The Iaido Journal  Dec 2013
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Gorin no Sho 3:
Chapter 1 concluded

copyright © 2013 Kim Taylor, all rights reserved.

I Named This Style "Nito"

Kono ichiryu nito to nazukeru koto

Why I named my style "Nito" is because bushi, both commanders (officers, leaders) and soldiers, have to wear two swords at the hip directly. A long time ago these were called "tachi" and "katana", and now these are called katana and wakizashi . I don't have to write every little thing about why bushi wear two swords at their hips. In my country no matter whether they know why or not, to wear them at their hips is the way of bushi. In order to make people understand these two benefits, I named my style "Nito Ichi ryu".

[The bushi wear two swords so I call my style the Nito Ichi ryu]

Concerning the spear (yari) and the extra long sword (nodachi or naginata), some say these are not weapons of the Martial Arts, but these are within that range. In my style, even if one is a beginner, one has to train with tachi and katana in both palms, this is a true way. When the time comes that you have to bet your whole life, we want to utilize every last one of our weapons. Not utilizing our weapons fully, dying while our own sword remains in its sheath at our waist, it is not our real intention.

[When fighting for your life, don't leave any weapon unused]


Indeed, you should not leave any weapon unused, but if you don't understand how to use them all, how can you use them even if you have them? A plumb bob is no good if you don't know how to use it to make a wall vertical. Have the tools, know how to use them, and use them in the right situation.

As a bushi you would have two weapons at your hip, a long and a short sword. If you have two swords why would you ignore one? The name of the school is a reminder that there are more options, use them wisely and as you need them.

However, holding swords in both palms, it is very difficult to deal with the right and left hand freely. Therefore we train each hand to use the sword perfectly. Spears, long swords and other big weapons can not be held, however, like the sword and wakizashi, none of them are weapons to be used by one hand.

The disadvantage of using a tachi in both hands is obvious during the time when we are on horses. During the time when we have to run, when in a swamp, a deep rice field, a rocky field, a steep slope and in an area crowded with people, it is also impractical. Holding a bow, a spear or some other weapons in the left hand, all you have left to use the tachi is one hand. Thus it is not a true practice to level your tachi in both hands.

If it is difficult to defeat (kill) the opponent by one hand, you can get him by using both hands. It doesn't take a long time. At first, in order to swing your sword using one hand, hold two swords and train to swing the tachi by each hand. For any of us when we train with the tachi the first time, it is too heavy and difficult to swing around, however, it is like everything that we train with the first time, it is difficult to pull a bow or to swing a long sword. As time goes by, we get used to using these weapons, when we pull a bow we will be stronger and when we draw a long sword we can swing it easily using the logical application of power.

[It's hard to use the sword in each hand so we practice to make it easy. Some weapons can't be used in only one hand so you use two, but the disadvantage of using a sword in two hands is obvious in many situations like riding a horse or having another weapon in your other hand. It's hard to kill someone with only one hand so use two, this doesn't take long. When you practice with two swords it's hard at first but you'll get used to it.


A hammer is usually used in one hand and most people use it in the dominant hand only, but what if you could use it in either hand? This would be very handy on a ladder where you could reach out on either side.

Train to use either hand and use both if necessary. There is some indication that Musashi was ambidextrous but with training, anyone can use both hands or either hand as the need arises.

The way to use the tachi is not to swing it quickly. I'll explain this in chapter 2, water. The tachi has to be swung in a wide space and the wakizashi has to be swung in a narrow space, this is the first thing of this way. In this style, we have to win no matter whether you use the long sword or short. Therefore without deciding the length of swords, to win using any sword is the logic of my style. The advantage of having two swords, compared to having one sword, is when we fight against large numbers of people alone and when we catch and hold down somebody. It is not necessary to list every particular detail now, you have to deduce everything from one thing. If you start to learn hyoho, and become well versed in it, you won't miss even one detail. You should think hard about this point.

[The tachi shouldn't be swung quickly, it is used in a wide space and the short sword is used in a narrow space, this is the first lesson of my way. We win no matter what length the sword is. Having two swords is an advantage when fighting against multiple opponents or when capturing someone. Think about how this applies to other situations.]


