Monday, April 2, 2018

Thoughts on the Ground Book of Masashi's The Book of 5 Rings

For some time I have been thinking about the relationship of Musashi’s book “The Book of Five Rings” interpreted for general karate (Not style specific). So I used Bing to find a version at I know there are many other translations ( and I believe I still have some somewhere ) but this is a good a starting place as anywhere. I have but added a few thoughts at this time.


First a description of the book from Musashi.



The Book of Five Rings

Miyamoto, Musashi


Published: 1644


Chapter  1




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.



Outline of the Five Books of this Book of Strategy

The  Way  is shown as five  books  concerning different aspects.  These are  Ground, Water,   Fire,  Wind   (tradition), and   Void  (the  illusionary nature of worldly things)


The body of the Way of Strategy from the viewpoint of my Ichi school is explained in the Ground book. It is difficult  to realize  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. Water has a clear blue  color.  By the clarity, things of Ichi school  are  shown in this  book.  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 mil- lion men.  The strategist makes  mall  things  into big things,  like building a great  Buddha from  a one foot model. I cannot  rite  in detail  how  this is done.  The principle of strategy is having one thing, to know  ten thou- sand  things.  Things  f Ichi school are written in this the Water book.


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  move- ments  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. In strategy it is necessary to treat training as part of normal life with your spirit unchanging. Thus  combat in battle  is de- scribed  in the Fire book.


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 fol- lowing the true way and diverge a little, this will later become a large divergence.  You  ust   realize   this.   Other   trategies 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 Tradition (Wind)  book.


Fifthly, the book of the Void. By void I mean  that  which  has no begin- ning  and  no end.  Attaining this principle means not  attaining the  prin- ciple. The Way of strategy is the Way of nature. When you appreciate the power of nature, knowing 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.


The Name Ichi Ryu Ni To (One school - two swords)



Warriors, both  commanders and  troopers, carry  two  swords at  their belt.  In  olden  times  these  were  called  the  long  sword and  the  sword; nowadays they are known as the sword and  the companion sword. Let it suffice to say that in our land,  whatever the reason, a warrior carries  two swords at his belt. It is the Way of the warrior.


"Nito Ichi Ryu" shows  the advantages of using  both swords.


The spear  and  the halberd are weapons which  are carried out of doors. Students of the  Ichi school  Way  of Strategy  should train  from  the  start with  the sword and  the long sword in either  hand. This is a 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.


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. This does not apply to large weapons such as the spear  or halberd, but swords and companion swords can be carried in one hand. It is encumbering to hold a sword in both hands when you are on horseback, when running on un- even roads,  on swampy ground, muddy rice fields, stony  ground, or in a crowd of people. To hold  the  long  sword in both  hands is not  the  true Way, for if you carry  a bow or spear  or other  arms  in your  left hand you have only one hand free for the long sword. However, when it is difficult to cut an enemy  down with  one hand, you must  use both hands. It is not difficult  to wield  a sword in one  hand;  the  Way  to learn  this  is to train with  two long swords, one in each hand. It will seem difficult  at first, but everything is difficult  at  first.  Bows  are  difficult  to  draw, halberds are difficult  to  wield;  as you  become  accustomed to  the  bow  so your  pull will  become   stronger. When   you  become   used   to  wielding the  long sword, you will gain the power of the Way and wield  the sword well.



As I will explain  in the  second book,  the  Water  Book, 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 realize.


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.


It is better  to use two  swords rather than  one when you  are fighting a crowd, and especially if you want  to take a prisoner.


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.



“I am reminded how karate kata, using Chinto as an example, involve using both hands (and arms) at the same time. Some similarity to wielding two weapons at the same time for sure.”



The Benefit of the Two Characters Reading "Strategy"



Masters of the long sword are called  strategists. As for the other  military arts, those  who  master the bow  are called  archers, those  who  master the  spear   are  called  spearmen, those  who  master the  gun  are  called marksmen, those  who  master the halberd are called  halberdiers. But we do not call masters of the Way of the long  sword "longswordsmen", nor do  we  speak  of "companion swordsmen". Because  bows,  guns,  spears and   halberds  are  all  warriors'  equipment  they   are  certainly  part   of strategy. 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 hun- dred 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.


The  Way  of the  warrior does  not  include other  Ways,  such  as  Con- fucianism, 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  partic- ular Way.



The Benefit of Weapons in Strategy


There is a time and 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 con- fined  spaces.  They cannot  be used  for taking  a prisoner. They are essen- tially weapons for the field.


Anyway, if you  learn  "indoor"  techniques, you  will  think  narrowly and   forget   the   true   Way.   Thus   you   will   have   difficulty  in  actual encounters.


The bow  is tactically  strong at the commencement of battle,  especially battles   on  a  moor,  as  it  is  possible to  shoot  quickly   from  among the spearmen. However, it is unsatisfactory in sieges,  or when the enemy  is more  than  forty yards away.  For this reason there  are nowadays few tra- ditional schools  of archery. There  is little  use nowadays for this  kind  of skill.


From  inside  fortifications, the gun  has no equal  among weapons. It is the supreme weapon on the field before the ranks  clash, but once swords are crossed  the gun becomes  useless.  One of the virtues of the bow is that you  can  see  the  arrows in  flight  and   correct   your   aim  accordingly, whereas gunshot cannot  be seen. You must  appreciate the importance of this.

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.


You  should not  have  a  favorite weapon. To  become  over-familiar with  one  weapon is as much  a fault  as not  knowing it sufficiently well. You  should not  copy  others,  but  use  weapons which  you  can  handle properly. It is bad  for commanders and  troopers to have  likes  and  dis- likes. These are things  you must  learn thoroughly.


Timing in Strategy


There  is timing in everything. Timing  in strategy cannot  be mastered without a great deal of practice.


Timing  is important in dancing and  pipe  or string  music,  for they  are in rhythm only if timing is good. Timing  and rhythm are also involved in the military arts, shooting bows  and  guns,  and  riding horses.  In all skills and abilities  there  is timing. There is also timing in the Void.


There is timing in the whole  life of the warrior, in his thriving and  de- clining,  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 vari- ous  timing considerations. From  the  outset you  must  know  the  applic- able 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 tim- ing, otherwise your  strategy will become uncertain.


You win battles  with  the timing in the Void born  of the timing of cun- ning  by knowing the enemies' timing, and  thus  using  a timing which  the enemy  does not expect.


“ Timing in our karate is also a key principle. More to consider these words.”

       All the five books  are  chiefly  concerned with  timing. You must  train sufficiently to appreciate this.


If you practice  day  and  night  in the  above  Ichi school  strategy, your spirit  will naturally broaden. Thus is large scale strategy and  the strategy of hand to hand combat  propagated in the world. This is recorded for the first time in the five books of Ground, Water,  Fire, Tradition (Wind),  and Void. This is the way for men who want to learn my strategy:


1. Do not think dishonestly.

2. The Way is in training.

3. Become acquainted with every art.

4. Know the Ways of all professions.

5. Distinguish between gain and loss in worldly matters.

6. Develop intuitive judgment and understanding for everything.

7. Perceive those things which cannot be seen.

8. Pay attention even to trifles.

9. Do nothing which is of no use.



It is important to start by setting these broad principles in your heart, and train in the Way of Strategy. 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.


 When   you   have   reached this   point,   will it not  mean   that   you   are invincible?



Moreover, in large  scale  strategy the superior man  will  manage many subordinates dexterously, bear  himself  correctly, govern the country and foster  the  people, thus preserving the  ruler's discipline. If there is a Way involving the spirit of not being defeated, to help oneself and gain honor, it is the Way of strategy.




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