The perception of the situation teaches that you should perceive the actual situation exactly, that is to say the condition of the location as well as that of the opponent, whether he is high or low, deep or shallow, strong or weak.
The teaching of the thread and yardstick should be continuously applied during the fight, the situation should be recognised immediately at any given time. If you perceive the situation correctly, you can always achieve victory whether to the fore or to the rear.
This should be carefully tested.
I used to join my sister half way through a movie and after five minutes she’d turn to me and ask what was going on. In any combat situation you need to be able to see, really see exactly what is going on in an instant. You can’t rely on past experience, on your bias, on a feeling of “what should be”. You can’t live in an ideal world, you have to live in this world, as it is, or you don’t live past the next swing of the sword.
Can you do that? Can you look at any situation and figure out what’s happening under the appearances, under the fog of your own assumptions? You can practice this. Has the government just announced a new law? What they say might just be different than what actually happens when that law is applied. You must look beneath the simple answers to the reality. Movies aren’t terribly complex, they can’t be since they are made for the common denominator. Look carefully for a few minutes and you’ll see who is doing what to whom.
To practice seeing the world as it is, listen to the conversation going on beside you, look at the road ahead while you’re driving, see what you can predict.
Be cynical, be skeptical, turn off your expectations, your bias, your preference, your forgiving nature and open your eyes.
Now look hard at what you’ve come up with. If you’re a cynical person be careful you haven’t gone too far, even the biggest skeptic can wander into conspiracy-ville. Look too hard at the shadows on the side of the path and you’ll see a tiger.
How do we perceive the situation at an instant? Use the thread and yardstick constantly during the confrontation. Has your opponent retreated four steps? He’s likely to reverse unless you’ve really got him on his heels. Watch for the signs that he is shifting his weight onto his toes. Too much thread and you’re bound to feel the yardstick. Beyond your opponent, Musashi warns us that we also have to take in the environment. Is your opponent pushing you back and to the left? What’s on the left? Oh yes, I remember the big rock, best not go that way.
One big advantage you have in a fight is that you know your opponent is going to try to kill you. Knowing his objective allows you to judge what he’s doing at the moment, his actions are restricted by his objective. Go back to the government, what is the underlying objective of any government? To remain in power. One might say that it is a rare politician indeed whose motivation is to do good things for “the people”, but consider that even an altruist politician must be in power before he can do things for your own good. Being in power is the requirement to do good or evil so most actions can be traced back to the obtaining and keeping of power.
Look to commercial law to see why companies do what they do. If the laws of the land state that a public company must maximize shareholder value is it any wonder that a company will act in a way to increase share price rather than the long term benefit of the company, it’s workers or the community? If a CEO is paid according to share price is it any wonder that CEO wants to gut the pension plan?
The thread and yardstick is the background research that allows you to percieve the situation at this instant.