11 – Moral Instruction in Budo – Apr 27, 2015, Kim Taylor, Renshi, CI Sei Do Kai Guelph ON, Nanadan

15.1.11. I turn my opponent’s techniques into my own techniques. I turn his gains into mine. This is called “the mocking bird stage”. Strength for strength, weakness for weakness, a strike for a strike, a thrust for a thrust: counter each and every one of a thousand changes this way. This is called “facing the opponent’s technique.”

Weakness for strength, strength for weakness, a block for a strike, an empty spot for a block: accommodate each and every one of the manifold transformations of gains in this manner. This is called “accommodating the opponent’s gains.”

Face a committed advance by engaging in return, and accommodate a feigned advance by feigning. When the opponent deftly feigns an impossible technique, do likewise.

The mastery of the art is to turn a committed move into a feigned one [immediately, should it miss the target], and to show a feigned move, but turn it into a committed one [immediately, should an opening present itself]. Therefore, facing an opponent, first pretend to be a fool and appear [as if you are about] to lose. This is a stratagem. Truly, as the saying goes, “warfare is the way of deceit.”

When you consider merit to be a spontaneous outcome –feigning and engaging are two sides of the same coin, and so are deceit and truth. This knowledge must be obtained only through self discovery.

We continue with the analysis of strategy in a sword fight. This article deals with types of response to the opponent’s actions. FIrst, we discuss the “mocking bird stage” or “facing the opponent’s technique”. We copy his moves. Come on, you rememer your little brother copying everything you said, it made you lose it didn’t it? Think about a life or death fight where the opponent copies every move you make. If you don’t do something risky by the third or fourth passage you aren’t human. It’s either take a big gamble or run away, this guy is meeting you strike for strike and thrust for thrust, he’s obviously reading you.

Next we have “accomodating the opponent’s gains” which is to meet every technique with it’s balance. He strikes, you block. He blocks, you aren’t there to be blocked (an empty space, you are, one hopes, in the act of striking somewhere else).

To explain the first point further, if the opponent is attacking, attack in return, meet him strongly. Look for a chance to strike a neglected point from an empty spot. If he is feigning, you feign too, don’t get taken in by a fake.

Now combine these two ideas. If he fakes and you fake and he’s open you turn your fake into a strike, now you are responding to a fake with a strike.

Therefore the next step is to learn how to switch from feigning to attacking at need. If you attack and fail, don’t think of it as a failure, think of it as a fake. Now he’s reacting to what you’re doing, find another place to strike. If you fake, and he doesn’t fall for it, strike. I remember Ohmi sensei trying to explain maai to a class practicing Uke Nagashi from the Tachi Uchi no Kurai set of Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu. The movement involves a threat by a thrust which uchidachi must strike down, at which point shidachi does uke nagashi and strikes to finish the technique. The class was essentially touching shidachi’s chest before doing uke nagashi. Sensei explained over and over that the movement must take place at issoku itto, at the awase position, not where the class thought it should be. “If he is that close he will simply kill you with the thrust!” Chiba is saying the same thing here, feign a movement but if you find your fake within range and your opponent hasn’t reacted to it, strike him. If you aren’t in position to strike, he won’t react to the fake. Ohmi sensei went on to explain that uchidachi must react to the thrust as it crosses the maai, as it comes into range. If he doesn’t it’s too late, he is struck.

Act like you are a fool, like you don’t know what you’re doing and are easily defeated, “This is a stratagem. Truly, as the saying goes, ‘warfare is the way of deceit.'” This may seem to indicate that Chiba is recommending this as a ‘plan’. However, in the last sentence Chiba says “When you consider merit to be a spontaneous outcome…”. Remember that we are working toward “the void”, toward the “empty spot”, toward being able to react without rationalization leaving technique and strategy behind and simply striking. Chiba says that when we consider that, feigning and engaging are two sides of the coin, as are deceit and truth. Sure we have technique, we have strategy, and they may well work. In fact they often do work, but they are not the goal. The goal is to go beyond all that. Musashi had 60 duels before he was 30 and he thought that he was lucky or perhaps that his opponents were not as skilled as he was. He decided that this was not a profitable way to spend the rest of his life. He went on in search of the void, of the spontaneous outcome. The place where technique appears at need rather than where it is forced upon the situation.

All these techniques and strategies are a stage, not the end. There is no ‘end’ there is only unbecoming, only the empty spot, the void.

From: Moral Instruction in Budo
A study of Chiba Chosaku with a translation of his major work.

MA thesis, McGill University, Samuel Shooklyn, 2009.


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Kim Taylor
Apr 27, 2015

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