Most of the scrolls of the Ways are at least 80 per cent technical, and the theoretical presentation – such as it is – is overwhelmingly in terms of Zen. There are some other influences, for example from Shingon Buddhism and from Taoism, especially in the jujutsu schools in the eighteenth century the Confucian element shows itself more and more strongly. In the eclectic Japanese manner, these various traditions are mingled and not felt to contradict each other on essential points. It must be remembered that in general the traditions themselves were tolerant $ the Zen priest Takuan, for example, approved of the Confucian ideal for men in the world.
The Ways also were not regarded as necessarily distinct. A teacher of the Jigenryu school of the sword, which derived from (or was transmitted by) a Zen master, Zenkichi, at the end of the sixteenth century, taught etiquette, archery, horsemanship, the spear, the dagger, poetry and the tea ceremony. One of the earliest of the Ways was shooting from horseback, which dates as a specially studied art from the end of the fourteenth century. Fencing goes back to the middle of the fifteenth century, and jujutsu to the sixteenth.
It is interesting that the Ways of spear and of bow, in which the technical element is relatively simple and not capable of much development in the way of ‘secret tricks’, show the psychological side of the training most clearly in their scrolls.
The most fundamental Way, however, was taken to be fencing, and this was specially closely connected with Zen. Seki-un, founder of one early school, took twelve or thirteen koans under Zen master Kohaku, and it transformed his fencing. Another fencing school based its ideas on the Zen instruction given to the founder Yagyu by priest Taku an early in the seventeenth century. Two of his letters to fencing teachers have been translated by D. T. Suzuki in his Zen and Japanese Culture (Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1973); the main points appear in the extracts already given here from the Heihokadensho classic, which was written by Yagyu.
In time, attempts were made to formulate a philosophy of the Ways independent of what some felt to be the other-worldliness of Zen. One such was a book published in 1730 called ‘Tengugeijutsu- ron’, which is a discourse on the inner side of the Ways put into the mouths of mountain spirits seen in a vision. The philosophy is the usual cheerful mixture, so that in this text one and the same word may have various meanings, according to which tradition was uppermost in the author’s mind at the moment, and a single thing may be referred to by quite different terms. For instance, the changes of the seasons are said to be the Way of Heaven, to be changes in the universal ki, to be alternations of yin and yang, manifestations of the heavenly principle, or finally transformations of the heart. To a Japanese thinker of the time these formulations would not have been felt as necessarily contradictory; they might all be true on different levels.
The author’s name was Tamba, but he wrrote under the pen-name Chissai; he seems to have been an official who had a deep interest in the Ways, among which he classed academic learning, remarking that control of ki gives a new life to scholarship. He instances an experienced swimmer plunging into a flood, a boatman standing on the gunwale, a wood-cutter with his heavy load coming down a narrow mountain path, a tiler perched on the castle roof, as examples of masters of technique. If their hearts however are boiling with thoughts of gain and loss, or dull and apathetic, they are not on a Way, whereas if they are empty and bright, these men receive inspiration not only in their own craft but in other activities of life.
He approves of the Zen indifference to death, but rejects what he sees as another characteristic of Zen, namely indifference to the world and a certain carelessness as to what may happen.
Many of the Ways had developed technically in the peaceful seventeenth century, and to understand some of his points it is necessary to know that the teaching and practice was mostly in set forms. Some schools of jujutsu had a ‘formal technique’ (kata) of up to 150 attacks and defences, which were practised in a set order by agreement between the two partners. Some teachers believed that these ‘forms’ exhausted the possibilities of what could happen, and when mastered they would provide an automatic and appropriate reaction. The present work strongly contests this view, which the author compares to mastering the openings in Go, or the mating combinations in chess (some hundreds of them, incidentally). He emphasizes an inspired flexible adaptation, creating something new transcending the traditional standard forms, and he condemns reliance on set forms, especially on certain secret moves which each school devised and then jealously guarded. For this reason I have avoided the word ‘reaction’, which has an association with automatic reflex action, the very thing which is so strongly rejected. This kind of automatic reaction takes place when the heart is full of other thoughts, and it is mechanical and predictable and hence can be used by the opponent to establish control over the other body as well as over his own. The ‘wonderful adaptation’ of the Ways, which I have translated mostly as ‘inspiration’, is creative, not determined by an opponent’s movement though adapted to it, and it arises from vacuity and brightness in the heart.
