Miyamoto Musashi is known as the Kensei, or sword-saint, of Japan. His teachings are based on swordsmanship, but they were adopted by the masters of Kenpo while this great master was still alive. Foremost among these are his Nine Principles. They alone lead to the Way of Kenpo - the Warrior Spirit.
These principles are found in the Way of every great Japanese martial art, the Chinese Tao, and are the Way of life. Musashi wrote:
"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 following the true Way and diverge a little, this will later become a large divergence. You must realize this."
But few in kenpo realize this, and one cannot understand kenpo without understanding the 9 Principles as given in A Book of Five Rings (the best translation of which is by Victor Harris, The Overlook Press)
; and, one who has not read Musashi can only pretend.
Musashi's nine principles apply to life as well as to the sword and Kenpo, so much so that heads of businesses and aspiring business leaders have applied them to great personal and financial success. In doing so they have come close to the path leading to the Way.
These are the broad principles Musashi said must be set 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."
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 of everything
7. Perceive those things which cannot be seen
8. Pay attention even to trifles
9. Do nothing which is of no use
The order in which one applies these nine principles may differ from one student to another, as the business executive will have different priorities from the politician; and, they will both have different priorities from the military general, while the Kenpo student may first seek those principles that apply to the physical movements so his mind can perceive that which it has not yet conceived.
It is for this reason that I have modified the order in which the 9 principles are presented. This is not because one principle is ultimately more important that another, but rather, because it is the order in which I personally developed.
The ranks of Kenpo are filled by those who have theories, but few know or follow these principles. Miyamoto Musashi on the other hand proved his principles by killing 63 sword masters in single combat before retiring to write A Book of Five Rings. His principles of strategy are as sound today as they were when he wrote them down 300 years ago. This is because strategy (Heiho) was not a theory, but the "soldier method".
How different this is from today's kenpo theorists who try to define every angle of incident, angle of attack with their analysis of paralysis, but have never defeated a true master of any martial art. They have reduced training to a few movements, a few techniques, and many theories which they confuse with actual principles. They have failed to recognize the Zen principle by which every martial artist survives, "Do not think. Just do it."
One who learns these Principles cannot be far from the Way of Kenpo; and one begins to seek the path that leads to the Way by thinking honestly.
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©1996, 1999, 2006, 2015 by W. Tracy. All rights reserved. No portion may be reproduced without permission.
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