seated himself with one knee vertically raised, holding the sword with his left hand and a cane in his right hand. He died in this posture, at the age of sixty-two. The principal vassals of Lord Hosokawa and the other officers gathered, and they painstakingly carried out the ceremony. Then they set up a tomb on Mount Iwato on the order of the lord.

It is notable that Musashi died of what is believed to be thoracic cancer, and was not killed in combat. He died peacefully after finishing the Dokkodo ("The Way of Walking Alone", or "The Way of Self-Reliance"), 21 precepts on self-discipline to guide future generations.

His body was interred in armor within the village of Yuge, near the main road near Mount Iwato, facing the direction the Hosokawas would travel to Edo; his hair was buried on Mount Iwato itself.

Nine years later, a major source about his life — a monument with a funereal eulogy to Musashi — was erected in Kokura by Miyamoto Iori; this monument was called the Kokura hibun. An account of Musashi's life, the Niten-ki 二天記, was published in Kumamoto in 1776, by Toyota Kagehide, based on the recollections of his grandfather Toyota Masataka, who was a second generation pupil of Musashi.

Teachings

A picture of Musashi engaged in fantastic combat, by Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1798–1861).

Musashi created and perfected a two-sword kenjutsu technique called niten'ichi (二天一, "two heavens as one") or nitōichi (二刀一, "two swords as one") or "Ni-Ten Ichi Ryu" (A Kongen Buddhist Sutra refers to the two heavens as the two guardians of Buddha). In this technique, the swordsman uses both a large sword, and a "companion sword" at the same time, such as a katana and wakizashi.

It is saidthe two-handed movements of temple drummers inspired him, although it seems more likely that the technique was forged by a means of natural selection through Musashi's combat experience, or from jutte techniques which were taught to him by his father — the jutte was often used in battle paired with a sword; the jutte would parry and neutralize the weapon of the enemy whilst the sword struck or the practitioner grappled with the enemy. In his time a long sword in the left hand was referred to as gyaku nito. Today Musashi's style of swordsmanship is known as Hyōhō Niten Ichi-ryū.

Musashi was also an expert in throwing weapons. He frequently threw his short sword, and Kenji Tokitsu believes that shuriken methods for the wakizashi were the Niten Ichi Ryu's secret techniques (see Hayakutake-Watkin).

Musashi spent many years studying Buddhism and swordsmanship. He was an accomplished artist, sculptor, and calligrapher. Records also show that he had architectural skills. Also, he had a rather straightforward approach to combat, with no additional frills or aesthetic considerations. This was probably due to his real-life combat experience.

In his later life, Musashi followed the more artistic side of bushidō. He made various Zen brush paintings, calligraphy, and sculpted wood and metal. Even in The Book of Five Rings he emphasizes that samurai should understand other professions as well. It should be understood that Musashi's writings were very ambiguous. Translating them into English makes them even more so. That is why we find so many copies of Gorin no Sho. One needs to read this work, Dokkodo and Hyoho Shiji ni Kajo to get a better idea of what he was about and understand his transformation from Setsuninto (the sword that takes life) to Katsujinken (the sword that gives life).

Timeline

The following timeline follows, in chronological order (of which is based on the most accurate and most widely accepted information), the life of Miyamoto Musashi as of yet.[citation needed]

Date Age Occurrence
1578 Musashi’s brother, Shirota, is born.
1584 0 Miyamoto Musashi is born.
1591 7 Musashi is taken and raised by his uncle as a Buddhist.
1596 13 Musashi duels with Arima Kihei in Hirafuku, Hyōgo Prefecture.
1599 15 Duels with a man named Akiyama in the northern part of Hyōgo Prefecture.
1600 16/17 Believed to have fought in the Battle of Sekigahara in Sekigahara, Gifu Prefecture on the losing side.
1604 21 Musashi has 3 matches with the Yoshioka clan in Kyoto. {1} Match with Yoshioka Seijuro in Yamashiro Province, outside the city at Rendai Moor (west of Mt. Funaoka, Kita-ku, Kyoto). {2} Match with Yoshioka Denshichiro outside the city. {3} Match with Yoshioka Matashichiro outside the city at the pine of Ichijoji.
1604 21 Visits Kōfuku-ji, Nara and ends up dueling with the Buddhist priest trained in the style of Hōzōin-ryū.
1605–1612 22–29 Begins to travel again.
1607 25 Munisai (Musashi's father) passes his teachings onto Musashi.
1607 25 Duels with the kusarigama expert Shishido Baiken in the western part of Mie Prefecture.
1608 26 Duels Muso Gonnosuke, master of the five-foot staff in Edo, modern-day Tokyo.
1610 28 Fights Hayashi Osedo and Tsujikaze Tenma in Edo.
1611 29 Begins practicing zazen meditation.
1612 30 Musashi's most famous match with Sasaki Kojirō takes place on Ganryujima (Ganryu or Funa Island) off the coast of present-day Shimonoseki.
Opens a fencing school for a brief time.
1614–1615 32–33 Joins the troops of Tokugawa Ieyasu in the Winter and Summer campaigns at Osaka Castle.
1615–1621 31–37 Musashi comes into the service of Ogasawara Tadanao in Harima province as a construction supervisor.
1621 39 Duels Miyake Gunbei in Tatsuno, Hyōgo Prefecture.
1622 38 Sets up temporary residence at the castle town of Himeji in Hyōgo Prefecture.
1623 39 Travels to Edo.
Adopts a second son named Iori.
1626 42 Adopted son Mikinosuke commits seppuku following in the tradition of Junshi.
1627 43 Travels again.
1628 46 Meets with Yagyū Hyōgonosuke in Nagoya, Owari Province.
1630 46 Enters the service of Lord Hosokawa Tadatoshi.
1633 49 Begins to extensively practice the arts.
1634 50 Settles in Kokura, Fukuoka Prefecture for a short time with son Iori as a guest of Ogasawara Tadazane.
1637 53 Serves a major role in the Shimabara Rebellion.
1641 57 Writes Hyoho Sanju-go.
1642 58 Suffers severe attacks from neuralgia.
1643 59 Migrates into Reigando where he lives as a hermit.
1645 61 Finishes Go Rin No Sho / The Book of Five Rings.
Miyamoto Musashi dies from what is believed to be thoracic cancer.