A noteworthy feature of the Tengugeijutsuron, which must derive from someone very experienced in a number of the arts, is the description of how an expert in technique can be rushed by an untrained man who is vigorous and carefree. This is something which ought not to happen, but which does happen, and it is vividly depicted in this text. It is also explained that if the technical expert can prevent his heart and ki-energy from being overborne by this sort of onrush, his victory is generally very complete.
The thought of Tengugeijutsuron is not systematically developed, and there are many repetitions of the same point. About half the work is translated here, and I believe all the main points are covered. Where there is an allusion which would be telling to a Japanese but would require considerable explanation for a Westerner, I have left it out. There are a few directions on the cultivation of ki by static visualizations, but the teachers of the Ways are in general rather against this kind of practice. They believe that after the very first attempts at tanden concentration, ki should be cultivated by simple movements, directed at a human end which is also a clear illustration of the inner process. Polishing, washing, cleaning, sweeping – anything where the true nature of a thing gradually appears during the process, are the best physical correlates to Zen training and cultivation of ki.
From Book One
Man is an animate being; if he does not move towards good, he will infallibly move towards bad. If this thought does not come up here, then that thought will come up there. Something which changes in many ways and all the time is the heart of man. To have a realization of the true nature of that heart and be in direct accord with the divine principle in its own nature cannot be done without a deep-seated determination to practise the arts of the heart and mature them. And so the sages taught their young samurai pupils at first mainly the six arts, to make them heroes, and from this training roused the search into the heart of the Great Way. When one has practised the six arts from childhood, he becomes master of himself and avoids vulgar talk; cheap amusements do not sully his heart, nor do negligence, prejudice, injustice or luxury endanger him. Outwardly, his sinews and bones are well-knit and he does not fall sick, and inwardly his character is of service to the country and he earns his salary. All of which is a help in the Great Way when the time comes to practise the arts of the heart. So none of the arts is to be despised as of no account, but nor should one mistake an art for the Way.
The sword is to cut, the spear to thrust – what else? Formal technique conforms to the ki, and the ki conforms to the heart; when the heart does not waver the ki does not either, and when the heart is made even and with nothing in it, ki too is harmonious and conforms to it. Then the technique is naturally appropriate.
But if there is something in the heart, ki tenses and hand and feet do not move as they should. When the heart dwells on some technique, the ki is checked and loses its softness. If one sets one’s heart on forcing things, it makes no impression and it is a weakness: when one rouses the will to take control, it is like blowing on a fire when the fuel runs out. When ki takes the lead, it dries up; when it stays still, it freezes up.
If one thinks of concentrating on defending oneself and waiting, what they call playing for time, one inevitably stiffens up and cannot move a step, whereas the enemy can do what he likes. If one has a wrong idea of the ‘waiting-in-action’ and ‘action-in-waiting’ phrases, one’s consciousness gets full of them and it is a great disadvantage.
There are many who plan to protect themselves by skilfully adapting (to enemy attacks), but when they come up against a totally unskilled but vigorous opponent, they are thrown entirely on the defensive and cannot make any counter-attack. This is all because they rely on conscious will. That unskilled man does not make any of the proper reactions; he has no idea of clever defences. With instinctive vigour and no nerves, thinking of men as no more than insects and without feeling he has to force things, he does not freeze or hold back, does not wait or hesitate. He has no doubts and no cleverness, just meets things as they are without thinking about them. Neither his mind nor his ki get caught up. From the point of view of ki, he must be ranked higher than some who are famous as experts in attack-and-defence.
Still, one cannot make him an ideal. Though he conies on like a rushing flood, without any check, this is a blind mushin, entrusting itself to the ki of the blood. The art of the sword ought to be inspiration in heart and body, without formal technique in its operation and without leaving any trace of its coming. When there is formal technique, when there is manifest form, there is no inspiration. Passing over into thinking even a little, ki assumes a particular form, and the enemy has a form at wdiich to strike. When the heart has nothing in it, ki is harmonious and even. When ki is harmonious and even, in that living flow there is no settled technique. Without trying for strength, there is a natural strength, and the heart is like ‘the bright mirror of still water’. With will or thought ruffling it even a little, the spiritual clarity becomes darkened, and cannot set itself free.
