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  • Sun Tzu, Kendo, Budo

    Anyone a fan of Art of War? I've read it in a couple of different translations and have always treasured it. I notice in the literature of budo generally and kendo specifically reference is made to this work often, and with good reason, since it is one of the primary texts of Asian martial arts. Here's a very good site for discussion of this work if you're not aware of it already:

    www.sonshi.com

    Continued in a sec....

  • #2
    I have read it so many times but hard to apply it into the Kendo. I understood the way he talked about war and I can see it related to Kendo. However, I think that getting grip of basics. After that, applying the Sun Tzu theory will be more effective.

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    • #3
      I'm going to be re-reading this but my major take-away from this is that you should be calculating in your approach to a confrontation. I think for budo students, we apply what is written of large scale warfare to small scale fights. So taking Sun Tzu's instruction to heart means that in your confrontation, get as much detail as you can and apply it to your advantage.

      In kendo, I tend to think this means to give fore-thought to your opponent and calculate how best to defeat him. There's not a lot to consider in terms of ground or logistics since we always fence in the same conditions - a wood floor. But you can ask yourself useful questions about your opponent and apply them to winning.

      Is my opponent tall, average, short?

      What waza does he prefer?

      Is he fast?

      What are his weaknesses?

      I think Sun Tzu would have us acquire this kind of knowledge before the match and use it to win. Question for me is, how do we reconcile this with the "mushin" that we are instructed to bring to every match, with the idea that, as many sensei say, "your kendo should be the same no matter who you face."

      Do check out that link. There's a lot of study and, most interesting to me, application. I think Sun Tzu can be applied to personal development, skill development, coaching/mentoring (!), and, obviously, competing.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Charlie View Post
        Question for me is, how do we reconcile this with the "mushin" that we are instructed to bring to every match, with the idea that, as many sensei say, "your kendo should be the same no matter who you face."
        Perhaps the way to reconcile the two pertains to the choice of waza one uses against one's opponent, and not how one performs it. I may be talking absolute nonsense here. Feel free to correct me.

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        • #5
          Thanks Charlie for the sonshi site. Interesting stuff. I have the Samuel Griffith translation bought before I was even aware of how many different translations there were.

          Putting the concern of accuracy aside for the moment, I wonder which author would have the most insight into the meanings behind the original words.

          I'm starting to get insights from kendo that never occurred to me during karate, even though my karate sensei discussed many of the same concepts. I'm sure some of this has to do mental maturity but I think a lot of this has to do with taking a completely new approach, the kendo way instead of the karate way.

          For any of the translations of this book, if the translators were not students of martial arts themselves, can they really give an insightful translation, as opposed to technically accurate?

          Would someone who's studied the sword have better insight than someone who's studied only empty handed arts?

          Regarding the book itself, it's still way too difficult for me. It will probably stay shelved for another 10 years. :P

          sean

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Charlie View Post
            Question for me is, how do we reconcile this with the "mushin" that we are instructed to bring to every match, with the idea that, as many sensei say, "your kendo should be the same no matter who you face."
            If both sides kendo is unchanging to the opponents kendo, then you'll end up with 2 people just doing their regardless of the opponent and there's no match. Only who ever manages to land a technique before the other.
            'Your kendo' is about how you approach an opponent, how you create openings and how you attack those openings. Now, if a situation requires you to modify one of these, according to the experience you already have (so you remain in control of the situation), isn't it still 'your kendo'.
            Where 'your kendo' stops, is when you start doing things that you are not comfortable/experienced in doing, either as a result of a bad decision (yours) or because opponent forces you into doing so.

            I also think it's dangerous to translate mushin into 'not thinking'.

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            • #7
              Just about the translation.

              Even the Chinese admitted that they had a hard time to translate the original "The art of war" into modern Chinese with all of the philosophy attached. If that is the case, I doubt that an English or other language versions can be correctly translated.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Charlie View Post
                In kendo, I tend to think this means to give fore-thought to your opponent and calculate how best to defeat him. There's not a lot to consider in terms of ground or logistics since we always fence in the same conditions - a wood floor. But you can ask yourself useful questions about your opponent and apply them to winning.
                Those points about observing and analyzing the opponent are great. Remember that it also says that we must first know ourselves. All those questions should first be directed inward. If we know our own strengths, we can leverage them as much as possible. If we know our own weaknesses, we can change our training to strengthen those areas, and guard against our opponent's attempts to exploit them. In both cases we become more aware of the true significance of specific qualities (height, speed, aggressiveness, etc.), which helps us understand how best to deal with our opponent.