Use the correct tools for the job. When all you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail. This is the same for the martial arts, if all you know how to do is kick and punch, you use that skill in every situation. National governments with a powerful military tend to look for a military solution to international diplomacy.

In scientific research one often tries to cut down trees with a scalpel, I have worked around labs where they used HPLC to measure total sugars. (HPLC will separate all the sugars into their parts, and they are then added up again, yet there is a simple, quick chemical test which will do the same thing). Musashi is pointing out here that there are various swords and spears of different lengths which work best at different distances.

The tools are various, and you can use them in various ways but you must use each in its own correct way. A framing hammer is a good example. You can choke up on the handle for fine work, use more leverage for driving spikes, and even use two hands for light demolition work. The tool is suitable for all that, but not for use in breaking up concrete.

You Should Know the Meaning of These Two Words (Hyo Ho)

Hyoho futatsu no ji no ri o shiru

In this way, the person who swings the tachi is called a "hyohosha" by the world. Extending this to other martial skills, if a person pulls the bow well, we call him a bowman, if he has a gun, we call him a gunman. If he uses and acquires spears, we call him a spearman, and if he learns the long sword, we call him a long swordsman. However, even if he learned tachi, we don't call him a tachiman or a wakizashi man. Bows, guns, spears and long swords, these are all weapons for buke (samurai or samurai families and their members), thus any of them are the way of the sword too. This is the logic of why we call only the way of the tachi, hyoho. By the tachi's grace, we accommodate the world and settle ourself down, this is therefore the fundamental instrument of hyoho. If you understand the Tachi's grace, it is the same if you win fighting against ten people. If you win fighting against 10 people, 100 people can win against 1000 people, 1000 can win against 10,000. Therefore in my style of hyoho, one or ten thousand, these are all the same and I call all considerations of the way of bushi, hyoho.

[While you can talk about a spearman or a gunman, we don't say tachiman, instead we say hyohosha (man of hyoho). For the bushi, the sword is fundamental and this is where we learn strategy (hyoho). If you can beat 10 people with your sword, than 10 can beat 100 and so on. By this hyoho it's all the same.]

Talking about the way, there are many ways like the way of Confucianists, Buddhists, a person of taste, a person who teaches etiquette or a "Noh" player, there are no ways like these in the way of the bushi. However, in any way, knowing the way deeper and deeper, we can learn something from it. For human beings, in any way, it is very important that one brush his own way up very well.

[There are many "ways" and even those that are not the way of the bushi can be learned from. No matter which way you are on, you need to practice deeply.]


Musashi talks about using many different weapons but the Niten Ichiryu only covers the katana and wakizashi. Nonetheless, all the lessons of budo in general can be learned by studying these two swords.

The specialized nature of the gun, bow and spear is recognized by the names gunman, bowman and spearman but we don't use the names tachiman or wakizashiman, instead we use hyohosha or strategist. This reflects the central place of the sword in budo instruction.

To Know About the Benefit of Weapons is Hyoho

Hyoho ni bugu no ri o shiru

Understanding each weapon's advantage, any weapon has to be used, adjusting for the occasion, and following opportunity. For example, a wakizashi will be of advantage when in a narrow space, approaching beside an enemy. Tachi will be useful in almost any kind of situation. Long swords will be less useful in the battlefield compared to spears. Spears can attack first. But the long sword will attack later. If the users of these weapons are of the same skill, the spearman will be a little stronger than the long swordsman, however, if a spear and long sword are used in a narrow space, there is not much benefit for either of them. These weapons are not useful to capture the enemy. These are only good for wide places. These are necessary weapons on the battlefield. Therefore, learning skills in a space like a tatami room, thinking about small details and missing the real logic, can't work out in a fight.

[Each weapon is used according to its advantages and in accordance with the situation. A short sword is best in a narrow space or close to the enemy. The tachi is useful almost anywhere. Nodachi or naginata (long swords) are less useful on a battlefield than spears. Spears can attack at long range, long swords a bit closer, but neither are much use in narrow spaces or to capture an enemy. Learning sword skills in a small room and thinking of the little details of this practice will mean you don't understand how to fight on a battlefield.]

