Added with permission from Kim Taylor Nanadan (CKF) Iaido, Rokudan (CKF) Jodo and Niten Ichi Ryu Shidoin, January 2023
The small comb
The spirit of the small comb dispels confusion. If your opponent confuses the situation in any way, you should hold a small comb in your spirit and untangle the confused parts one after the other and rearrange them.
Viewed from outside removing the bowstring and confusing are similar, but the former stems from a strong spirit and the latter from a weak one.
This should be carefully considered.
Here is the second of the pair, Removing the bowstring and The small comb. While the deadlock of the bowstring comes from being too strong in spirit, too focused in attention on your opponent, too tense to move, here we see the other side. Here we see our strings of attention all tangled up, with our opponent and with ourselves.
We can become confused when facing an opponent, we can overthink the situation and come up with too many possibilities. So many that we cannot separate one from the other, we become weak with indecision and we freeze. This is no longer the inactivity of too much tension, but the inactivity of lethargy and indecision, of just too many pathways, or of pathways too long to take.
When you are repairing your house you may decide the roof needs patching, but then you have to repair the gutter because it won’t support your ladder, and then you have to clean out the shed to get the ladder and then you have to…. go for a beer. Infinite regression leading to one job being tangled up with another and another.
Or you want to clean the house but you see papers to be picked up and dust on pictures and dishes in the sink and dirt on the floors and now you can’t decide which job to start with.
Your thoughts are tangled, your way is not straight.
A small comb requires that you untangle a bit at a time, you start at the ends of your hair and work upward, straightening each part one after the other. A big comb will go through all your hair but it will leave tangles behind that will snag later. Using the small comb means starting in one corner of the house and cleaning whatever needs cleaning there, and working outward until it is all done. A small comb means cleaning the shed, then getting the ladder, then fixing the gutters, then getting on to the roof. If you discover a knot, a tangle along the way, straighten that out too.
You will find that by doing one job you have finished a dozen others.
This all takes much less time than you think while you are all tangled up in it. It is the thoughts about the tangle that prevent you from doing the job, not the tangles themselves. Before you get disheartened and give up, start combing. What does this mean in a sword fight? If you become confused and uncertain about what’s happening, take stock of your opponent and yourself, what are your positions, what is his weakest point and what is yours, fix your own and attack his, this will start to unravel the knots and let you become more certain, let your spirit become stronger as you find more weakness in him and fix your own. Start small, at the ends and work your way through to the scalp.
The small comb is your own reason, start using it.
Feb 8, 2015