- Paperback: 133 pages
- Publisher: THE OVERLOOK PRESS; Reprint edition (18 Nov. 1996)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0879512563
- ISBN-13: 978-0879512569
- Product Dimensions: 21 x 17.9 x 1 cm
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,282,673 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
SWORD AND THE MIND, THE Paperback – 18 Nov 1996
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Here is a concrete example of exactly why this is dangerous. Mr.Sato translates thus: "There may be a hundred combat postures, but there is only one purpose: to win. Ultimately, all this depends on 'shujishuriken'. You may teach or learn the use of the sword in a hundred ways, in a thousand ways, and you may be able to handle the whole array of combat postures and sword positions. But 'shujishuriken' is central"
He then passes on some archaic details (from academic sources) relating to "shujishuriken", even discussing - for Pete's sake - ninjas, but displays no understanding of the term himself.
Despite the fact that the text clearly states that the mastery of the myriad of forms is meaningless if you don't understand the essence of "shujishuriken", Mr.Sato doesn't seem to twig on idea that translating the words of a book without understanding "what it's really about" is an academic exercise of little importance.
Since clear explanations of much of the terminology ARE available, for instance in the book "Yagyu Shinkage Ryu Dogen" by the 21st headmaster of the school, Yagyu Nobuharu, I would not recommend Mr.Sato's work, as he seems comfortable with simply massaging the words.
Volume one is very pragmatic. It lists sword-fighting postures and counters. I am no swordsman, but I have to distrust any fixed set of responses to inherently fluid situations. The main value in this section comes from the classical illustrations paired with the text. I enjoyed them immensely in themselves and in their support of the translation, despite the indifferent-or-worse quality of rendering.
Volume two, "The Death-Dealing Blade" starts a much more literate phase of the cycle. It opens with an allusion to Laozi, and the subtitle "Weapons are unfortunate instruments." Pacifist though I am, I acknowledge valid (and unfortunate) purpose for those instruments, and valid (though unfortunate) reason for people to become expert in their use. This is another tactical approach to swordsmanship, but a little less dedicated to rote learning than v.1. Instead, it starts by encouraging Zen, the Tao, and the Confucian classics. Then it goes back to the tactics of swordfighting. As always, the swordsman himself is first among his tools, and emphasis is on honing that tool.
Volume three, "The Life-Giving Sword," attempts to reconcile the violence of bushido with the quiet of zen. This is far more philosophical than the preceding volumes. It is also firmly grounded in the bloody pragmatics of its time: the sword cuts one person in order that others may live. It opposes moral relativism directly, in its appeal to some clear standard of need, but also demands fast and final judgement by the man on the spot. I can not put words to it, but I see a resolution of the personal and the universal there, in a way that I want to learn.
There's more here, too, in the translator's introduction and in other minor works in the collection. This won't be the centerpiece of any library, but it's worthwhile to any student of the bushido or of classical Japanese culture.