Legends

After his death, various legends began to appear. Most talk about his feats in kenjutsu and other martial arts, some describing how he was able to hurl men over 5 feet backwards, other about his speed and technique. Other legends tell of how Musashi killed giant lizards in Echizen, as well as Nue in various other provinces. He gained the stature of Kensei, or "sword saint" for his mastery in swordsmanship. Some even believed he could run at super-human speed, walk on air, water and fly through the clouds.

Philosophy

Throughout Musashi's last book, The Book of Five Rings (五輪書 Go Rin no Sho?), Musashi seems to take a very philosophical approach to looking at the "Craft of War"; "There are four Ways in which men pass through life: as Gentlemen Warriors, Farmers, Artisans and Merchants." these falling into one of the few profession groups that could be observed in Musashi's time.

Throughout the book, Musashi implies that the way of the Warrior, as well as the meaning of a "True strategist" is that of somebody who has made mastery of many art forms away from that of the sword, such as tea drinking (sado), laboring, writing, and painting as Musashi practiced throughout his life. Musashi was hailed as an extraordinary sumi-e artist in the use of ink monochrome as depicted in two such famous paintings: "Shrike Perched in a Dead Tree" (Koboku Meigekizu, 枯木鳴鵙図) and "Wild Geese Among Reeds" (Rozanzu, 魯山図). Going back to the Book of Five Rings, Musashi talks deeply about the ways of Buddhism.

He makes particular note of Artisans and Foremen. In the time in which he writes the book, the majority of houses in Japan were made of wood. In the use of building a house, foremen have to employ strategy based upon the skill and ability of their workers.

In comparison to warriors and soldiers, Musashi notes the ways in which the artisans thrive through events; the ruin of houses, the splendor of houses, the style of the house, the tradition and name or origins of a house. These too, are similar to the events which are seen to have warriors and soldiers thrive; the rise and fall of prefectures, countries and other such events are what make uses for Warriors, as well as the literal comparisons of the: "The carpenter uses a master plan of the building, and the Way of strategy is similar in that there is a plan of campaign".

Way of strategy

Throughout the book, Go Rin No Sho, the idea which Musashi pushes is that the "way of the strategist" (Heihō 兵法) is similar to how a carpenter and his tools are mutually inclusive, e.g. — A carpenter can do nothing without his tools, and vice versa. This too, he compares to skill, and tactical ability in the field of battle.

Initially, Musashi notes that throughout China and Japan, there are many "sword fencers" who walk around claiming they are Strategists, but are, in fact, not — this may be due to the fact that Musashi had defeated some such Strategists, such as Arima Kihei.

The idea is that by reading his writings, one can become a true strategist from ability and tactical skill that Musashi had learned in his lifetime. He pushes that Strategy and Virtue are something which can be earned by knowing the ways of life, the professions that are around, to perhaps learn the skills and knowledge of people and the skills of their particular professions.

However, Musashi seems to state that the value of Strategy seems to be homogeneous. He notes that:

The attendants of the Kashima Kantori shrines of the province Hitachi received instruction from the gods, and made schools based on this teaching, travelling from province to province instructing men. This is the recent meaning of strategy.

As well as noting that Strategy is destined to die;

Of course, men who study in this way think they are training the body and spirit, but it is an obstacle to the true Way, and its bad influence remains forever. Thus the true Way of strategy is becoming decadent and dying out.

As a form, strategy was said to be one of "Ten Abilities and Seven Arts" that a Warrior should have, but Musashi disagrees that one person can gain Strategy by being confined to one particular style, which seems particularly fitting as he admits "I practice many arts and abilities — all things with no teacher" — this perhaps being one of the reasons he was so highly regarded a swordsman.

Musashi's metaphor for Strategy is that of the Bulb and the flower, similar to western philosophy of "the chicken or the egg", the "bulb" being the student, the "flower" being the technique. He also notes that most places seem to be mostly concerned with their technique and its beauty. Musashi writes, "In this kind of Way of strategy, both those teaching and those learning the way are concerned with coloring and showing off their technique, trying to hasten the bloom of the flower" (as opposed to the actual harmony between strategy and Skill.)

With those who are concerned with becoming masters of strategy, Musashi points out that as a carpenter becomes better with his tools and is able to craft things with more expert measure, so too can a warrior, or strategist become more skilled in his technique. However, just as a carpenter needs to be able to use his tools according to plans, so too must a strategist be able to adapt his style or technique to the required strategy of the battle he is currently engaged in.

This description also draws parallels between the weapons of a trooper (or soldier) and the tools of a carpenter; the idea of "the right tool for the right job" seems to be implied a lot throughout the book, Go Rin No Sho. Musashi also puts into motion the idea that when a Carpenter is skilled enough in aspects of his job, and creates them with expert measure, then he can become a foreman.

Although it is not expressly mentioned, it may be seen that Musashi indicated that when you have learned the areas in which your craft requires, be it carpentry, farming, fine art or battle, and are able to apply them to any given situation, then you will be experienced enough to show others the wisdom of your ways, be it as a foreman of craftsmen, or as a general of an army.

