written by Yagyu Munenori in the 17th century.
It has three basic categories:
1. Historical context and introduction written by Hiroaki Sato (along with translation footnotes).
2. A list of techniques with instructions and illustrations created by the historical swordsmen.
3. Philosophy, school principles, mental techniques anecdotes to illustrate a point etc. also created by the historical swordsmen.
It's interesting stuff.
I enjoyed reading the historical context because I like reading about history, and having such context for the latter two categories is indeed helpful for understanding them.
The list of techniques and their illustrations are, obviously, most useful for those who will learn and practice them. Even then, this is not something that can teach swordsmanship on its own. Indeed, Yagyu Munenori frequently mentions how difficult it is just to describe the techniques, and also writes that something will "be transmitted verbally" because a teacher is necessary. Even then, the techniques themselves are only the first stage. Once the student has achieved the proper mindset through training with them, he no longer has any use for them.
The meat of the matter, from my perspective at least, is the third category, the philosophy behind the techniques that was crafted by the men in their historical context.
A summary would be misleading and insufficient but, in a nutshell, it advocates an empty mind. This does not one that is lacking anything but rather one that is not cluttered. A mind that is free to move around and indeed, does move around. This is the Zen influence, which both the author and the translator make note of.
It is frequently stated how important it is that a mind not "tarry" or become fixated on any given thing, including a desire not to be fixated. Interestingly, Yagyu Munenori states that Confucians are stuck at the beginner level because of their fixation on "kei", which Hiroaki Sato translates as "respect" or "reverence".
I enjoyed reading this and I found it useful but it is too far outside my usual grading rubric for a proper grade
Trickster Eric Novels gives " The Sword & the Mind: The Classic Japanese Treatise on Swordsmanship and Tactics" a +
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Brian Wilkerson is a freelance book reviewer, writing advice blogger and independent novelist. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).