Lessons from Musashi-The Book of Fire

In Musashi’s third book, The Book of Fire, Musashi concentrates on the spirit of the warrior/trial lawyer:

Soul and Feeling. We must never overlook the all important aspect of spirit. “To release the spirit one must accentuate the work with mediations of the heart and the soul. Not doing so is the same as performing music note for note, with no emphasis on the ‘feeling’ of the particular piece… . The Way of the warrior is filled with soul and feeling. Without it the warrior is essentially ‘dead’ even though he may appear to be very strong.” Musashi’s, Book of five Rings (Translated by Stephen Kaufman, Hanshi 10th Dan) (1994) at 55.

How to Practice. Musashi stresses the need for a warrior to properly practice. Proper practice requires visualization in training. When you practice technique and apply your “soul” to it “you will find that the technique will reveal to you the manner in which it must be used to your personal advantage.” Id. at 57.

Pressure the Opposition. “By keeping pressure on the enemy, you will keep him constantly in a defensive posture. … Your basic attitude should be of wanting to overwhelm him and unsettle his spirit. This will permit you to control the situation and make good your attack… .” Id. at 59. Remember changing rhythm and timing throws off the opposition. “There are times when, although you are prepared to go right through the enemy, you lay back momentarily and then, without waring, leap in and through.” Id.

Opposition Attacks. Never be overwhelmed by the opposition. “You can ensure this by keeping your spirit tall and your resolve strong. … Should the enemy attack, strongly and calmly, you must become one with the attack, and through superior resolve cut him down swiftly.” Id. at 60. Never permit the opposition to gain an advantage. “[E]ither you lead the enemy or he will lead you.” Id. at 61. ‘You must come to understand the importance of attacking while the enemy is attacking and, in doing so, step on his sword, making him lose balance and advantage.” Id. at 63.

The Snake. “Think of strategy as being both a snake’s head and a snake’s tail. Never permit yourself to become entangled in the small points of combat. Do not become stricken with a single minded attitude.” Id. at 76. Be flexible with the understanding “there is more than one path to the top of the mountain.” Id. See both the large and the small. Focus on the large and refrain from needless diversion into the small.

Control the Battle. Either you or the opposition will control the battle. To control you must understand the opposition. Knowing the spirit of the opposition is the first step of control. Then maintain control over the opposition’s actions. “Embody the spirit by having the spirit to win.” Id. at 77. “You must control… by possessing a greater spirit than that of the [opposition.]” Id. at 79. “The only thing of importance in the way of strategy is the willingness and ability to truly defeat the enemy in actual combat with a long sword.” Id. at 78.

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