The bow is useful on the battlefield, especially when it is time to pull horses and soldiers back or forward, seeing the timing. The bow can attack quickly from the side of spears and other things, thus it is remarkably good for field battle. However, for attacking a castle, or from a distance over 20 ken (120 shaku or about 36 metres) between enemies, it is not good enough. At present, I don't have much to say about the bow, for any martial skills there are lots of flowers but not many fruits. Such martial arts won't be useful when needed most.

[The bow can cover advances and retreats, fire from between formations and similar so it's very useful in a battle. It's less useful against a castle or from a long distance. I don't have much to say about the bow these days, for many martial arts there seem to be more concern with appearance than effectiveness and those arts won't be much use when needed.]

The gun is the strongest weapon from the fence (fortifications). For a field battle before the start of fighting, there are also lots of advantages, but once fighting has started, guns will not be suitable. One of the good points of the bow is that the bowman can see where the arrow goes, in contrast to that, the gun (shot) is not visible to our eyes.

These are concerns to study well.

[Guns are good from cover and as the battle starts in the field but then they're not much use. In addition a bowman can see where his shot goes but a gunman can't.]


In our own case today, we should be able to use any bokuto (wooden practice sword) or sword we pick up for kata practice. For kata we should not develop favourite techniques and for warfare we should not try to make everything fit our favourite methods of battle. The real world is messy, we need to be adaptable and use whatever tools are best for the job, but also whatever tools we have at hand. A good carpenter can work with poor tools if he has to, but a poor carpenter may need an excellent saw to cut a straight line.

Talking about horses, they must be strong and have good endurance and a good nature. In general, not only weapons but also horses need to be durable. Swords and wakizashi have to cut well, long swords and spears have to thrust well, and bows and guns have to shoot accurately and strongly. You should not have favourite weapons or other equipment, it is the same having too much and not having enough. Without mimicking other people, you should choose martial weapons which suit your hands and obey your body (yourself). It is not good to make something specific for the likes or dislikes of officers and solders.

Invention and adjustment is very much needed.

[Weapons should be useful and well made, horses should also be suitable. You shouldn't have favourite weapons, and having too many is as bad as not having enough. Choose your weapons according to your body and how well you can use them. Don't make special weapons for officers and soldiers, be adaptable.]


Musashi says you should "choose martial weapons which suit your hands and obey your body". Eventually you should make any martial art your own. Most students, when they start, think this means choosing rare variations of a kata or even changing or adding to the techniques they were taught to create "signature moves" or something similar. This is not correct. The "own" we talk about here is something that develops out of a conversation between the student and the art over many years. It is something that happens, not something that we create out of a desire to be unique.

Surely a smaller student must have a lighter weapon and a taller person can handle a longer sword but these are just tools. If it's "good enough" then that is enough. On the other hand, it's also the case that weapons should be standardized for practice in a ryu. With standard lengths and weights it will allow weapons to be mixed around in practice as necessary and strikes or thrusts can be made to close distances without the surprise of an extra two inches that ends up in someone's eye.

The Rhythm, (Tempo, Timing) ("Hyoshi") of Hyoho

Hyoho no hyoshi

For any thing there is "hyoshi", a timing. Especially for the hyoshi of hyoho, you will never be able to achieve this without hard training.

In the world, only the way of (Noh) dancing, the rhythm of orchestral music and so on have clear hyoshi, these hyoshi are all following the rhythm smoothly and fluidly. In all of the ways of martial skills, there are hyoshi (timings) and "Choshi" (rhythms), for shooting arrows, shooting guns and even riding horses. When using any skills or talents you can not ignore the hyoshi. Even abstract things have hyoshi. For a lot of bushi, there are hyoshi which is to be promoted for doing service, and to be evaluated lowly and turned out if unsatisfactory. Or for the way of merchants, there are the hyoshi to be rich, and even for the rich, later on to become bankrupt, these hyoshi are different for each way. We have to distinguish well among the hyoshi to determine which ones will prosper or fall.

[Rhythm exists for everything, especially for hyoho. You won't understand this rhythm without hard practice. This rhythm and timing is present in shooting arrows or guns and extends to things like success and failure in a career.]