From further reading into the book, the idea of "Weapons within strategy," as well as Musashi referring to the power of the Writer, may seem that the Strategy which Musashi refers to does not exclusively reside within the domain of weaponry and duels, but within the realm of war and battles with many men:

Just as one man can beat ten, so a hundred men can beat a thousand, and a thousand can beat ten thousand. In my strategy, one man is the same as ten thousand, so this strategy is the complete warrior's craft.

Ni-Ten Ichi Ryu

Within the book, Musashi mentions that the use of Two swords within strategy is mutually beneficial between those who utilise this skill. The idea of using two hands for a sword is an idea which Musashi disagrees with, in that there is not fluidity in movement when using two hands — "If you hold a sword with both hands, it is difficult to wield it freely to left and right, so my method is to carry the sword in one hand"; he as well disagrees with the idea of using a sword with two hands on a horse, and/or riding on unstable terrain, such as muddy swamps, rice fields, or within crowds of people.

In order to learn the strategy of Ni-Ten Ichi Ryu, Musashi employs that by training with two long swords, one in each hand, you will be able to overcome the cumbersome nature of using a sword in both hands. Although difficult, Musashi agrees that there are times in which the Longsword must be used with two hands, but if your skill is good enough, you should not need it. The idea of using two long swords is that you are starting with something to which you are unaccustomed, and that you will find difficult, but will adapt to after much use.

After using two long swords proficiently enough, Musashi then states that your mastery of a Longsword, and a "Companion Sword", most likely a wakizashi, will be much increased — "When you become used to wielding the long sword, you will gain the power of the Way and wield the sword well.".

In short, it could be seen that from the excerpts from Go Rin No Sho, the real strategy behind Ni-Ten No Ichi Ryu, is that there is no real iron-clad method, path, or type of weaponry that is specific to the style of Ni-Ten No Ichi Ryu:

You can win with a long weapon, and yet you can also win with a short weapon. In short, the Way of the Ichi school is the spirit of winning, whatever the weapon and whatever its size.

Long sword

The strategy of the long sword is different than other strategies, in that it is much more straightforward. In the strategy of the longsword, it seems that Musashi's ideal was, that by mastering gripping the sword with two fingers, it could become a platform used for moving onto the mastery of Ni-Ten Ichi Ryu, as well as being able to use two broadswords, or more masterfully use a companion sword.

However, just because the grip is to be light, it does not mean that the attack or slash from the sword will be weak. Like with any other technique in the Ni-Ten Ichi Ryu, he notes:

If you try to wield the long knife quickly, you will mistake the Way. To wield the long sword well, you must wield it calmly. If you try to wield it quickly, like a folding fan or a short sword, you will err by using "short sword chopping". You cannot cut a man down with a long sword using this method.

Like with most disciplines in martial arts, Musashi notes that the movement of the sword after the cut is made must not be superfluous; instead of quickly returning to a stance or position, one should allow the sword to come to the end of its path from the force used. In this manner, the technique will become freely flowing, as opposed to abrupt.

Musashi also discouraged the use of only one sword for fighting, and the use of over-large swords like nodachi due to the fact that they were cumbersome and unwieldy.

Religion

Even from a late age, Musashi separated his religion from his involvement in swordsmanship. Excerpts such as the one below, from The Book of Five Rings, demonstrate a philosophy that is thought to have stayed with him throughout his lives:

There are many ways: Confucianism, Buddhism, the ways of elegance, rice-planting, or dance; these things are not to be found in the Way of the Warrior.
[12]

However, the belief that Musashi disliked Shinto is inaccurate, as he criticises the Shintō-ryū style of swordsmanship, and not Shinto, the religion. In Musashi's Dokkodo, his stance on religion is further elucidated: "Respect Buddha and the gods without counting on their help.".[13]

Musashi as an artist

Kingfisher Perched on a Withered Branch, by Musashi

In his later years, Musashi claimed in his Go Rin No Sho that "When I apply the principle of strategy to the ways of different arts and crafts, I no longer have need for a teacher in any domain." He proved this by creating recognized masterpieces of calligraphy and classic ink painting. His paintings are characterized by skilled use of ink washes and an economy of brush stroke. He especially mastered the "broken ink" school of landscapes, applying it to other subjects, such as his Kobokumeikakuzu ("Kingfisher Perched on a Withered Branch"; part of a triptych whose other two members were "Hotei Walking" and "Sparrow on Bamboo"), his Hotei Watching a Cockfight, and his Rozanzu ("Wild Geese Among Reeds").

In popular culture

There have been thirty-six films made about Musashi, including six with the title of Miyamoto Musashi. One of these, released in the English-speaking world as Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto, is the Academy Award–winning film by Hiroshi Inagaki starring Toshirô Mifune. There was a television series about his life. Even in Musashi's time there were fictional texts resembling comic books. It is therefore quite difficult to separate fact from fiction when discussing Musashi. Eiji Yoshikawa's novelization has greatly influenced successive fictional depictions (including the ongoing manga, Vagabond, by Takehiko Inoue, which is directly based on Yoshikawa's novel) and is often mistaken for a factual account of Musashi's life. The character Kyuzo in Seven Samurai by Akira Kurosawa is said (in a documentary accompanying the DVD of the movie) to "resemble" Musashi.

