Thursday, March 11, 2004

treading down the sword

I enjoy reading books about other cultures, though I wonder if it's wise to read books about one thing, such as martial arts, and try to adapt their philosophies to another, such as business.

I've been skimming through a translation of Miyamoto Musashi's A Book of Five Rings. It's difficult to read the whole thing in one sitting. There are a lot of small sections, and it reads like a bunch of blog entries.

One of my favorites was called in the translation I'm reading "stomping the Sword." I found an online version (linked above), which gives it a slightly different name, but a similar translation. Are there folks who practice business in the same manner, and with the same passion that a samurai from the 1600s did?

I suspect that it does happen.

Here's that section:
'To tread down the sword' is a principle often used in strategy. First, in large-scale strategy, when the enemy first discharges bows and guns and then attacks, it is difficult for us to attack if we are busy loading powder into our guns or notching our arrows. The spirit is to attack quickly while the enemy is still shooting with bows or guns. The spirit is to win by 'treading down' as we receive the enemy's attack.

In single combat, we cannot get a decisive victory by cutting, with a 'tee-dum tee-dum' feeling, in the wake of the enemy's attacking long sword. We must defeat him at the start of his attack, in the spirit of treading him down with the feet, so that he cannot rise again to the attack.

'Treading' does not simply mean treading with the feet. Tread with the body, tread with the spirit, and, of course, tread and cut with the long sword. You must achieve the spirit of not allowing the enemy to attack a second time. This is the spirit of forestalling in every sense. Once at the enemy, you should not aspire just to strike him, but to cling after the attack. You must study this deeply.

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