If ten men, each with a sword, come at you with swords slashing, if you parry each sword without stopping the mind at each action, and go from one to the next, you will not be lacking in a proper action for every one of the ten.
Although the mind acts ten times against ten men, if it does not halt at even one of them and you react to one after another, will proper action be lacking?
But if the mind stops before one of these men, though you parry his striking sword, when the next man comes, the right action will have slipped away.
The Unfettered Mind
To parry means to ward off. So if someone is slashing a sword, you strike that sword away. Eluding danger.
So many kung fu movies feature the hero taking on 3, 5, or even 50 enemies at one time, besting them all. The scene in Kill Bill in the restaurant was one of the ultimate ‘one versus’ battles.
While these scenes, can be cool, and incredibly visually stimulating, I never thought about the metaphor. Or the lesson to be taken from them. I’m sure to most screenwriters and directors, they mean nothing more than a cool action scene. And probably for most viewers too. But subtly in the best movies, they mean more without the viewer even realizing it.
There are sections about battling more than one opponent in The Book of Five Rings, and I honestly didn’t give them much thought. I knew Miyamoto Musashi famously defeated a group of would be killers and thought that in some way he was teaching these principles to highlight one of his greatest battles. I was way wrong. It took me several times to get it, similar to how it takes me 4 times to listen to a song before I realize it’s ‘the best song I’ve ever heard.’ I finally had to read it in the Unfettered Mind for it to sink in to my numb brain.
The ten men coming at you with slashing swords are your problems. You are the man in the middle.
We all have slashing swords coming at us from all directions. The mind not stopping on a problem allows us to deal with everything that comes at us individually, but all at once. It’s similar how your mind deals with your arms and legs when walking and dialing your phone. There is no greater emphasis placed on your arms or your legs or your breathing. They are all vital to get this done. Just like handling all the problems that come at you at the same time is sometimes vital to your survival.
‘Not stopping on a problem’ doesn’t mean ignoring it, or overlooking it. If you are in battle and you overlook one man with a slashing sword, you will be killed. If you are in business and you overlook a shipping problem in order to focus on more sales, your business will be killed. ‘Not stopping’ means that you deal with the problem quickly and move on to the next one.
The 7 Breaths concept that that I wrote about HERE states that all if you know solutions to problems quickly, you can dispose of them and move on, quickly.
Sometimes, the largest problems seem like the ones you should stop and think about. But it’s not true. The biggest and burliest swordsman in the pack of ten may need a clever move to dispose of, but to stop your mind and only consider how to beat him will only result in death from another. Knowing yourself and knowing everything you have in your arsenal is key. Increasing your arsenal helps as well.
Musashi has strategies for beating different unevenly matched scenarios, and I will go back to The Book of Five Rings and re-read and think about and highlight those at another time.
But just the understanding that we are all the same. That we all have many issues being thrown at us. That we all battle multiple problems from multiple sides. And that if we spend too much time, thought, and energy on one problem, we will be bested by one or many others, is enough information…for now.