It is obvious that sword is to cut and spear to thrust, but to stop at saying that is to incline too much to the ri and neglect the ji. For a cut, there is a technique of cutting; for a thrust, there is a technique of thrusting. If one does not know how to apply the technique, one’s handling of the things will be unbalanced. Though the heart may be strong, if the formal technique is wrong, the shot goes wild, and with ri alone apart from ji, one does not get the result one is supposed to get. My teacher used to call it ‘clumsy grasp and vague speech’.
Even though his heart is ‘illumined’, to put a Zen priest as a general in charge of an attack could hardly be successful. Though his heart is not clouded with a mass of delusions, there is nothing he can do since he has not got the technique of how to go about it. Anyone knows enough to draw a bow and shoot, but if he has not trained in archery, real technique is lacking. If one carelessly draws and shoots, it wdll neither hit the target nor be able to pierce.
The will has to be right and the form correct, the ki filling and vivifying the whole body, without going against the nature of the bow. Bow and self become one. The spirit as it were fills heaven and earth; when the draw is full, spirit is composed and thought still, and the release is mushin, without thinking. After the shot, only the original ‘I’; having shot, quietly the bow is set down. This is how to practise the Way of the bow, and if it is done in this way the arrow will fly well and will pierce. Though bow and arrow are things of wood, when my spirit becomes one with them it is as if there was a spirit in the bow showing his power. This is not to be attained by conscious devices; one must already have a knowledge about the principle of ri, but unless there has been repeated practice of penetrating into the heart and mastering the technique the wonder of it cannot be had. If the will is not right within and the body not straight without, if the bones and sinews are not firmly knit, if the ki does not fill the body, one cannot by forcibly drawing the bow get a lasting grasp of any real technique. When spirit is not composed, nor ki lively, one cannot come to this Way by devices of one’s individual will. When the bow is gripped and the string drawn by a forceful action, it goes against the nature of the bow, and bow and self are two antagonists. The spirit does not pervade it, and on the contrary its strength is blocked and its power lost, so that the arrow will not fly far nor penetrate.
. . . Even in everyday things, if there is no spirit of service, things do not go well. To go against the nature of the material is to oppose the natural feeling for it, and when one is separate and not in harmony with it, one is fighting against it. When the spirit is not calm there are many doubts and nothing gets settled; when thought is agitated, there is no inner peace and many mistakes are made.
What my teacher used to call ‘bare energy’ is called in some of the schools ‘crushing’, and it is a little different from the martial arts. It means to have no method at all, to overwhelm the enemy with a rush of energy, not avoiding strong points nor looking for weak ones, simply going straight for him and cutting him down, like a rock falling on him. But the man who does this does not have any method; he trusts to his instinctive vigour, and if he meets an expert in technique he gets completely trapped. Things are always uncertain, if one does not know the good and bad points of the standard forms. So there has to be training in these forms, awareness of defence and so on. And then, with ki not stiffened nor cramped, life and death forgotten, going forward with no hesitation, crush with the ki, crush with the heart. Both together. Unless heart and ki are one, he cannot be crushed. This is the best way of learning for the beginners in swordsmanship. But if the ki has some weakness, if there is even a little hesitation, it cannot be done. There is a training for ki, and a deep means to free the heart from hesitation. If ki alone is trained, one never experiences the inspiration of freedom to adapt, which comes from the heart-nature. One must devote oneself to the means. From long efforts in making the ri clear, when the sharp ki has been made even, in due time he will reach the essence. But if from the beginning he tries only the psychological means, he misses the real point and his efforts are to no purpose.