Bibliography

  1. Hyodokyo (The Mirror of the Way of Strategy)
  2. Hyoho Sanjugo Kajo (Thirty-five Instructions on Strategy)
  3. Hyoho Shijuni Kajo (Forty-two Instructions on Strategy)
  4. Dokkodo (The Way to be Followed Alone)
  5. Go Rin No Sho (The Book of Five Rings; a reference to the Five Rings of Zen Buddhism)

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Toyota Masataka. "Niten Ki (A Chronicle of Two Heavens)," in Gorin no Sho, ed. Kamiko Tadashi (Tokyo: Tokuma-shoten, 1963), 239.
  2. ^ Miyamoto Musashi. "Go Rin No Sho," in Gorin no Sho, ed. Kamiko Tadashi (Tokyo: Tokuma-shoten, 1963), 13.
  3. ^ Toyota, p. 239
  4. ^ Miyamoto, p. 18ff.
  5. ^ Miyamoto, 13.
  6. ^ Miyamoto, p. 18ff
  7. ^ Miyamoto, p. 17ff.
  8. ^ a b Kenji Tokitsu (2004). Miyamoto Musashi: His Life and Writings. Shambhala. 
  9. ^ Harris p. 10, Miyamoto p. 16ff. The latter footnote by Kamiko reads "For his entire life, Musashi never took a wife, cut his hair, or entered a bath..."
  10. ^ William Scott Wilson. (2004). The Lone Samurai. Kodansha International. ISBN 4-7700-2942-X. 
  11. ^ Toyota, p. 250
  12. ^ Miyamoto, p. 57.
  13. ^ 獨行道

Further reading

External links


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

It is said the warrior's is the twofold Way of pen and sword, and he should have a taste for both Ways.

Miyamoto Musashi 宮本 武蔵 (c.1584 - 13 June 1645) was a famous Japanese swordsman, believed to have been one of the most skilled swordsmen in history. He founded the Hyoho Niten Ichi-ryu, or Nito Ryu style of swordsmanship and wrote Go Rin No Sho (The Book of Five Rings) a classic work on strategy, tactics, and philosophy.

Contents

Sourced

Go Rin No Sho (1645)

Translated as The Book of Five Rings or A Book of Five Rings

The following synopsis from the first volume, "The Ground Book" (or "The Earth Book") summarizes the subjects of all 5 volumes of the work:

  • The Way is shown in five books concerning different aspects. These are Ground, Water, Fire, Wind, and Void.
    The body of the Way of strategy from the viewpoint of my Ichi school is explained in the Ground book. It is difficult to realise the true Way just through sword-fencing. 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, the first book is called the Ground book.
  • Second is the Water book. With water as the basis, the spirit becomes like water. Water adopts the shape of its receptacle, it is sometimes a trickle and sometimes a wild sea. ... If you master the principles of sword-fencing, when you freely beat one man, you beat any man in the world. The spirit of defeating a man is the same for ten million men. ... The principle of strategy is having one thing, to know ten thousand things.
  • Third is the Fire book. This book is about fighting. The spirit of fire is fierce, whether the fire be small or big; and so it is with battles. The Way of battles is the same for man to man fights and for ten thousand a side battles. You must appreciate that spirit can become big or small. What is big is easy to perceive: what is small is difficult to perceive. In short, it is difficult for large numbers of men to change position, so their movements can be easily predicted. An individual can easily change his mind, so his movements are difficult to predict. You must appreciate this. The essence of this book is that you must train day and night in order to make quick decisions.
  • Fourthly the Wind book. This book is not concerned with my Ichi school but with other schools of strategy. By Wind I mean old traditions, present-day traditions, and family traditions of strategy. Thus I clearly explain the strategies of the world. This is tradition. It is difficult to know yourself if you do not know others. To all Ways there are side-tracks. If you study a Way daily, and your spirit diverges, you may think you are obeying a good way, but objectively it is not the true Way. If you are following the true Way and diverge a little, this will later become a large divergence. You must realise this. Other strategies have come to be thought of as mere sword-fencing, and it is not unreasonable that this should be so. The benefit of my strategy, although it includes sword-fencing, lies in a separate principle. I have explained what is commonly meant by strategy in other schools in the Wind book.
  • Fifthly, the book of the Void. By Void I mean that which has no beginning and no end. Attaining this principle means not attaining the principle. The Way of strategy is the Way of nature. When you appreciate the power of nature, knowing the rhythm of any situation, you will be able to hit the enemy naturally and strike naturally. All this is the Way of the Void. I intend to show how to follow the true Way according to nature in the book of the Void.
I take up my brush to explain the true spirit of this Ichi school as it is mirrored in the Way of heaven and Kwannon.

Introduction

  • I have been many years training in the Way of strategy, called Ni Ten Ichi Ryu, and now I think I will explain it in writing for the first time.
  • I have climbed mountain Iwato of Higo in Kyushu to pay homage to heaven, pray to Kwannon, and kneel before Buddha. I am a warrior of Harima province, Shinmen Musashi No Kami Fujiwara No Genshin, age sixty years.
    From youth my heart has been inclined toward the Way of strategy. My first duel was when I was thirteen, I struck down a strategist of the Shinto school, one Arima Kihei. When I was sixteen I struck down an able strategist Tadashima Akiyama. When I was twenty-one I went up to the capital and met all manner of strategists, never once failing to win in many contests.
  • When I reached thirty I looked back on my past. The previous victories were not due to my having mastered strategy. Perhaps it was natural ability, or the order of heaven, or that other schools' strategy was inferior. After that I studied morning and evening searching for the principle, and came to realise the Way of strategy when I was fifty.
    Since then I have lived without following any particular Way. Thus with the virtue of strategy I practise many arts and abilities — all things with no teacher.
    To write this book I did not use the law of Buddha or the teachings of Confucius, neither old war chronicles nor books on martial tactics. I take up my brush to explain the true spirit of this Ichi school as it is mirrored in the Way of heaven and Kwannon. The time is the night of the tenth day of the tenth month, at the hour of the tiger.

