Sanjugokajo-2: How the way of strategy should be understood – January 19, 2015, Kim Taylor, Renshi, CI Sei Do Kai Guelph ON, Nanadan

These posts concern the following article.

日本体育大学紀要(Bull. of Nippon Sport Sci. Univ.),42 (2),165–179,2013 【研究資料】

The essence of the swordfighting techniques of Miyamoto Musashi —An interpretive translation of his “Heiho Sanjugokajo”—

Teruo MACHIDA Translated into English by Vaughn WILLIAMS 1) and Teruo MACHIDA 2)

The exact wording of the translation for the first article is:


1) Why I call this way the two swords I name this way the two swords (“Ni-To”) and let the students train with two swords in their hands. The left hand has less importance thereby. With this method they learn to wield the sword with one hand. The advantages of this style are apparent on the battlefield, when riding a horse, in a pond or river, on a narrow path, on a stoney surface, in a crowd and when running, therefore when a man has a weapon in the left hand and it is impossible to wield the sword with both hands, he must hold it in one hand. The one handed handling of the sword may at first be difficult, but later it will be possible to use the sword freely without hindrance. For example: Through training the necessary strength for archery is attained and through training the necessary strength for riding. Also with regard to the skills of the people: the mariner attains the strength for the rudder and oars and the farmer the great strength for the plow and the hoe. In the same way we can, with constant training, attain the necessary strength to control the sword with one hand. But it is important that each individual chooses a suitable sword for his strength, because there are people of greater or lesser strength.


And so to move on to the second article

2) How the way of strategy should be understood


The strategic principles (“Heiho”) should, in battles and single combat, always be viewed as identical. In the following I write about the strategy of single combat, but if we compare the spirit with the general, the arms and legs with the vassals and the knights, the torso with the infantry and inhabitants, the control over the country with that of the own body, it is understandable that in the way of strategy there is absolutely no difference between both.

When fighting one should pay equal attention to the entire body from head to toe, namely not too much and not too little, not too strongly and not too weakly, so that no imbalance develops in the body.


Musashi was a soldier, he fought in various battles which established the Tokugawa rule over most of the Japan. He then lived into the era of peace that lasted (ignoring various peasant revolts) until the mid-1800s. This document was written at a time when fighting might have been expected to break out once again so his advice here, to his students, had warfare firmly in mind. The popular image of Musashi tends to be of the wandering ronin engaging in duels around the countryside. The reality is that he was mostly employed, he taught and he fought at various levels of command throughout his life. He also built fortifications and advised on battles.

Both this document and the Go Rin no Sho make it clear that Musashi may be teaching his students sword, and he may be discussing sword here, but the advice ought to be taken on both a micro and a macro level. In this case, he compares a body to a country, the spirit of the swordsman to the general, the arms and legs to the vassels (these would be the various subordinate daimyo, or the senior samurai, the autonomous and mobile units) the torso to the infantry and the inhabitants of the country (the foundation upon which the army depends for it’s anchor, and around which the arms and legs operate). To shift the body within reach of the opponent is like shifting the infantry within striking distance of the enemy, then the arms swing out with the sword, or the calvalry swings out from the infantry to strike.

It’s a metaphore Otaku kids, Musashi didn’t really split up into smaller units like Voltran.

The second paragraph is much more interesting. Musashi says the body must be balanced, and attention distributed throughout. The Takeda were great horsemen, to the neglect of their infantry and that great calvalry crashed upon three thousand musketeers firing in volleys of 1000 from behind breastworks. The idea that you send horse against guns can only happen by accident, stupidity or the lack of any other resource to call upon. Think of the similarly useless waste of the charge of the Light Brigade in the Crimean War. Not the one last year, this one was a bit earlier. Your army and your techniques must have some balance. What would happen if a swordsman knew only iaido, would he have to re-seat his sword before each encounter with his opponent? An iaido school ought to include a bit of training with bokuto so that the student has some idea what to do if the first draw doesn’t work out. It’s interesting that the kissaki gaeshi of Niten Ichiryu works sort of like an iai draw. It’s a shocking movement that seems to appear out of nowhere that can freeze an opponent in mid movement.

The attention that is paid to the body is critical for Musashi. He speaks elsewhere of watching the attention your opponent pays to this or that area, and to simply place the tip of your sword into an area that he is ignoring. This disrupts his actions and his thoughts nicely. I was never a good go player but I could sometimes see the critical spot on the board and by putting a stone there could sometimes frustrate better players.

Musashi tells us here, not to be open to attack in this way.

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