Added with permission from Kim Taylor Nanadan (CKF) Iaido, Rokudan (CKF) Jodo and Niten Ichi Ryu Shidoin, January 2023
The spiritual bearing
The spiritual bearing during combat should not be disheartened, not hasty, not artful, not fearful, but always straight and large. Thereby the outer spirit (“I-no-kokoro”) should be held light and the inner spirit (“Shin-no- kokoro”) heavy and you should adapt flexibly to each situation with a spirit like water.
Water has various colours; it can be a drop in one moment and a blue sea in another. This should be carefully observed.
In all matters budo, we are well trained to be calm and collected when we’re in a fight. Take a deep breath and expand the stomach, bend the knees, settle the shoulders and all that. This is obviously nothing new, but why are we not working ourselves up into a frenzy, a berserker rage to get our adrenaline levels to a high pitch so that our fight or flight reactions kick in? Would this not be better than all this calmness?
Perhaps it might if we were untrained beginners. I have run across self defence books that assure their readers that they will have a surge of adrenaline which will turn them into the Hulk and allow them to throw off their attacker with whatever dodgy technique they are pushing.
The problem is twofold. What if you don’t get that hormonal kick in the pants? To rely on something that may or may not happen at the right time is a bit risky, better to rely on well-trained skills. Secondly, adrenaline destroys fine motor control, you’ve felt this as the shakes and the anxiety kick in and your ability to type an answer to that fool on the internet drops rapidly.
“Can’t go to bed yet honey, someone on the internet is wrong!”
If we’re chucking rocks over a wall at the beseigers it may be well and good to let go with the rage monster within, but if we’re out in the open fighting with swords it’s going to be the calm one that wins.
Now we come again to the discussion on inner and outer spirit. As mentioned before, we should leave our outer spirit light, neutral, giving no clues to our opponent. Our inner thoughts should be deep, heavy, so as to correctly assess the situation.
Think of these two spirits as a puddle of water and a deep ocean. What can your opponent see in that puddle? Not much, it is just a sham presentation compared to the sea, yet it may confuse those who can’t tell just how deep it is. There is nothing much in a puddle except a bit of wet, but who knows what creatures lurk in the depths of the sea? Only to surface and snatch the unwary from the whaling dingy and drag them under.
Not to push the water analogy too far, but Musashi uses water here on a couple of different levels. The shallow and the deep spirit as we said. He also uses water as an example of something that fits into any container, that fills any size and shape, as your spirit should do with any situation you face. If your thinking is rule-bound, your training too ABC then you will not be able to adapt when you need to. Your mind, your spirit and your technique needs to be flexible, not as flexible as bamboo but as flexible as water which can seep into any nook and cranny, which can fit any space at all.
The idea of a drop of water or a wide green ocean also presages another key idea from Musashi. A drop and an ocean are the same thing, they are both water, one is contained within the other. If we go back to article 2, Musashi tells us that single combat (a drop of water) is the same as fighting with large units of men (the ocean). From one thing comes many things. The large and the small are the same when one moves to the principles. To encircle a man with your arms is the same as encircling an army with your own, the principle is to herd the man or the army into a smaller space and restrict their movements making them weaker and easier to defeat.