The Ground Book

Also translated as "The Earth Book" Online text
  • Strategy is the craft of the warrior. Commanders must enact the craft, and troopers should know this Way. There is no warrior in the world today who really understands the Way of strategy.
    There are various Ways. There is the Way of salvation by the law of Buddha, the Way of Confucius governing the Way of learning, the Way of healing as a doctor, as a poet teaching the Way of Waka, tea, archery, and many arts and skills. Each man practices as he feels inclined.
From one thing, know ten thousand things.
  • It is said the warrior's is the twofold Way of pen and sword, and he should have a taste for both Ways. Even if a man has no natural ability he can be a warrior by sticking assiduously to both divisions of the Way. Generally speaking, the Way of the warrior is resolute acceptance of death.
    • Variant translation: First, as is often said, a samurai must have both literary and martial skills: to be versed in the two is his duty. Even if he has no natural ability, a samurai must train assiduously in both skills to a degree appropriate to his status. On the whole, if you are to assess the samurai's mind, you may think it is simply attentiveness to the manner of dying.
  • Students of the Ichi school Way of strategy should train from the start with the sword and long sword in either hand. This is the truth: when you sacrifice your life, you must make fullest use of your weaponry. It is false not to do so, and to die with a weapon yet undrawn.
  • There is no fast way of wielding the long sword. The long sword should be wielded broadly, and the companion sword closely. This is the first thing to realise.
    According to this Ichi school, you can win with a long weapon, and yet you can also win with a short weapon. In short, the Way of the Ichi school is the spirit of winning, whatever the weapon and whatever its size.
  • 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.
  • To master the virtue of the long sword is to govern the world and oneself, thus the long sword is the basis of strategy. The principle is "strategy by means of the long sword". If he attains the virtue of the long sword, one man can beat ten men. Just as one man can beat ten, so a hundred men can beat a thousand, and a thousand men can beat ten thousand. In my strategy, one man is the same as ten thousand, so this strategy is the complete warrior's craft.
    The Way of the warrior does not include other Ways, such as Confucianism, Buddhism, certain traditions, artistic accomplishments and dancing. But even though these are not part of the Way, if you know the Way broadly you will see it in everything. Men must polish their particular Way.
  • There is a time and a place for use of weapons.
    The best use of the companion sword is in a confined space, or when you are engaged closely with an opponent. The long sword can be used effectively in all situations.
    The halberd is inferior to the spear on the battlefield. With the spear you can take the initiative; the halberd is defensive. In the hands of one of two men of equal ability, the spear gives a little extra strength. Spear and halberd both have their uses, but neither is very beneficial in confined spaces.
  • If you learn "indoor" techniques, you will think narrowly and forget the true Way. Thus you will have difficulty in actual encounters.
  • Just as a horse must have endurance and no defects, so it is with weapons. Horses should walk strongly, and swords and companion swords should cut strongly. Spears and halberds must stand up to heavy use: bows and guns must be sturdy. Weapons should be hardy rather than decorative.
  • There is timing in everything. Timing in strategy cannot be mastered without a great deal of practice.
  • 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. 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.
  • You win in battles with the timing in the Void born of the timing of cunning by knowing the enemies' timing, and this using a timing which the enemy does not expect.
    All the five books are chiefly concerned with timing. You must train sufficiently to appreciate all this.
Do nothing which is of no use.
  • This is the Way for men who want to learn my strategy:
    Do not think dishonestly.
    The Way is in training.
    Become acquainted with every art.
    Know the Ways of all professions.
    Distinguish between gain and loss in worldly matters.
    Develop intuitive judgment and understanding for everything.
    Perceive those things which cannot be seen.
    Pay attention even to trifles.
    Do nothing which is of no use.
  • If you do not look at things on a large scale it will be difficult for you to master strategy. If you learn and attain this strategy you will never lose even to twenty or thirty enemies. More than anything to start with you must set your heart on strategy and earnestly stick to the Way. You will come to be able to actually beat men in fights, and to be able to win with your eye. Also by training you will be able to freely control your own body, conquer men with your body, and with sufficient training you will be able to beat ten men with your spirit.
Language does not extend to explaining the Way in detail, but it can be grasped intuitively.

