Thursday, July 14, 2011

Recommendation to Be Natural

When Taro was a university student, he took a kendo (the Japanese art of using the sword) class as an easy credit. He was a second degree black belt. There were many beginners who wanted to take the university's kendo lessons. Most of them followed the teacher's instructions; however, one student, Yasushi, disobeyed the teacher and began to violently swing the bamboo sword around. Taro needed to fight him. As Yasushi continued swinging his sword, Taro could only watch him for the first 10 to 20 seconds in order to determine when to attack. Taro discovered there was no regularity to his opponent's swings. Yasushi simply followed a rhythm that his body produced. Taro counted the rhythm and noticed that the sword was over his opponent's head every six to eight beats, which meant that Yasushi's body was unguarded at that moment.

However, Yasushi was not swinging the sword slowly; therefore, Taro knew he had to be quick to defeat the other student. Taro counted the rhythm and moved forward in a short, but sharp move. Taro thrust his sword into the front of Yasushi's throat and hit his throat guard, which caused him to fall backward. Taro might have used other tactics, but the thrust to the throat was effective. Taro's opponent could not swing his sword as before; therefore, it was easy for Taro to beat him.

After the class, someone called Taro. It was Yasushi, his opponent from class. Yasushi praised Taro's skill and said there is a difference between a black belt and an amateur.

He wanted to know how Taro had decided to use the thrusting technique and when Taro had decided to begin his attack. However, Taro did not have an answer to these questions. It was not a big secret, and Taro wished to answer Yasushi's question. Taro had allowed his mind to determine the most effective attack against his opponent. Thrusting as the most effective form of attack simply came into his mind naturally. It was not logic, intuition, or the result of thinking.

It seems that the word 'natural' is the key factor. In "The Book of Five Rings", Musashi Miyamoto, a master of ancient swordsmanship, wrote that being natural is the best way to live life. He explained that one should not overextend or underestimate oneself. In addition, one should not be either too optimistic or too pessimistic. Furthermore, Musashi wrote that one should always be totally natural: "It is like walking a main road of a city. If a swordsman came, you would meet the swordsman. If a woman came, you would meet the woman. If a thief came, you would meet the thief."

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