FR 1 – The Earth
Welcome to our exploration into Miyamoto Musashi’s The Book of Five Rings. Here, we are exploring the undefeated samurai’s magnum opus into the Way of the Martial Arts. I won’t be covering the entire chapter, but I strongly encourage you to go out and read the book for yourself. There is much, much more to be learned from every line.
First, some background. Miyamoto Musashi is basically the Rocky Marciano of samurai. Written near the end of his life in 1643, Miyamoto Musashi did not lose a single combat throughout his entire life. Not satisfied with merely succumbing to life’s most mortal enemy, death, he resolved to ink his thoughts and become immortal. The principle he discovered and cultivated throughout his lifetime he later came to call the Way of the Martial Arts. Through his mastery, he was able to beat opponent after opponent. In this series, we are going to attempt to decipher this Way and integrate it into our personal forays into the Crucible.
Today, we blaze forth on our paths to Become Legend.
CHAPTER ONE: THE EARTH
What is called the “martial art” is the standard of the military clans. Commanders, in particular, should put it into practice, and common soldiers should know its Way as well. Yet there are no warriors who clearly understand the Way of the Martial Arts in the world today.
Musashi makes one thing clear right from the beginning: the Way of the Martial Arts is not just something for commanders. It affects and should be studied and understood by every soldier in the army, from the general to the rank and file soldier.
Musashi is like the Michael Jordan of his time. As such, he gets to make such bold claims as: no one clearly understands the Way. This is a lesson in humility that everyone, and I mean *everyone* needs to grasp. Just because you are successful doesn’t not mean you have a firm grasp or understanding of the systems bringing your that success. Understanding the how is only the first step. To be truly dominant and transcend your own pitiful plateaus, you need to understand the why.
Your stats say you’re in the top 1%, but it doesn’t mean that your mind is in the top 1%. Trust me, you can be so much better and you don’t even realize it yet.
What is most basic in the Way of practicing the martial arts is overcoming your opponent in each and any event, whether in victory over a single opponent in a duel, or in victory in a fight with a number of men. One desires to make a name for himself and to raise his position, whether for his lord’s sake or his own. This is accomplished by virtue of the martial arts.
Why work to master the Way? Simple: the goal is to always win, no matter what the situation. Man to man, outnumbered, outgunned, it doesn’t matter. The Way will teach you how to come out on top time and time again.
You and I both know being good isn’t enough for people like us. It’s the recognition. The fear you strike in your opponents as they see your name pop up on the enemy team roster. The reverence as they watch you strike down team after team in a blaze of bullets and fire. Recognition is a natural end result for those seeking to master the Way. Sounds enticing, no?
There are many people who, even when studying the Way of the Martial Arts, think that these skills will not be useful in real situations. In fact, the true Way of the Martial Arts is to train so that these skills are useful at any time, and to teach these skills so that they will be useful in all things.
Musashi wants to make it clear: this isn’t just some theoretical bullshit that looks great on paper and is a travesty in practice (Here’s looking at you, Marx). The Way is the real deal, and not only that, but it will *always* be the real deal. Like Sun Tzu, Musashi’s teachings can be related to situations both on and off the battlefield, to great effect.
Generally speaking, people make their way through the world in four Ways: the Way of the Warrior, the Farmer, the Artisan, or the Merchant.
The farmer lives for routine and stability, gaining understanding of their instruments and loving in accordance with the four seasons. The merchant lives for profit, doing work appropriate to themselves. The warrior lives to conquer, utilizing a grand understanding of a multitude of weapons and their proper use and advantages. The artisan lives to create perfection, mastering each different tool and using them in tandem to craft the perfect work. Musashi especially likes the artisan; specifically, he chooses the example of the carpenter. Personally, I believe I follow the Way of the Artisan, and the pen is my primary tool of choice. Which path do you believe you follow?
To learn about the principles of battle, meditate on this book; for the teacher is the needle, the student the thread. As a student, you should practice without end.
I absolutely adore this line. It’s not just about practicing. It’s about never stopping your practice. People ooh and ahh when they hear about professional athletes still running drills in practice. They still try to hit every free throw, throw the perfect slider, take a free kick into the top corner. The best aren’t just the best because they’re natural talents. Yes, talent helps, but it is the hard work and practice of the talented that boosts them to the next level. You might not be the best, and you very well may never be one of the top 1%, but that doesn’t mean you can’t reach your own personal 1%.
Find your mountaintop. Conquer it.
We speak of “two swords” because warriors – both commanders and soldiers – wear two swords at their wastes from the very beginning […] In the way of this style, it is correct for even the beginner to hold a sword and short sword in either hand and train in the Way. When you put your life on the line, you want all your weapons to be of use. Your real intent should not be to die with weapons uselessly worn at your waist.
