Sunday, September 27, 2009

More from "The Sword & The Mind"

More from “The Sword & The Mind” written by Yagyu Munenori

Page 67

Three Types of Beat

You and your opponent striking each other simultaneously – that is one kind of beat.
Striking the opponent from below as he raises his word – that is another.
Striking the opponent from above as he lowers his sword – that is still another.

We consider being in tune bad, being out of tune good. When you and your opponent are in tune with each other, he can use his sword better; when you are not, he can’t. You must strike in such a way as to make it hard for your opponent to use his sword well. From below or from above, you must strike without keeping time with your opponent. In most cases, allowing yourself to be in tune with your opponent is no good.

Slow Beat versus Quick Beat;
Quick Beat versus Slow Beat

If the opponent moves his sword in slow beat, you must move yours in quick beat.
If the opponent uses quick beat, you must move your sword in slow beat.
Hear again, you must use your sword so that you will be out of tune with your opponent. If you allow yourself to be in tune, the opponent will be able to use his sword well.

An accomplished No chanter chanter off beat, so that an inexpert drummer cannot play the drum well as accompaniment. If an accomplished chanter is coupled with an inexpert drummer, or an accomplished drummer with an inexpert chanter, it should be difficult to chant or play the drum. When the same is done in a sword fight, it is called the art of slow beat versus quick beat, quick beat versus slow beat.

When an unaccomplished chanter chants slowly, an accomplished drummer will not be able to play the drum quickly, however lighthearted he may try to be. Again, when an accomplished chanter chants lightheartedly, an unaccomplished drummer will be left behind, unable to play the drum.

An accomplished bird-spearer shows th ebird his spear from a good distance, making it sway gently, and when close, quickly slides up to the bird and catches it. The bird, enchanted by the swaying rhythm from the spear, flutters and flutters his wings, trying to fly away, but unable to do so, ends up caught. The point is to stay out of tune with your opponent. Out of tune, you can step in. You must contemplate even things like these.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

from The Sword and the Mind

The study of karate takes place on the dojo floor, or the spot outside where true training occurs. Karate does not have a vast tradition of sharing the strategy and tactics to make the training work in conditions extremis. For the most part it probably consists of oral tradition shared between instructor and student, and tactics studied on the dojo floor.

With the exception of the Bubishi (which is of Chinese origin) and a small selection of various instructors concepts, there is not consistent body of knowledge to consult.

Allow me to quote from “The Sword & The Mind” written by Yagyu Munenori translated by Hiroaki Sato, Published by Overlok Press in 1985.

A brilliant collection of Japanese sword lore, on the tactics involved. While written for the sword, the principles apply to all confrontation.

Consider in all things there is a first move, an opening. Or the passage that follows beginning from page 68 in the aforementioned work.

Understanding the Startup Rhythm”.

In dancing or in chanting, if the performer doesn’t know the startup rhythm, accompanying him will be impossible. In swordmanship, too, there is something like a startup rhythm. You must correctly grasp how your opponent may use his sword and what tactics he may employ in order to see his ultimate intention. When you do, you are like a ‘No’ dancer or chanter who is well acquainted with the startup rhythm. Once you know your opponent’s moves and behavior well, you can work on him freely.

Six Approaches

1. Strike back as the opponent strikes.

2. A difference of three inches.
[Mitsuyoshi; “When two combatants face each other with swords crossed, the victory is said to be with the one who manages to move his sword forward thre inches ahead of the other.”] {victor smith – this does resemble the technique of Motobu Chokoi. Watch the following video at exactly 3:50 you’ll see the crossed arms before a contest, straight out of Motobu’s own book.)]

3. Steal within a distance equal to the opponent’s height.

4. Mark the opponent’s elbows when he olds his sword in the upper position.

5. When a ‘wheeling’ moves is employed, mark that part of the sword grip between the two fists holding it.

6. A distance of three feet. [Mitsuyoshi: “You must concentrate on moving close to your opponent so that the distance between the tip of your forward foot and that of his is three feet or less……If it is further thatn three feet, you won’t be able to strike your opponent with your sword."]

