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Kensei: Sword Saint

Aug 17, 2007
I guess every kid, regardless of where they are from, at one time or another bangs a couple of sticks together and pretends he's a swordsman.

Back in my 'hood, I was always Zorro, my buddy Scott was always Robin Hood, and my buddy Larry was always Lancelot. Then Max showed up.

A Japanese boy by way of California, Max came out to play wielding 2 pieces cut from a broomstick. We were amazed. After all, who the heck uses 2 swords? Zorro needs his free hand for his whip, Lancelot his shield, and Robin Hood his bow...this 2 sword thing was blasphemous!

Even worse, Max began to call himself Musashi and insisted on wearing his bathrobe as we trekked through the woods.

Now as a kid you just don't ask too many questions or for explanations (from other kids at least). We liked Max, so we just accepted his "weirdness", and went on with our adventures as usual.

Fast forward 15 years to when I made the changeover from Korean Tae Kwon Do and Hapkido, to Japanese Karate, Judo, and Jujutsu. And wouldn't you know it? That very first day, Sensei began class with a quote from "The Book of Five Rings" - The premier text of Japanese philosophy on close-combat written by...Miyamoto Musashi! (I almost shit my pants as I quickly pieced everything together)

Musashi was born in 1584 in the village of Miyamoto in Southern Japan. His father Hirata Munisai was a renowned samurai and considered by many to be the best swordsmen in Japan at the time.

Musashi started his warrior career early in life with a dual against a samurai named Arima Kihei. The samurai had posted an open challenge for any takers and Musashi signed up to fight the warrior.

Musashi's uncle, hearing that his 13 year old nephew had volunteered to fight to the death ran to prevent the fight. Musashi did not want to back down and entered the ring to fight Kihei armed only with a bokken - a wooden training sword. When the bigger, older, and more experienced samurai charged, Musashi dodged, grabbed, and brutally threw the man to the ground and beat him to death with his stick.

He would go on to win over 60 duals defeating or killing all that came before him in combat regardless of weapon. His challengers would use staffs, swords, and a variety of other weapons while he would use his katana or bokken. While many samurai used only their katanas, Musashi pioneered two-sword combat by using his wakizashi and katana together.
Eventually he would be honored with the rank of Kensei or "Sword Saint" because so many believed his swordsmanship to be perfect. When he later penned his philosophy of combat in "The Book of the Five Rings", he would attain literary immortality as countless martial artists, scholars, and executives would hang on his every word for generations to come.

Musashi would eventually pass on his valuable knowledge to his sons and students. A skilled artist, poet, architect, and businessman, Musashi felt every day was a day to learn, create, and live to the fullest. And that was his strategy for a good life.

Now what's pretty funny about Musashi (and why little Japanese boys love him), is that he was about as unconventional a Samurai as you could get.

The man rarely bathed, shaved, or washed his clothes. So good a swordsmen was he, that Musashi eventually completely stopped using a katana and would just use whatever was on hand to beat his opponents to death...a tree branch, a rake, even a boat paddle.

He would use other strange and "dishonorable" tactics as well...Showing up hours late to a dual to anger his prim and proper opponent...Showing up an hour earlier, hiding in the bush, then jumping out and immediately killing the unsuspecting fool who agreed to fight him...using horse stirrups as brass knuckles...and even attacking, running away, attacking, running away, and attacking again!

Scholars still to this day debate on whether Musashi did all these "crazy" things to toy with his opponents, test various strategy, and if these tactics were the very reason no one could beat him not his swordplay.

That's all well and good for the bookworms, but as "men of action" similar to Musashi, we all know better -

Just like many of the toughest and most dangerous men of today and throughout history, Musashi seemed to take himself none-to-seriously while at home or at the dojo.

But when life and death were on the line, Musashi simply believed that nothing should be left to chance and you must do whatever needs to be done to kill, or be killed yourself.
About the Author
For more information on Chris "Lt. X" Pizzo former soldier, cancer survivor, mercenary, barroom bouncer, educator, and hand-to-hand combat instructor, and his incredible FREE Accelerated Battlefield Combatives close-combat learning system, visit http://www.TopSecretTraining.com
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