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                • #9
                  Question for me is, how do we reconcile this with the "mushin" that we are instructed to bring to every match, with the idea that, as many sensei say, "your kendo should be the same no matter who you face."


                  I think this depends on your own definition of kendo, i.e., how much it is sport vs. how much it is spiritual. If winning is important, of course we would calculate, strategize and so on. If winning is not important, then we would probably do what we always do in practice since it’s natural to us. However, nothing in this world is pure black and white. Often, our definition of kendo falls somewhere between sport and classical. Mushin is what we strive for, but few people can truly achieve “mushin”. Maybe you need to be a monk to do it. Whatever it is, just follow your heart. I wouldn’t over analyze it…unless I am writing a thesis for my hachidan exam.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by turboyoshi View Post
                    For any of the translations of this book, if the translators were not students of martial arts themselves, can they really give an insightful translation, as opposed to technically accurate?
                    AFAIK "The Art of War" is written for military strategies and tactics, not martial arts. So diverting the meaning into martial arts would actually making it not all that accurate.

                    I'd stay with the manga version...

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by mingshi View Post
                      AFAIK "The Art of War" is written for military strategies and tactics, not martial arts. So diverting the meaning into martial arts would actually making it not all that accurate.

                      I'd stay with the manga version...
                      so why do those know-it-all wall street businessman quote "the art of war"? i've seen them do it in movies!

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                      • #12
                        I've always been rather confused on the whole "know your enemy and know yourself thing."
                        As other famous philosophers have stated, If truly the only real enemy is yourself, and if in order to defeat yourself, you must know yourself, then, in this case, if all of us really knew ourselves, there would be no need for war, and thusly Sun Tzu would have been out of a job, and would have been forced to work for his brother-in-law's accounting firm.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Kenzan View Post
                          I've always been rather confused on the whole "know your enemy and know yourself thing."
                          As other famous philosophers have stated, If truly the only real enemy is yourself, and if in order to defeat yourself, you must know yourself, then, in this case, if all of us really knew ourselves, there would be no need for war, and thusly Sun Tzu would have been out of a job, and would have been forced to work for his brother-in-law's accounting firm.
                          Boy, these philosophy questions are giving me a headache. It's more practical to think about the answer to "does this make me look fat, honey?" The person with the right answer should get a nobel prize.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Big One View Post
                            Just about the translation. Even the Chinese admitted that they had a hard time to translate the original "The art of war" into modern Chinese with all of the philosophy attached. If that is the case, I doubt that an English or other language versions can be correctly translated.
                            This is a really good point. I think part of the challenge of reading this book is in also being knowledgeable about what's not being said. I think to really understand everything that's being referenced in the work, one should have a good understanding also of Taoism, Confucianism, the period in which it was written, and other works. One thing the book stresses is to recognize people of quality, strength and wisdom and give them key roles to play. I think what defines that is something that would have been addressed in other works outside Art of War.

                            Mingshi, allow me a quibble: Unless I'm mistaken, this book has been one that as been studied by kenshi, including koryu kenshi and kendo kenshi, for a long, long time. I believe a variety of martial arts schools in China and Japan have made Art of War part of its curriculum or a good addition to its library. Your thoughts?

                            Regarding Calculations and mushin:

                            I appreciate the feedback on this topic. I think it really points out that your kendo should "always be the same" and you should approach a match with a consistent spirit or state of mind, your kendo is a fluid thing. I'll have to chew on this a while but I think I'm saying one's kendo should be consistent, focused, intense, and capable of adjusting to situations.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by sirius1906 View Post
                              It's more practical to think about the answer to "does this make me look fat, honey?"
                              Or for some people, "Those people! Over there! They are different from us! Quick! KILL IT!"

                              BTW: The answer to the question of "Does this make me look fat" is:

                              "I have an idea, honey! Let's go out for dinner and dancing!"

                              -Or simply produce a rather large piece of query-deflecting merchandise/jewelry.

                              I keep about 4 thousand dollars worth in my pocket at all times for just such occasions.

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