"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."
--Miyamoto Musashi, from The Book of Five Rings
Question from a reader -
I'm reading The Book of Five Rings, and I have a question.
There's a lot of good stuff about acting decisively and immediately so that you can win while your opponent is hesitating, but I don't get why he emphasizes swords so much in particular.
Masters of the long sword are traditionally known as heihosha [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, and those who master the halberd are called halberdiers. But we do not call masters of the long sword "long swordsmen", nor do we speak of "short swordsmen". Bows, guns, spears and halberds are all tools of the warriors and each should be a way to master strategy.
We are just souls, each soul has a human body assigned to it, a body and a brain, these are the only tools you've got to survive in this world!
Since we rely on these two resources, we must use them optimally. But how can you perfect using any tool? There are two alternatives, either by studying it and knowing everything there is to know about it or by experience and experimentation till you unveil part of the truth. Unluckily, our resources didn't come with a user manual so we had to stick with the second choice thousands of years ago. But as we moved forward in time, we began creating and inventing till we reached this modern complicated world of ours. As more and more things became integrated in our lives, our focus lens shifted to the outside and we forgot the real resources we should care about. Most people think that to succeed, they need to have the perfect circumstances. For example, most people are deeply convinced that their procrastination is all caused by the cruel outer world which creates every possible obstacle to stop their success, that they don't have power over their bad habits because the main cause is the surroundings.
The problem with this pervasive perspective is that it's self destructive, it makes you surrender after that long battle never seemed to end even though you've tried everything.You relentlessly persist but everything always falls apart. You promise to stick to your new diet at a moment of inspiration, but it's not even a couple of months until you've already fallen back. You may have studied your enemy and fought back at it but it didn't work because you aren't really prepared, you haven't improved your real resources. Can a skinny man use Hercules's sword, his weapon is so powerful but he isn't as good as his weapon to use it. You are now convinced with your powerlessness, you can't have control over your life and surrounding circumstances. You feel that you've run out of resources, as the ones you thought you only had at your side are now working against you.
This leads us to the conclusion that YOU are the best and most necessary tool you can ever have for success. Relocate your focus point. Work on understanding and improving yourself, not the surroundings. You can only become beat a stronger enemy by becoming stronger , not by trying to weaken it. As in a previous article "The Eternal Conflict". You can only strengthen the positive forces to win, you cannot weaken the negative ones.
I encourage you to study your tools and improve them as much as you can as they are the real weapons.