The 9 Commandments

There are many people who even when studying the Way of the Martial Arts, thinks 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…

For those who study my martial art, there are rules for putting it into practice.

1. Think without 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 involve yourself with the impractical.

Book of Five Rings

This is the excerpt from the book that graces the back cover of my copy of the William Scott Wilson translation of the Book of Five Rings. A great list. A great guidepost. They are more instructions on how to think and how to develop your mind, rather than rules that shouldn’t be broken.

I want to just focus on a few of these.

2. Forge yourself in the Way. The same way you forge a friendship, forge yourself in the Way of the samurai. Become one with it. Be synonymous with the practice. If there is one thing I’ve learned from this last month of study, is that if you live by this code, you will be better off. That is a fact, not an opinion. This code is about behaving in a way that makes you proud. It’s about self-discipline. It’s about honor. It’s about winning.

5. Know the advantages and disadvantages of everything. This may sound crazy and broad. But if you think about it, it’s pretty practical. If you have a value set that is burned into your brain, when an opportunity arises, you should understand pretty quickly, what the advantages and disadvantages to you are…the entire big picture. Take a step back, take a breath, draw a t-chart if you need to and write plusses on one side and minuses on the other. Then react accordingly. If it’s good, you go after it. If it’s bad, you don’t.  

6. Develop a discerning eye in all matters. If a person has a discerning eye, they are particularly good at judging the quality of something. That’s products. That’s places to live. That’s a job offer. That’s a lead on a sale. That’s people you meet. When I meet someone, I know within 30 seconds whether or not I want to spend time with that person. Yet sometimes I lie to myself. I try to convince myself someone is quality, even though deep down I know they are not. We all have that discerning eye inside of us, that gut feel, that instinct, but we let our brain or our desires cloud our natural feelings. Give your discerning eye it’s proper respect and you’ll save yourself a lot of time and heartache.

9. Don’t involve yourself with the impractical. Love this. Always remind yourself of this. This is NOT saying to cut out things that you like to do that aren’t achieving some goal you set out to achieve. You need things in your life that give you joy, even mindless pleasure. This is saying that there are things in your life that are depleting you of energy, not getting you anywhere, and not adding any value at all. Eliminate those things from your life.

Think about each one on the list and what it means to you. This is the way. This is the path.