The Water Book

Online text
  • Language does not extend to explaining the Way in detail, but it can be grasped intuitively. Study this book; read a word then ponder on it. If you interpret the meaning loosely you will mistake the Way.
  • The principles of strategy are written down here in terms of single combat, but you must think broadly so that you attain an understanding for ten-thousand-a-side battles.
    Strategy is different from other things in that if you mistake the Way even a little you will become bewildered and fall into bad ways.
  • If you merely read this book you will not reach the Way of strategy. Absorb the things written in this book. Do not just read, memorise or imitate, but so that you realise the principle from within your own heart study hard to absorb these things into your body.
  • 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. Meet the situation without tenseness yet not recklessly, your spirit settled yet unbiased. Even when your spirit is calm do not let your body relax, and when your body is relaxed do not let your spirit slacken.
  • Be neither insufficiently spirited nor over spirited. An elevated spirit is weak and a low spirit is weak. Do not let the enemy see your spirit.
  • With your spirit open and unconstricted, look at things from a high point of view. You must cultivate your wisdom and spirit. Polish your wisdom: learn public justice, distinguish between good and evil, study the Ways of different arts one by one. When you cannot be deceived by men you will have realised the wisdom of strategy.
    The wisdom of strategy is different from other things. On the battlefield, even when you are hard-pressed, you should ceaselessly research the principles of strategy so that you can develop a steady spirit.
  • In all forms of strategy, it is necessary to maintain the combat stance in everyday life and to make your everyday stance your combat stance. You must research this well.
  • The gaze should be large and broad. This is the twofold gaze "Perception and Sight". Perception is strong and sight weak.
    In strategy it is important to see distant things as if they were close and to take a distanced view of close things. It is important in strategy to know the enemy's sword and not to be distracted by insignificant movements of his sword. You must study this. The gaze is the same for single combat and for large-scale combat.
  • Grip the long sword with a rather floating feeling in your thumb and forefinger, with the middle finger neither tight nor slack, and with the last two fingers tight. It is bad to have play in your hands.
    When you take up a sword, you must feel intent on cutting the enemy. As you cut an enemy you must not change your grip, and your hands must not "cower". When you dash the enemy's sword aside, or ward it off, or force it down, you must slightly change the feeling in your thumb and forefinger. Above all, you must be intent on cutting the enemy in the way you grip the sword.
Fixedness means a dead hand. Pliability is a living hand. You must bear this in mind.
  • Generally, I dislike fixedness in both long swords and hands. Fixedness means a dead hand. Pliability is a living hand. You must bear this in mind.
  • The five attitudes are: Upper, Middle, Lower, Right Side, and Left Side. These are the five. Although attitude has these five dimensions, the one purpose of all of them is to cut the enemy. There are none but these five attitudes.
    Whatever attitude you are in, do not be conscious of making the attitude; think only of cutting.
  • Knowing the Way of the long sword means we can wield with two fingers the sword that we usually carry. If we know the path of the sword well, we can wield it easily.
    If you try to wield the long sword quickly you will mistake the Way. To wield the long sword well you must wield it calmly. If you try to wield it quickly, like a folding fan or a short sword, you will err by using "short sword chopping". You cannot cut a man with a long sword using this method.
  • "Attitude No-Attitude" means that there is no need for what are known as long sword attitudes.
    Even so, attitudes exist as the five ways of holding the long sword. However you hold the sword it must be in such a way that it is easy to cut the enemy well, in accordance with the situation, the place, and your relation to the enemy.
  • The primary thing when you take a sword in your hands is your intention to cut the enemy, whatever the means. Whenever you parry, hit, spring, strike or touch the enemy's cutting sword, you must cut the enemy in the same movement. It is essential to attain this. If you think only of hitting, springing, striking or touching the enemy, you will not be able actually to cut him.
  • Fixed formation is bad. Study this well.
  • The spirit of the smacking parry is not parrying, or smacking strongly, but smacking the enemy's long sword in accordance with his attacking cut, primarily intent on quickly cutting him. If you understand the timing of smacking, however hard your long swords clash together, your swordpoint will not be knocked back even a little. You must research sufficiently to realise this.
  • "There are many enemies" applies when you are fighting one against many. Draw both sword and companion sword and assume a wide-stretched left and right attitude. The spirit is to chase the enemies around from side to side, even though they come from all four directions. Observe their attacking order, and go to meet first those who attack first. Sweep your eyes around broadly, carefully examining the attacking order, and cut left and right alternately with your swords. Waiting is bad. Always quickly re-assume your attitudes to both sides, cut the enemies down as they advance, crushing them in the direction from which they attack. Whatever you do, you must drive the enemy together, as if tying a line of fishes, and when they are seen to be piled up, cut them down strongly without giving them room to move.
  • You can know how to win through strategy with the long sword, but it cannot be clearly explained in writing. You must practise diligently in order to understand how to win.
  • You can win with certainty with the spirit of "one cut". It is difficult to attain this if you do not learn strategy well. If you train well in this Way, strategy will come from your heart and you will be able to win at will. You must train diligently.
  • Step by step walk the thousand-mile road.
  • Study strategy over the years and achieve the spirit of the warrior. Today is victory over yourself of yesterday; tomorrow is your victory over lesser men. ... Even if you kill an enemy, if it is not based on what you have learned it is not the true Way.
I describe fighting as fire.