In the old days they had sincerity and goodwill, and were energetic in studying technique, never daunted or lazy. They had faith in what the teacher told them, and kept their hearts centred day and night. They tried out the techniques and together overcame all the difficulties. When the training ripened, they had a realization of the self and its principle (ri). Thus their penetration was deep. The teacher, when he explained a technique, did not say all about it; he waited for it to disclose itself to the pupils – drawing (the bow) without releasing (the arrow) as it is said. It is not that he grudged it, but he simply wanted the pupils to devote themselves to it and so mature their training, putting their whole heart into it. When they attained something they would go to see him, and he would approve to the extent of their realization, without giving any more instruction from his side. This was not only in the arts. Confucius said: Tf I hold up one corner and he cannot come back with the other three, I do not teach him again.’ This was the old method of teaching. In scholarship and in the arts, they were indeed sincere.
But people today are shallow and indecisive, of little spirit, easily tired and lazy. They aim at small gains and want quick results; taught in the old way, none of them would train. Today the Way is opened up for them by the teacher, who explains the ultimate principle to mere beginners and tells them what to expect. But this taking them by the hand and simply pulling them along in fact becomes boring, and many there are who give up training. They look only to the ri principle and disregard the ancients, so while their practice is insubstantial they dream of ascending the heights. This is the influence of the present time. Instructing pupils is like managing a horse; its impulses to go the wrong way must be checked, but then it is merely encouraging it to go of itself in the right way, without using force at all.
When the heart is fixed on a technique, the ki sticks to that and is not harmonious. It is rightly called chasing after the branches and losing the main trunk. But to say one should disregard technique and not train at it is also wrong. Technique is the application of the sword; if the application is disregarded, by what means will the ri-inspiration manifest? By training at the technique, one realizes one’s true nature, and with that realization the techniques become free. The true nature and the application have the same source and nothing separates them. Realization of the ri-principle is sudden, but technique has to be ripened by training, otherwise ki stiffens and the form is not free. Ri gives rise to technique; the formless is master of the formed.
Those who practise today do not know the unfettered freedom of operation of a serene heart. They think to use conscious devices, and wear themselves out over the branches of technique, and think they have got something by it. So they have no understanding of any other art than their particular one. Now arts have many branches and to learn them one by one could not be done in a lifetime. If the heart truly penetrates into one of them, the others are understood without studying at them.
The beginner trains ki by means of practice of technique; if he sets out to train ki in disregard of technique, it is like a blank and he does not know where to turn. When training of ki matures, he will come to the heart.
How fast or slow it goes depends on the quickness or slowness of his nature. It is easy to know something about the inspiration of the heart, but to penetrate deep into oneself and actually have freedom in change is difficult. Swordsmanship is an art at the meeting of life and death. To throw away life and die is easy; to make no distinction between death and life is difficult. It might be thought that a Zen monk who has transcended life and death should thereby have perfect facility as a swordsman. The answer is, that the purpose of their trainings is different. The Zen monks want to leave the wheel of life- and-death for nirvana; they throw their hearts into the face of death, and shake themselves free from life-and-death. So among many enemies, though the Zen monk may be crushed by them, his thought is not agitated and all is well. But he has no concern with the application to life; it is only that he is not overwhelmed by death. This is not the same thing as the sage’s ‘one principle penetrating’ life and death: living, to entrust oneself to life, dying, to entrust oneself to death. Without dividing the heart into two, following one’s duty and fulfilling the Way, this is the freedom of it. . . . The Zen monk is concerned with nirvana and not with how to use life. So it is only that he knows how to die well. . . . But he is not free in making use of life.
The teaching of the sages is to make no difference between life and death: in life to fulfil the Way of life, and in death to fulfil the Way of death. There is no will or movement of thinking about it: it is freedom in living and freedom in dying.
Question: What of the stories of fencers of old who met a Zen priest and came to realize the ultimate principle of fencing?
Answer: A Zen priest teaches not the ultimate principle of fencing, but that when the heart is right it adapts to things, whereas hanging on to life only makes life a suffering. And he shows how the heart may be deluded about life, as if the three worlds were a dark cave.
