The Humbling Lesson of Musashi

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The Humbling Lesson of Musashi

Postby HanshiClayton » Thu Jan 01, 2009 6:54 am

Shotokan's Secret, Expanded Edition contains a brief bio of Musashi because it introduces the nito-ryu swordfighting that fills heian nidan.

Musashi was the legendary master swordsman of feudal Japan. Among other achievements, he fought a duel with rival Sasaki Kojiro in 1612. Kojiro used an extra-long sword he called "the laundry pole." To express his contempt, Musashi set aside his own swords and fought Kojiro using a wooden stick. Musashi had no difficulty beating Kojiro to death with the stick.

Shotokan has a large lesson to learn from Musashi.

Shotokan's great strength lies in forging the body weapon through the application of basic principles. After decades in Shotokan, I look at the other martial arts and am astonished that their punches, kicks and strikes are so weak. Shotokan masters can hit terribly hard because they have devoted their lives to forging a weapon from the bones and muscles of their body.

They are like master sword-makers who spend their lives perfecting one sword. They forge the sword to be resilient and strong. They sharpen it to a razor's edge. They polish it to brilliance. They are justifiably proud of their work.

The problem is this: The expert sword-maker is not an expert sword-fighter. These are completely different skills.

Kojiro was a famous warrior, armed with a famous, razor-sharp sword. Musashi faced him with a whittled oar, a stick. If duels were decided by the better weapon, Kojiro should have won in an instant. Instead, Musashi broke his arm, stove in his ribs, and split his skull with a crudely-shaped piece of oak.

Musashi's lesson is this: Victory does not go to the person with the sharpest, shiniest sword. It goes to the person who knows how to fight. Shotokan masters are brilliant at forging the body weapon, but Shotokan teaches us next to nothing about using it.

The tragedy is that dedicated practitioners spend decades polishing and honing a weapon that is already sharp and deadly, and never look around to see what else they should be studying. They reach old age having absolutely mastered about one-fifth as much as they should have. I wrote Shotokan's Secret, Expanded Edition in the hope that I could change that before they meet a man with an axe handle on a dark night.

Bruce D. Clayton, Ph.D.
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