The Fire Book

Online text
  • In this the Fire Book of the NiTo Ichi school of strategy I describe fighting as fire.
  • In my strategy, the training for killing enemies is by way of many contests, fighting for survival, discovering the meaning of life and death, learning the Way of the sword, judging the strength of attacks and understanding the Way of the "edge and ridge" of the sword.
  • You cannot profit from small techniques particularly when full armor is worn. My Way of strategy is the sure method to win when fighting for your life one man against five or ten.
Examine your environment.
  • Examine your environment.
  • When the fight comes, always endeavour to chase the enemy around to your left side. Chase him towards awkward places, and try to keep him with his back to awkward places. When the enemy gets into an inconvenient position, do not let him look around, but conscientiously chase him around and pin him down. In houses, chase the enemy into the thresholds, lintels, doors, verandas, pillars, and so on, again not letting him see his situation.
    Always chase the enemy into bad footholds, obstacles at the side, and so on, using the virtues of the place to establish predominant positions from which to fight. You must research and train diligently in this.
  • The Three Methods to Forestall the Enemy
    The first is to forestall him by attacking. This is called Ken No Sen (to set him up).
    Another method is to forestall him as he attacks. This is called Tai No Sen (to wait for the initiative).
    The other method is when you and the enemy attack together. This is called Tai Tai No Sen (to accompany him and forestall him).
    There are no methods of taking the lead other than these three. Because you can win quickly by taking the lead, it is one of the most important things in strategy. There are several things involved in taking the lead. You must make the best of the situation, see through the enemy's spirit so that you grasp his strategy and defeat him. It is impossible to write about this in detail.
  • "To know the times" means to know the enemy's disposition in battle. Is is flourishing or waning? By observing the spirit of the enemy's men and getting the best position, you can work out the enemy's disposition and move your men accordingly.
  • "To tread down the sword" is a principle often used in strategy. First, in large-scale strategy, when the enemy first discharges bows and guns and then attacks, it is difficult for us to attack if we are busy loading powder into our guns or notching our arrows. The spirit is to attack quickly while the enemy is still shooting with bows or guns. The spirit is to win by "treading down" as we receive the enemy's attack.
    In single combat, we cannot get a decisive victory by cutting, with a "tee-dum tee-dum" feeling, in the wake of the enemy's attacking long sword. We must defeat him at the start of his attack, in the spirit of treading him down with the feet, so that he cannot rise again to the attack.
  • "Treading" does not simply mean treading with the feet. Tread with the body, tread with the spirit, and, of course, tread and cut with the long sword. You must achieve the spirit of not allowing the enemy to attack a second time. This is the spirit of forestalling in every sense. Once at the enemy, you should not aspire just to strike him, but to cling after the attack. You must study this deeply.
Everything can collapse. Houses, bodies, and enemies collapse when their rhythm becomes deranged.
  • Everything can collapse. Houses, bodies, and enemies collapse when their rhythm becomes deranged.
    In large-scale strategy, when the enemy starts to collapse you must pursue him without letting the chance go. If you fail to take advantage of your enemies' collapse, they may recover.
  • "To release four hands" is used when you and the enemy are contending with the same spirit, and the issue cannot be decided. Abandon this spirit and win through an alternative resource.
    In large-scale strategy, when there is a "four hands" spirit, do not give up - it is man's existence. Immediately throw away this spirit and win with a technique the enemy does not expect.
  • "To move the shade" is used when you cannot see the enemy's spirit.
    In large-scale strategy, when you cannot see the enemy's position, indicate that you are about to attack strongly, to discover his resources. It is easy then to defeat hin with a different method once you see his resources.
  • Many things are said to be passed on. Sleepiness can be passed on, and yawning can be passed on. Time can be passed on also.
    In large-scale strategy, when the enemy is agitated and shows an inclination to rush, do not mind in the least. Make a show of complete calmness, and the enemy will be taken by this and will become relaxed. When you see that this spirit has been passed on, you can bring about the enemy's defeat by attacking strongly with a Void spirit.
  • Many things can cause a loss of balance. One cause is danger, another is hardship, and another is surprise. You must research this.
    In large-scale strategy it is important to cause loss of balance. Attack without warning where the enemy is not expecting it, and while his spirit is undecided follow up your advantage and, having the lead, defeat him.
  • In large-scale strategy you can frighten the enemy not by what you present to their eyes, but by shouting, making a small force seem large, or by threatening them from the flank without warning. These things all frighten. You can win by making best use of the enemy's frightened rhythm.
  • When you have come to grips and are striving together with the enemy, and you realise that you cannot advance, you "soak in" and become one with the enemy. You can win by applying a suitable technique while you are mutually entangled.
    In battles involving large numbers as well as in fights with small numbers, you can often win decisively with the advantage of knowing how to "soak" into the enemy, whereas, were you to draw apart, you would lose the chance to win. Research this well.
  • In large-scale strategy, it is beneficial to strike at the corners of the enemy's force, If the corners are overthrown, the spirit of the whole body will be overthrown.
  • In single combat, we can confuse the enemy by attacking with varied techniques when the chance arises. Feint a thrust or cut, or make the enemy think you are going close to him, and when he is confused you can easily win.
    This is the essence of fighting, and you must research it deeply.
  • The three shouts are divided thus: before, during and after. Shout according to the situation. The voice is a thing of life. We shout against fires and so on, against the wind and the waves. The voice shows energy.
  • In battles, when the armies are in confrontation, attack the enemy's strong points and, when you see that they are beaten back, quickly separate and attack yet another strong point on the periphery of his force. The spirit of this is like a winding mountain path.
    This is an important fighting method for one man against many. Strike down the enemies in one quarter, or drive them back, then grasp the timing and attack further strong points to right and left, as if on a winding mountain path, weighing up the enemies' disposition. When you know the enemies' level, attack strongly with no trace of retreating spirit.
  • What is meant by 'mingling' is the spirit of advancing and becoming engaged with the enemy, and not withdrawing even one step. You must understand this.
  • In large-scale strategy, when we see that the enemy has few men, or if he has many men but his spirit is weak and disordered, we knock the hat over his eyes, crushing him utterly. If we crush lightly, he may recover.
  • The "mountain-sea" spirit means that it is bad to repeat the same thing several times when fighting the enemy. There may be no help but to do something twice, but do not try it a third time. If you once make an attack and fail, there is little chance of success if you use the same approach again.
  • When we are fighting with the enemy, even when it can be seen that we can win on the surface with the benefit of the Way, if his spirit is not extinguished, he may be beaten superficially yet undefeated in spirit deep inside. With this principle of "penetrating the depths" we can destroy the enemy's spirit in its depths, demoralizing him by quickly changing our spirit. This often occurs.
    Penetrating the depths means penetrating with the long sword, penetrating with the body, and penetrating with the spirit. This cannot be understood in a generalization.
    Once we have crushed the enemy in the depths, there is no need to remain spirited. But otherwise we must remain spirited. If the enemy remains spirited it is difficult to crush him.
  • "To renew" applies when we are fighting with the enemy, and an entangled spirit arises where there is no possible resolution. We must abandon our efforts, think of the situation in a fresh spirit then win in the new rhythm. To renew, when we are deadlocked with the enemy, means that without changing our circumstance we change our spirit and win through a different technique.
  • There are various kinds of spirit involved in letting go the hilt.
    There is the spirit of winning without a sword. There is also the spirit of holding the long sword but not winning. The various methods cannot be expressed in writing.
    You must train well.
  • When you have mastered the Way of strategy you can suddenly make your body like a rock, and ten thousand things cannot touch you. This is the body of a rock.
    You will not be moved.
  • This book is a spiritual guide for the man who wishes to learn the Way.
    My heart has been inclined to the Way of strategy from my youth onwards. I have devoted myself to training my hand, tempering my body, and attaining the many spiritual attitudes of sword fencing. If we watch men of other schools discussing theory, and concentrating on techniques with the hands, even though they seem skilful to watch, they have not the slightest true spirit.
    Of course, men who study in this way think they are training the body and spirit, but it is an obstacle to the true Way, and its bad influence remains for ever.
  • The true Way of sword fencing is the craft of defeating the enemy in a fight, and nothing other than this.
In my doctrine, I dislike preconceived, narrow spirit. You must study this well.

