Ignorance in Swordsmanship (Kenjutsu Fushiki Hen)

Kimura Kyuho, ca. 1768

The master replied, “although what we call ‘single mindedness’ may be inferior to full understanding, it’s a state you can’t achieve unless you practice the sword. Originally swords were not to be used as dangerous weapons. However, when used properly, they would help bring good fortune to society. So, in other words, by wielding a killing sword you have a sword of life.”

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There will be no end to this decline into corruption. Amongst followers of Confucius and Mengzi too, recent times have seen the rise of countless factions, departing from the path of morality, humanity, and justice, which have themselves just become words to be rearranged and played with. As the tip moves increasingly further from the point of origin, as the world of the sages becomes increasingly distant in time, so it comes to be like this. Our swordsmanship seems like this, too. If these people do not perish, they will simply split into innumerable styles, abandoning the virtue of the style, just devising choreographed patterns which will be all that’s left. Is it not tragic?

Original translation by Christopher Hellman, available from Tuttle Publishing as part of The Samurai Mind: Lessons from Japan’s Master Warriors. Japanese text from the Bujutsu sosho by Junzaburo Hayakawa (1915), with thanks to the National Diet Library of Japan.