When one has devoted himself many years to fencing, not really resting even in sleep or sitting, when he has been training his ki and mastering all the techniques, and yet he is still without inspiration in actual contest – months and years of frustration – now if he meets a Zen priest and from him grasps the principle (ri) of life and death, and realizes how the ten thousand things are only transformations of the heart alone, suddenly his heart is illumined and his spirit composed, so that he abandons all his hankerings and makes himself free. It is one who has for many years trained his ki and studied all the techniques who makes a warrior of this kind, and it is not to be attained in a moment. His long training in fencing corresponds to the training of a Zen pupil under the stick of the Zen master, and the realization is not to be had while one is still busy learning the techniques. One whose art is still immature will never get enlightenment from the wisdom of even the greatest priest.
From Book Two
Ri has no form, and its functioning is manifested through some instrument, without which it is not to be seen. The inspiration of the absolute appears through changes of yin and yang; the divine ri of the human heart appears through the four virtues. Though swordsmanship is techniques of combat, ultimately there is no perfection of technique without the inspiration of the heart-nature. But it is difficult for young warriors to attain it.
So traditionally the instruction has been in the nature of formal practice (kata), going through all the techniques of thrust and cut, attack and counter, lightly and without forcing them. In this way sinews and bones become well-knit, and the use of hands and feet is mastered, and how to use them in responding to changes.
While technique is immature the heart is tense, and one cannot move as one should. So the practice of the techniques is by ‘feeling’ (ki). The heart rides on ki to employ one of the techniques; ki, then, being the energy, is not to be restricted, but vigorous and untrammelled. When ri-inspiration is contained in the technique, the latter conforms to the nature of the instrument used. As technique matures, the ki becomes harmonious in it, and the inner ri-inspiration spontaneously manifests. When without any doubts one penetrates into the heart, technique and inspiration are -one, ki controls itself, the spirit is composed, and the potentialities unlimited.
This was the ancient method of training in the arts, and it is the essence of that training. If technique is not mature, ki is not harmonious; when ki is not harmonious, it does not conform to the particular formal technique. Then heart and technique remain two separate things and there is no freedom of action.
From Book Three
Question: What is it that moving does not move, and being at rest is not at rest?
Answer: Man is an animate being and cannot but move. When even in the many adaptations to ordinary affairs, the heart is not moved by things, the heart in itself, being without desire and without ‘I’, is at peace and composed. In terms of swordsmanship, when trapped by many enemies, engaged on both sides, yet determined to live and die with spirit composed, thought unmoved by the many enemies – this is called moving but not moving.
Have you not seen a horseman, how a skilled man gallops the horse east and west but with heart serene and not busied, with posture quiet and undisturbed? From a distance it looks as if the horse and man were joined together; he merely controls the horse’s unruliness, but does not go against its nature. The man on the saddle is called the master of the horse, but the horse is not frustrated by him and goes willingly, horse forgetting man and man forgetting horse, their spirit one and undivided. One could say there is no man on the saddle and no horse under it. This is a clear example of moving but unmoving. The inexperienced man goes against the horse-nature and is himself not at peace. Horse and man always at odds, the man’s body tense and heart busied with the horse’s movement, and the horse fatigued and tormented.
In one of the texts on horsemanship there is a verse:
You force me forward, but when I try to go
You pull me up,
Catching me in the mouth so I can’t move.
Here one who knows its feelings speaks for the horse.
It is not only with horses, but it must be the same attitude when handling people. When you go against the feeling, and put your faith in little devices, you get flurried yourself and the others are confused.
. . . Little people, when they move, get caught up in the movement and lose sight of themselves; when they are still, they sink into inertia and cannot adapt to things.
Question: What is meant by the moon in the water?
Answer: There are different accounts of it in the schools, but it comes down to comparing the natural adaptation in mushin to the water and moon and the way the reflection comes about. There is a poem by an Emperor in retirement:
The moon does not think to be reflected
Nor the water think to reflect –
The lake of Hirosawa!
At the heart of the poem is to be realized the natural adaptation in mushin. Again there is one bright moon-disc in the sky, and yet the ten thousand rivers have each a moon, it is not that the light is divided up among the waters. If there is no water, there is no reflection. Again, it is not that the reflection comes into being when it finds water. Whether reflected in the thousand streams or not reflected in even one, there is no gain or loss to the moon. Nor does it choose between waters great or small.