Hyoho has various kinds of hyoshi. To predict the matching hyoshi in advance, to prepare different hyoshi, find the proper hyoshi in big, small, slow or fast hyoshi, notice the hyoshi of a pause and acknowledge the opposing hyoshi, these are the fundamentals of hyoho. Without knowing the opposing hyoshi, your hyoho won't be competent and solid. In a war, the person who is accomplished at hyoho, will learn each enemy's hyoshi and attack with a hyoshi which is unexpected by them. This is how to win by making full use of the intangible hyoshi, by using the wisdom of hyoshi. I'll write about hyoshi carefully (in detail) in each chapter.

Read it carefully and consider it, then train (practice) very hard.

[The fundamentals of hyoho are to predict the timing of coming together and breaking that timing, to find the proper size and speed of your timing, to understand pauses in the action and the opponent's rhythm. In a war you have to know the enemy's rhythm and use a different one to disrupt him. I write about timing in every chapter of the book, it's important.]

What is above is all about the way of hyoho, to practice these points hard every morning and every evening will lead you a universal mind naturally, and let you use it in large numbers or as a personal way of hyoho. To tell the world and write about them in this first try here are five chapters of "Chi", "Sui", "Ka", "Huh" and "Kuh". If you want to learn my way of hyoho, there are some keys to practice.

1. Do not have an evil thought.

2. Practice the way very hard

3. Accomplish various kinds of skills

4. Learn about various kinds of occupation

5. Know about the loss and gain of things

6. Train your judgment in any situation

7. Notice the truth even if it is not visible

8. Pay attention to any tiny things

9. Do to do anything useless

Generally you should practice the way of hyoho keeping these rules in mind.

For this way, you won't accomplish your goal and be able to be an expert of hyoho, without viewing the truth widely. Once you accomplish this way, one can even defeat twenty or thirty enemies. If you always keep hyoho in mind and train the true way, hard, then your skills will be better than others, your judgment will be superior. If you have achieved a flexible body by hard training, you will physically win over others, and if you train your spirits with this way, you will spiritually win over others too. If you can reach up to this goal, how can others defeat you? If you have a broad sense of hyoho, you can beat others in terms of being good at meeting good (intelligent) people, you will be able to use large numbers of people under you, to behave yourself properly and with right conduct, to rule the country, to feed your own people well and to keep the world's social order and moral discipline. In any way, acknowledge your superior points and lead yourself the right way, raise up and promote your good name, this is the way of hyoho.


1. The first of the precepts is not to have an evil thought, that is, not to be dishonest. It is necessary to be brutally honest about your own wishes, desires and motivations. This is number one, you must see yourself.

2. The next precept is practice, lots of practice. In budo the way to make a better person is through practice, with a mind on precept number one, to see our own motivations in all things. The physical activity of practice is a form of meditation, a way to concentrate the mind and break the cycles of rationalization and useless thought.

3-4. Three and four are to learn many skills and to learn about other occupations than your own. A world-view that is too narrow is as bad as learning only one kata or using only one weapon.

5. To know about loss and gain is to understand that money, power, friends and life itself can come and go. Resign yourself to this.

6-7. These precepts concern judgment and perception. Just as with number one you have to see yourself honestly and truthfully, the same is true about the rest of the world. You must "see into" and understand what you're looking at, not just see it. There is more than just the surface, there's more to a book than its cover, yet market research shows that people buy books based on their covers. It is of note that these precepts are far down the list from knowing yourself.

8. Don't forget the details. Although Musashi will stress throughout the book that you have to hold the big picture in your mind, you must also pay attention to the small things like praising an underling for a job well done, or remembering your wife's birthday.

9. Finally, do nothing useless. This is perhaps the most difficult precept of all. Is budo in the modern age useless? Is play (video games and chatting on the internet) useless? Is watching television? We agonize over this, and we should. Sometimes it may be better to do nothing at all rather than waste time doing something that is useless.

On a very personal level, if we are practicing budo we should check always that we are making no useless movements, no useless timing or spaces in our kata.

Keep in mind that Musashi was writing this book to his student as an aid to being a retainer to a lord, a manager and general, a leader of men. It goes beyond simple instructions in the Niten Ichiryu and moves to "the big picture".

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