Raise your hand if you have a secondary weapon in your load out. Now keep it raised if you find yourself either barely using it or having an excess of ammunition for that weapon throughout a match. If you’re going to put a weapon in that slot, you need to use it. You need to understand how it should be used and recognize the proper times to actually use it. There will be plenty of situations where you shouldn’t pull it out, but do anyway. There will also be plenty where you should, but don’t.
Just because you can use something doesn’t mean that you should. Example: YOUR SHOTGUN IS NOT A PRIMARY WEAPON FOR A REASON. Example: JUST BECAUSE YOU LIKE THE SNIPER LINE ON SHORES OF TIME DOES NOT MEAN YOU NEED TO STAY THERE THE ENTIRE MATCH. Sidearms are best when countering aggression. Fusions are best utilized when you have superior positioning and map awareness over your opponents. Know the strengths and weaknesses of your load out and use that to your advantage.
You should know the ten thousand by means of the one. When you gain the ability to act in the Way of the Martial Arts, you will miss nothing.
As with any skill, your future success is determined by your present ability to create and sustain a strong foundation with mastery of the fundamentals. If you want to use a Fusion, you need to know the basics of how to fire it. Where are the optimal ranges? What’s the spread like? Damage? Charge time? Understand your fundamentals and you can answer all the questions that come later, like when you should use it. If you understand that your Thesan takes approximately one second to charge, you shouldn’t attempt to do so while already being fired upon by a pulse rifle within the optimal range.
But with weapons, just as with other things, you should not make distinctions or preferences. Going too far is the same as not going far enough. Without imitating others, you should take what is appropriate to yourself and use a weapon you can handle. It is wrong for either general or soldier to have a preference for one thing and to dislike another. It is essential to make efforts in these things.
I will be the first to admit, I fall victim to the trap Musashi warns about in this quote. I hate shotguns. I haven’t always hated them, but I do now. No, I do not believe they are cheap or overpowered. I don’t think they’re a novice weapon. I just don’t like the gameplay. However, that doesn’t mean that I never pick up a shotgun every once and a while. Why? In order to understand how to combat something, I must first understand how to be successful with it. The same should be with you. Even if you don’t like sniping, or sidearms, or pulse rifles, or whatever, you should at least use them enough to understand their fundamentals so you can have a better game plan to combat them. DON’T COMPLAIN ABOUT SOMETHING THAT YOU DON’T HAVE A FIRM UNDERSTANDING ON HOW THEY WORK BEFOREHAND.
You aren’t going to like this, but I tend to fall in the camp of “there’s nothing wrong with shotguns”. Shotguns have a LOT of counterplay to them. It’s called distance. While it is admittedly more difficult to create space than close it in Destiny, that doesn’t mean you are incapable of doing so. This is voiced so often that my ears are bleeding just thinking about it, but if you’re getting killed by a shotgun, it’s your own fault. You are 100% out of position. If your load out cannot handle CQC, then you need to run away if you are being closed on. Period. No excuses. No bitching. If you would rather handle shotguns, then adjust your weapons accordingly. Use a sidearm. Use TLW and learn how to backpedal faster. Learn to quicksnipe.
Conversely, snipers have the same level of counterplay. It’s also called cover. There is a lot of it on every map. No one sniper line can lock down an entire map or make an approach impossible. Slide, skate, and dash your way from cover to cover. In fighting games there is a skill known in the community as “footsies”. This involves making small adjustments throughout a fight to gain or close distance on your opponent. If you’re having trouble with shotgunners or snipers, pulses or hand cannons, it isn’t the weapon that’s to blame, it’s your footsies. Shotguns might be perceived to have too much range, but that was a range that was realistically able to be avoided and successful outside of. Although that death zone has decreased, it still exists. You still need to work on your footsies.
There is a rhythm to everything, but particularly in the martial arts, if you do not train in its rhythm it is difficult to succeed.
Gun fire rate has a cadence to it. So does your ability to throw the next hammer, fire the next Golden Gun shot, toss a grenade, get a resurrection, open an ammo box, and jump into the air. Learning game flow is one of the most important things you should do. You know why you like certain guns over others? It’s because they feel good, right? Surprise, you mastered that gun’s rhythm. You like its rhythm. Now that you know you like it because of the rhythm, you can be successful finding other weapons, classes, grenades, etc. with similar rhythms. Be cognizant of the game you are playing and you will find success.
For those who would study my martial art, there are rules for putting it into practice:
1. Think without any dishonesty.
2. Forge yourself in the Way.
3. Touch upon all of the arts.
4. Know the Ways of all occupations.
5. Know the advantages and disadvantages of everything.
6. Develop a discerning eye in all matters.
7. Understand what cannot be seen by the eye.
8. Pay attention to even small things.
9. Do not involved yourself with the impractical.