Friday, 4 July 2008

Book of Five Rings Examination, Part 1

In this weeks examination of Musashi’s writings we reveal from the Fire Book an extract about reading your opponents intentions and strengths, revealing there weaknesses and timing of attack.

“To know the times means to know the enemy's disposition in battle. Is it flourishing or waning? By observing the spirit of the enemy's men and getting the best position, you can work out the enemy's disposition and move your men accordingly. You can win through this principle of strategy, fighting from a position of advantage.

When in a duel, you must forestall the enemy and attack when you have first recognised his school of strategy, perceived his quality and his strong and weak points. Attack in an unsuspected manner, knowing his metre and modulation and the appropriate timing.

Knowing the times means, if your ability is high, seeing right into things. If you are thoroughly conversant with strategy, you will recognise the enemy's intentions and thus have many opportunities to win. You must sufficiently study this. “

What this basically means is that it is best to have a strategy when you compete. Imagine your in the cage with an opponent and without waiting or knowing anything about him, you charge in with a flurry or punches towards the head. Not knowing that your opponent is a master grappler, he ducks, grabs both your legs, takes you down, quickly mounts and starts some ground and pound until the ref stops the fight as you are unable to defend yourself. Although this is an example it happens a lot.

Two great sentences from this article are “You can win through this principle of strategy, fighting from a position of advantage “ and “you must forestall the enemy and attack when you have first recognised his school of strategy, perceived his quality and his strong and weak points”. They basically mean that you should do your research. Find out about your opponent before you start an offence. Does he like kicking, if so get in close. If his grappling is poor, then you know its best to try and take him to the ground. Work from a position of advantage to you.

The age we live in gives us the opportunity to study our opponents via videos of there past fights, however this is not always possible which means you must study them during the start of your own fight with them. When the opening bell goes, instead of rushing with an attack, build it up. Feel out your opponent. Throw a few jabs, maybe a couple of kicks, feint attacks or shoot in on your opponent to see his reactions etc. The best example of this I can think of was Muhammad Ali VS George Foreman. Knowing that Foreman was a strong guy, rather than meet strength with strength, Ali waited for Foreman to get tired, in which then he unloaded his offence which gained him the victory. He knew this was Foremans weakness and his best time to attack.

By taking this same principle which can be applied to heavy military battle or small duels between just two men, you are able to find out your opponents strengths and weaknesses and are able to determine the best method of attack and the best time to attack.

This is great advice given by Musashi and it should be something that everyone tries there best to improve.

Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7

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Anonymous said...

The Book of Five Rings is without a doubt a masterpiece of strategy and fairly unique in that it deals with both dueling and warfare in general. You were totally right: this advice is very applicable and as true and useful today as it was in Musashi’s time. I think strategy (adapting to your opponent’s fighting style and exploiting his weaknessess) is a much neglected area of study for alot of modern martial artists. While technical expertise and constantly drilling of techniques is of paramount importance, fighting intelligently and outsmarting him is just as important. Reminds me of a phrase from another Oriental masterpiece: ‘know yourself and know the enemy and your victory will be complete’.

When two fighers are equally skilled the victory will usually go to the most intelligent guy, the one who can see through his opponents strategy and feints and deceive him with his own will always have the upper hand. Reading up on the classics of strategy and applying in sparring the principles which these warrior-sages expounded will greatly enhances one’s fighting ability.

After all fighting has taken place since the beginning op mankind, many lessons were learned the hard way and we would be wise to respect our martial heritage and profit from other’s invaluable experience and their thoughts on the nature of warfare and the ways to conduct it succesfully. Nice essay on Musashi Marks, kudos.


PS: the quotes from Musashi reminds me of the theory of interception: you can intercept after his attack (basically first defend then attack or block and then hit), which is the lowest form of strategy. The intermediate stage is intercepting his attack directly (defending and counterattacking at the same time or block and hit simultanously)and finally there is the interception on his intention (you read his moves and attack while he’s still in preparation for his attack) which is the highest form of strategy. Needless to say stage two is progressively more difficult than the first, stage three requires nothing less than perfection and can only be achieved through hard work and experience.

MARKS said...

Zara, Thanks for the comments. The Book of Five rings is a great masterpeice. For people who think that it only applies to fighting years ago, they are truly losing out on the concepts behind Musashi's writings.

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