These six approaches must be learned and explained orally in actual exercises with oyour master. So they are not detailed in writing.

If despite your initial feints and double-dealing, your opponent remains unalarmed and sticks to his waiting stance without making the first assault, you must steal within the three-foot distance, and move close to your opponent. When, when he cannot contain himself any longer but takes an attack stance, allow him to make the first strike, and while he is doing so strike him. Unless your opponent strikes first, you will not be able to win. And unless you learn not to receive a hit when your opponent strikes, you cannot allow him to strike at you. You must train hard to master these things so that you may fearlessly move close to your opponent, have him strike at you, and win. This is the attitude known as sen-sen (initiative above all).

Four Other Approaches

1. Taikyoku, or “great deception,” [Mitsuyoshi explains that kyoku, deception, is a technique of winning that lures the opponent to strike frist by showing an apparent weakness.] along with “initial’ moves’. To be orally transmitted.

2. Zanshin, or “maintaining presence of mind at all times.” Applicable in both ken and tai stances. [ken – attack stance, tai – waiting stance] To be orally transmitted.

3. Dodging the short sword by a foot and five inches. [a “foot and five inches” refers to the width of the shoulders but the meaning of the phrase is not clear.]

4. Ken-Tai in taking an initiative. Remember to hold your body in an attack position, your sword in a waiting position.

Not one of these can be mastered without having it explained in actual exercises with our master. These approaches are difficult to explain in writing.


Yagyu Munenori lived from 1571 to 1646. These words to back over 300 years but they remain relevant in today’s studies. I have experienced them on the floor with my own instructors and agree they must be lived not read. Still they point towards an important level in our arts.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Instructor III

It was in 1985 I started thinking seriously about what it should take to develop an instructor.

I was about 10 years into my own study and had to move from Scranton, Pa. to Derry, NH for work. The prior 6 years I had continued my own training, developed a program at the Scranton Boys Club and brought students to Sho-dan in my program. I had both competed and in turn ran a number of successful youth karate tournaments. I also trained as hard as I could with different friends in many arts.

Almost immediately moving to Derry, I restarted my program at the Derry Boys and Girls Club. Beginning anew I made some structural program changes to the program, using some of the additional experiences I had acquired from my friends, not to create a new system, but a new way to approach developing Isshinryu karate-ka.

It was at that time I started thinking about what should be required in developing an instructor. I had read of the JKA’s International Instructor school training, but there were no details and I’m sure I had a very idealized version in my head. I understood it involved more than just the study of karate and came to think of it as subsidiary training and knowledge to scope the development of karate training.

One does not sit down and develop an instructor training program, such a program should obviously be the product of many instructors and disciplines, as well as many decades of study. What I did though, was look at the library I had begun to acquire and wonder what would make sense to pull together to provide as study and work material for an instructor trainee.

My wife, Maureen, assisted and together we pulled together a wide range of material, including anatomy, physiology, history, etc. The end result was a very thick volume and with the assistance of a friend was reproduced and bound, and shared with my friends.

Everyone agreed it was a valuable effort of material useful in instructor development.

Today I cannot find my copy, I know I have one somewhere, but I have accumulated too much and no idea where it may be. I’ve contacted several of those I gave copies too, but alas, they likewise no longer posses it, or can find it.

There are important lessons there. Books alone do not make an instructor. I had no need of my copy because I had all of the source material at hand, to use when I need it.

If a training program had been developed with the book then it may have retained a purpose. But that wasn’t my intent at that time.

Of course this was before I knew of the historical antecedent of the karate instructor’s manual, the Bubishi, which is a text on medical matters, anatomy, strategy, technique, etc.

A valiant effort for 10 years training, but there were many lessons to come.

Technical note: This was written listening to the Velvet Undgerground ‘Heroin’.