Added with permission from Kim Taylor Nanadan (CKF) Iaido, Rokudan (CKF) Jodo and Niten Ichi Ryu Shidoin, January 2023
The teaching of the general and soldier
The general and soldier is a teaching that you should always see yourself as general and your opponent as your follower.
However, this teaching is only then completely understandable in its entire meaning when you have experienced the complete logic of the martial arts through training.
At all events you should, seeing yourself as a general and your opponent as a follower, not allow your opponent do anything he wishes. You should allow your opponent to swing his sword after your will at any time, confuse him as you wish and not allow him to forge schemes.
This is very important.
If we can lead our opponent around we will win the battle, it is a simple thing to suggest but very difficult to put into effect. How do we lead our opponent?
One way might be to cut down the movements open to him. In the Nito Seiho chuden position of Niten Ichiryu your opponent will find it difficult to do anything except try to knock your swords away. He can’t reach your head with his sword without risking a counterthrust, he can’t reach either of your wrists, and your sides are covered by the width of the swords. Thus having restricted his choices you have led him to a place where you know what he is about to do.
Back him into a corner and there’s only one direction for him to move. Lead him into a narrow passageway and you have restricted his potential movements, lead him into a house and you have restricted his overhead cuts.
You can also open up certain targets which will be irresistable to your opponent. The gedan position means your head is enticingly open, very hard to resist.
These are ways to get your opponent to move where you want him to move. But is that all we do with soldiers? Sometimes we command them to stand still. By using Musashi’s instructions on holding down the invisible shadow (18) and holding down the pillow (23) we can make the opponent stand immobile. We can prevent him from doing what we don’t want him to do, attack us, and only allow him to do things that are useless in his confusion. Thus we confound him as he tries to form a plan to attack us and we stop him repeatedly, forcing him to change his plans over and over again.
In the Go Rin no Sho Musashi expands this idea to the battlefield where it is somewhat easier to see how to lead enemy forces around. Make a big deal of moving troops around in one spot and the opponent will counter with extra forces there. Or perhaps you can lead the opponent into surrender by troop movement, as in convincing the other side that you have much larger and more bloodthirsty forces than he. (See Brock and Tecumseh’s defeat of Hull at Detroit, 1812.)
Fall back in the center and his troops will obediently follow into the pocket so that you can encircle him from the wings. (See Cannae, 216 BC.) Retreat into a canyon and pelt him with rocks and arrows from the sides (any western movie) or lead him by false information into an area between the hills and a bog with forest on either side to hide your own troops, then attack. (See Hermann vs Varus in Teutoburg, 9 AD.)
Musashi participated in the Osaka campaign (1614-15) during the Tokugawa consolidation of power when that side negotiated with the opposing Toyotomi side to get the moats of the castle filled in. Once that was done it was much easier to breach the castle. I don’t know which side filled in the ditches but if it was the Toyotomi what an amazing example of ordering the soldiers of the other side to do as you wish.
Feb 19, 2015