Miyamoto Musashi was the greatest swordsman who ever lived.
Musashi lived in the late fourteenth century - 1584 to 1645 - a period of civil war and strife in feudal Japan. The story of his life is amazing; over the course of a fifty-plus year career he fought over sixty-five duels to the death. In his first and the last battles Musashi fought formidable opponents, armed only with wooden swords. Musashi was the founder of the Hyoho Niten Ichi-ryu, or Nito Ryu style of swordsmanship.
We are fortunate that Musashi's wisdom is handed down to directly to us in Go Rin No Sho - The Book of Five Rings - his famous book on strategy, tactics, and the philosophy of the warrior life.
When I was a private in the 82D Airborne, I learned of Musashi and read his book. I read somewhere that his writings were studied not only by the warrior class, but were also becoming very popular amongst successful businessmen. At that time I did not understand how the principles of swordsmanship and all-out warfare could possibly apply to the corporate world of boardrooms, suits and ties. It was not until more than twenty years later, after I retired from active duty and became involved in business myself, that it all became clear; combat is the ultimate contest, and in business everything is a contest - there really is no difference at all.
An early lesson I learned was the phrase, to "make castles within castles". In a sense this indicates the concept of insurance. We all know what insurance is and how it applies to every aspect of every business endeavor, and even our personal lives.
But there are other kinds of insurance:
A commander in the field applies the concept of insurance when he puts two battalions forward, and keeps one back as a reserve; or, conversely, puts one battalion forward and keeps two back. This two-up-one-back / one-up-two-back principle applies at all levels; from the divisions within a Corps-level front, right on down to the squads and platoons of a rifle company.
Another type of insurance is the concept of diversification; keeping more than one iron in the fire, or not putting all of one's eggs in the same basket. This represents the strategic principle of flexibility - should one course of action pan out or fail, the wise warrior always has a Plan B to fall back on.
Quotes from Musashi's classic guide to Strategy:
"Do nothing that is of no use."
"In battle, if you you make your opponent flinch, you have already won."
"From one thing, know ten thousand things"
"You should not have any special fondness for a particular weapon, or anything else, for that matter. Too much is the same as not enough. Without imitating anyone else, you should have as much weaponry as suits you."
- I learned this theme in Infantry Basic at Fort Benning - do not become overly attached to any one single weapon; it is a tool, nothing more. Master any and all tools of the warrior trade. Do not hesitate to abandon a broken or useless weapon; be able pick up another weapon - any weapon - and wield it to it's maximum capability.
"Whatever the Way, the master of strategy does not appear fast . . . Of course, slowness is bad. Really skillful people never get out of time, and are always deliberate, and never appear busy."
- Timing is everything.
"Under the sword lifted high, there is hell making you tremble. But go ahead, And you have the land of bliss."
- The road to Success is paved with Hardship.
"Do not sleep under a roof. Carry no money or food. Go alone to places frightening to the common brand of men. Become a criminal of purpose. Be put in jail, and extricate yourself by your own wisdom."
— Go out and learn the ways of the world. Learn every aspect of your trade or profession from the bottom up. Learn the hard way - pay your dues.
"Just as one man can beat ten, so a hundred men can beat a thousand, and a thousand men can beat ten thousand"
- It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog - Teddy Roosevelt.
"Perception is strong and sight weak."
— When it comes down to Perception versus Reality; Perception IS Reality
"To become the enemy, see yourself as the enemy of the enemy."
- Get into the mind of your opponent.
"The important thing in strategy is to suppress the enemy's useful actions but allow his useless actions."
- When your opponent insists a course of action that is self-destructive, the best course of action is to get out of the way and let him continue.
"You can only fight the way you practice."
- Train the way you fight, fight the way you train - axiom of the American military.
"The ultimate aim of martial arts is not having to use them."
- To have Peace, prepare for War.
"The only reason a warrior is alive is to fight, and the only reason a warrior fights is to win."
- The only reason a business exists to produce goods and services, and the only reason a business produces is for profit.
Today's Bird HERE.