Holding down the invisible, negative shadow (“Yin”) is a method that, by means of observing the posture of the opponent, you can strike him at his anticipated weak points.
If you observe the opponent closely, you can see the points to which he pays attention and also to which he does not. If you beware of the points to which he pays attention and at the same time, before he starts moving, aim at the shadows of the points to which he does not pay enough attention with the point of your sword, your opponent will lose his rhythm allowing you to win easily.
It is important however to hold your spirit back and never forget your actual aim, to strike the opponent.
This should be tried out.
This and the next article are in reversed order to the Go Rin no Sho and I must admit the next article is easier to grasp. This one is a matter of “insight”, of seeing the spirit, the next is about prompting a physical movement to reveal your opponent’s intent.
This article is slightly different than that in the Go Rin no Sho which I titled 3.11 To Hold a Shadow (Fire 11). It is a bit more specific in its instruction and explanation of how to disrupt the opponent. Here we are told that by observing the posture we can find and strike the opponent’s weak points.
How do we do this? We have to look carefully and see which points he pays attention to, which points are “lit up” by his intent, his spirit. Do his eyes flick to your right shoulder? Is he shifting his weight onto his right foot so that he can step to the left? This is the area that is in the light, you can see him preparing to attack your right side.
If this side is in the light, he is paying attention to his left side and his own right side is in the shadow, he is not paying attention to his right side.
Move your sword toward his right side just as he is gathering himself. This will cause him to shift his attention away from his attack to an area he’s forgotten about, it will make him defend that area and perhaps overdefend it in his rush, this may open him up to an attack on his left side as his attack collapses in favour of the defence.
On the battlefield look carefully and see where the opponent is massing his troops, or maybe where he is putting his best troops. Keep an eye on that area, but look further and see where those troops are coming from. Your opponent only has so many men, look for the forgotten area, where his lines are getting thin, or where he thinks he is protected by the landscape. As he is getting ready to attack, launch an attack of your own across that stream, or around that hill. It doesn’t have to be a full out attack, just enough to cause the opponent to stumble, to draw his attention from his strong point in the line. Has he started to draw troops from his former attack area to defend his weak spot? Attack now through his former staging area as his troops pull out of the line to move toward your feint. Catch them from the side or the rear and break through.
This is the same as playing chess, if your opponent is overly concentrated on an attack at one point on the board, look for another place to attack, this will disrupt your opponent and allow you to look for a place to defeat him. That place may not be at the original attack or at your feint which has disrupted his timing, it may be anywhere, this is why you must hold back your spirit so that you can see the whole picture.
Musashi reminds us to keep our eye on the goal, to cut the opponent. We must not get as involved in our defence or our movement to hold down the shadow as is our opponent. That way leads to stagnation, instead we must watch our entire body, our entire battlefront, and strike instantly where we see an opening “from the void”. The key point is to be able to read our opponent, to see his attention and especially to see those areas he has forgotten. Only then can we disrupt his timing by forcing his attention to his shadows. If his attention is hard and focused, you can split it. Keep your own soft and generalized.