Through this, one should come to realization of the inspiration from the heart-essence. The purity or otherwise of the water is not now the point. All analogies use something whose form and hue are familiar to illustrate something without them, and here the moon has form and hue but the heart has neither. Do not fret yourself by sticking too closely to analogies in every point.
It is said that ideally ki should be forceful and vigorous; but if one inclines only to use force without harmony he is inexpert in his actual application of it, and he who relies only on it, having no technique to go on, fails in his use of it.
Again, ideally application should be harmonious; but if it cannot command force and vigour, it flows but weakly.
Weakness and softness are not the same. Rest and slackness again are not the same. Rest does not let go the living ki; slackness is near to dead ki. Ki gets tied up when one cannot release it from the place where it has attached itself. It can be tied by thought. Negative (yin) ki again is tied naturally. In general, if ki is tied to some place, there is no speed in its adaptations. So a ki which is tied (yin ki) is late in applying a technique; when on the contrary ki takes the lead, its adaptation in technique is dry, nervously energetic (yang) but superficial. It is light, with no juice in it, and gets brushed aside like dried leaves before the wind.
Question: Why do the Buddhists reject conscious thinking as bad?
Answer: I do not know about Buddhist meditation, but conscious thinking is basically the functioning of knowledge and not a thing to be rejected. All that is to be rejected is when it is supporting the passions and going away from the true nature, taking itself to be all there is. Conscious thoughts are like the ordinary soldiers; when the general is entangled in material things and becomes confused and weak, he loses his authority. Then the soldiers under him do not avail themselves of his knowledge but look to themselves alone, and pursue their private plans. And as each one is working for himself, the camp is in disorder, with riots and affrays, and in the end the army meets a disastrous defeat. When things have gone as far as this, the general cannot do anything; history shows that an army which is in commotion cannot be calmed down.
When thinking takes itself to be all, runs wild after sexual desire though it knows it is wrong to do so, there can hardly be control. The fault is not with the thinking. When the general is wise and brave, and his orders are clear, the soldiers respect his orders and do not go after their own devices. Following the instructions, they crush the enemy; their preparations are well made and they cannot be defeated. With the efforts of the soldiers, the general gets them a great victory. And if thinking follows the spiritual light of the true heart, knowledge and feeling operate by the divine principle; then the selfishness is not taken as everything, the operations of knowledge help the administration of the whole. Why should thinking be rejected? The compassionate thinking of the sage does not take itself as all, but knowing and feeling follow the divine principle in their own nature, and set a right course for the thinking. And this is called compassionate thought.
The essential thing with the heart is to be clear and have no darkening.
The essential thing with the ki is to be strong, vigorous, and not cramped.
Heart and ki are fundamentally one. If we speak of them as separate, it is in the sense of fire and fuel. There is neither great nor small in fire itself, but if fuel is lacking the fire cannot blaze up, and if the fuel is damp the fire is not bright. All the operations of man are the doing of ki. One of strong and vigorous ki does not develop illness, nor is he affected by the cold wind or humid heat. One whose ki is feeble becomes ill easily, and is oversensitive to an unfavourable atmosphere. When ki is sick, the heart is distressed and the body fatigued. The medical books say that a hundred illnesses arise from ki. He who does not recognize the changes in ki, does not know the source of the illness. So the basis is, that man should cultivate a vigorous and lively ki. There is a way to do this. If the heart is darkened, ki loses the way and moves out of control 5 when that happens it loses the power of vigorous decision. By using tricks, the heart’s light is obstructed. With a darkened heart and the ki running blindly, there may be an instinctive energy of the blood but there is no freedom with technique, and even that instinctive energy of the blood is transient and without root. It moves without real effect.
The techniques of any field can be known by analogy with that of fencing. So a young samurai must fulfil his duties towards parents and seniors, and by so doing he subdues his selfish desires. When these desires are not running wild blindly, the ki does not stagnate, but serves the light of the heart with vigour and decisiveness. But when it is not vigorous, the techniques do not come off, and because they do not come off he resorts to conscious tricks, which darken the heart. This is called delusion, and it is the same in fencing. When spirit is composed and ki harmonious, the operation is mushin and the technique naturally appropriate – that is the ultimate principle. But first a vigorous and lively ki has to be cultivated. Unless there is a heroic spirit which discards all little tricks and overwhelms opposition, smashing through even iron walls as it is said, there is no ripening to the natural principle of mushin.