The Wind Book

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  • In strategy you must know the Ways of other schools, so I have written about various other traditions of strategy in this the Wind Book.
  • Some of the world's strategists are concerned only with sword fencing, and limit their training to flourishing the long sword and carriage of the body. But is dexterity alone sufficient to win? This is not the essence of the Way.
    I have recorded the unsatisfactory points of other schools one by one in this book.
  • Some other schools have a liking for extra-long swords. From the point of view of my strategy these must be seen as weak schools. This is because they do not appreciate the principle of cutting the enemy by any means. Their preference is for the extra-long sword and, relying on the virtue of its length, they think to defeat the enemy from a distance.
    In this world it is said, "One inch gives the hand advantage", but these are the idle words of one who does not know strategy. It shows the inferior strategy of a weak sprit that men should be dependant on the length of their sword, fighting from a distance without the benefit of strategy.
  • It is difficult for these people to cut the enemy when at close quarters because of the length of the long sword. The blade path is large so the long sword is an encumbrance, and they are at a disadvantage compared to the man armed with a short companion sword.
    From olden times it has been said: "Great and small go together." So do not unconditionally dislike extra-long swords. What I dislike is the inclination towards the long sword. If we consider large-scale strategy, we can think of large forces in terms of long swords, and small forces as short swords. Cannot few men give battle against many? There are many instances of few men overcoming many.
  • Your strategy is of no account if when called on to fight in a confined space your heart is inclined to the long sword, or if you are in a house armed only with your companion sword. Besides, some men have not the strength of others.
    In my doctrine, I dislike preconceived, narrow spirit. You must study this well.
  • Whenever you cross swords with an enemy you must not think of cutting him either strongly or weakly; just think of cutting and killing him. Be intent solely on killing the enemy. Do not try to cut strongly and, of course, do not think of cutting weakly. You should only be concerned with killing the enemy.
  • If you rely on strength, when you hit the enemy's sword you will inevitably hit too hard. If you do this, your own sword will be carried along as a result. Thus the saying, "The strongest hand wins", has no meaning.
    In large-scale strategy, if you have a strong army and are relying on strength to win, but the enemy also has a strong army, the battle will be fierce. This is the same for both sides.
    Without the correct principle the fight cannot be won.
    The spirit of my school is to win through the wisdom of strategy, paying no attention to trifles. Study this well.
  • Some men use a shorter long sword with the intention of jumping in and stabbing the enemy at the unguarded moment when he flourishes his sword. This inclination is bad.
    To aim for the enemy's unguarded moment is completely defensive, and undesirable at close quarters with the enemy.
    Furthermore, you cannot use the method of jumping inside his defense with a short sword if there are many enemies. Some men think that if they go against many enemies with a shorter long sword they can unrestrictedly frisk around cutting in sweeps, but they have to parry cuts continuously, and eventually become entangled with the enemy. This is inconsistent with the true Way of strategy.
    The sure Way to win thus is to chase the enemy around in a confusing manner, causing him to jump aside, with your body held strongly and straight.
  • Speed is not part of the true Way of strategy. Speed implies that things seem fast or slow, according to whether or not they are in rhythm. Whatever the Way, the master of strategy does not appear fast.
  • Really skilful people never get out of time, and are always deliberate, and never appear busy. From this example, the principle can be seen.
  • When your opponent is hurrying recklessly, you must act contrarily and keep calm. You must not be influenced by the opponent. Train diligently to attain this spirit.
When your spirit is not in the least clouded, when the clouds of bewilderment clear away, there is the true void.

The Book No-Thing-ness

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  • The Ni To Ichi Way of strategy is recorded in this the Book of the Void.
  • What is called the spirit of the void is where there is nothing. It is not included in man's knowledge. Of course the void is nothingness. By knowing things that exist, you can know that which does not exist. That is the void.
  • People in this world look at things mistakenly, and think that what they do not understand must be the void. This is not the true void. It is bewilderment.
  • To attain the Way of strategy as a warrior you must study fully other martial arts and not deviate even a little from the Way of the warrior. With your spirit settled, accumulate practice day by day, and hour by hour. Polish the twofold spirit heart and mind, and sharpen the twofold gaze perception and sight. When your spirit is not in the least clouded, when the clouds of bewilderment clear away, there is the true void.
  • Until you realise the true Way, whether in Buddhism or in common sense, you may think that things are correct and in order. However, if we look at things objectively, from the viewpoint of laws of the world, we see various doctrines departing from the true Way. Know well this spirit, and with forthrightness as the foundation and the true spirit as the Way. Enact strategy broadly, correctly and openly.
    Then you will come to think of things in a wide sense and, taking the void as the Way, you will see the Way as void.
    In the void is virtue, and no evil.
    Wisdom has existence, principle has existence, the Way has existence, spirit is nothingness.

Dokkodo

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  • Think lightly of yourself and think deeply of the world.
  • Respect the gods, without relying on their help.
  • You can abandon your own body, but never let go of your honor.

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