Merely thinking of mushin, one falls into blankness; merely thinking of harmony, he becomes slack. It is not only in fencing but applies to archery, horsemanship and all the arts. Technique will not succeed unless first a heroic will and a vigorous ki have been cultivated. . . . These things have to be known by experiment in oneself. Reading or hearing about them without trying them oneself is knowing from others but not being able to apply them. This is called second-hand knowledge. To experiment in oneself with all the techniques, whether of learning or of the arts, in the light of this principle, and to confirm it in experience of the heart, and so to find out the merits or failings, easiness or difficulties, of the various techniques – this is called training.
From Book Four
Question: Strategy and tactics are arts of deception by trickery. Will not a training in that way, with its little tricks, harm the training of the heart?
Answer: When the gentleman uses these things, they are an instrument for bringing peace to the land. When a small man uses them, they are an instrument to harm himself and injure others. It is the same with every technique. When the will is mainly concerned with the Way and no selfishness is involved, then even though he may be learning the so-called arts of a robber, the benefit is that he can defend himself against robbers and there is no harm at all to his will. But if the will is mainly concerned with passion and desire and profit and loss, then even books of saints and sages simply provide him with little tricks for himself. So first the will is to be set in the right way, and maintaining it so, he goes on to study the thousand techniques. If one goes to learn the fighting arts without the right Way being master within him, his heart is attracted by the fair promises of reputation and profit.
It is a mistake to think that skill in tricks is the main thing in the way of a samurai. If a swordsman when skilled in his art thinks that its main use is for affrays at the cross-roads, then his art invites harm on him. There is no fault in the art, it is the will that is wrong. Kumazaka and Benkei were equally skilled in striking, with all the qualifications of fighting heroes, but Benkei used them doing his lawful duty while Kumazaka used them as a brigand. So it is not strategy and tactics which are the Way of the samurai; it is using them in the proper way.
He who uses evil against the right is a brigand. But to fight wildly, without preparing and without planning, and so become trapped by an enemy’s plans, having one’s loyal warriors wounded – would that be right? If I understand strategy I shall be prepared and not fall into the trap, but if I do not understand it, I become his prey. Is it good to be ignorant of it? It is true that strategy has many branches, but to put them into practice depends on human feeling. If they go against human feeling, one may know about them but one cannot apply them. Doctors read many books and know about many drugs, but if they do not understand the cause of the disease and give medicines at random, it invites a further disease. The general has to know human feelings, and unless there is the faith, the virtue, the benevolence in him, the human feelings (of his men) will not be in harmony (with him). When the human feelings are not obedient, plans turn out calamitously, as is clear from history ancient and modern.
Question: Just as I am trying to deceive the enemy with my plans, he is trying to deceive me with his. Why should there not be some one trick, known to me alone, which could confound everyone else?
Answer: What you say is the question of the standard forms. In Go and Shogi (chess), sequences of moves have been imitated from the old days, and it is thought that they have been completely analysed out and there is no more to be found out about them. But someone may come is who is still more skilful. To learn the openings at Go, and the mating combinations at Shogi, is to learn these standard forms. But when one has got some advantage from one of them, some new move not covered by them suddenly turns up, and wins. All techniques in everything are like these standard forms, and in strategy too it is the same.
A general, if he has the ability, will come on some new flexible strategy, different from the standard forms, and this new thing will turn out to make the master strategists of the past look clumsy fools. There are many things which can be applied to the actual combat, and when the heart is attentive, everything seen and heard is a help to developing strategy. But first one must master the standard forms of the past, or one cannot use the later developments.
It is the same with scholarship. Without having followed in the tracks of the ancients, one cannot come to know that Way where there is no track. All techniques always depend on the heart5 everything one sees or hears should be an occasion for practice. At the time of using a technique, trust to the occasion. Again, in an actual battle when there are many on both sides, a single man can hardly act on his own initiative. What is necessary is always to think of what has been laid down by the ancients, train the men, and then be ready for flexibility in tactics.