The book of 5 rings

Discussion in 'Koryu Corner' started by kip42, Dec 9, 2010.

  1. kegage

    kegage Green Belt

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    I commented earlier that my use of Gorin No Sho is as more of a technical manual for combat than as a guide for training in a formal ryu. So, of course, I have a different perspective of understanding and using Gorin No Sho. What Chris and Mark have said is true in respects to how many times you may have to read it before you begin to understand the lessons Musashi is trying to impart on strategy and other practical fighting aspects within his tome. Constant practice and study is the key. It took me many years to figure out what some of it meant. Other parts came quicker. Then I had, what could be described as, an epiphany moment and I was able figure out most of the passages that had eluded me.
    As to the influence Buddhism had on Musashi and his authoring of Gorin No Sho, there is no doubt of that. In regards to the necessity of having knowledge from the Buddhist Sutras to understand the book, I will have to more research and read them before I can comment intelligently. Before going to the HNIR website I had never been exposed to the idea that in order to understand Gorin No Sho one must first have an understanding of the Buddhist Sutras. For the purposes of using Gorin No Sho within HNIR it may be an absolute necessity. After reading the Buddhist Sutras, I may have a better understanding of Gorin No Sho than I currently have, but as of this writing, I believe I have, at least a functional understanding of most of the lessons Musashi wished to impart. There are parts that still elude me, and maybe the sutras will help me with those.
     
  2. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Grandmaster

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    Hi Kevin,

    I'm going to try to keep this fairly gentle, but there are a few things that may be helped by some clarification. Hopefully you will forgive any bluntness here, as it is entirely likely that the only difference between what you mean and what I'm reading (and how I'm reading it) are the words chosen.

    I think you may have that backwards, to a degree. The Gorin no Sho was never written as, nor intended to be a technical manual, and to use it as such is not really possible. What it was written as was a treatise on strategy. In fact, it may be interesting to look at why it was written in a little more detail.

    According to the Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu, Musashi chose from amongst his thousand students three to pass everything to, ensuring that his Hyoho would continue unaltered (for the record, the Ryu continues this by only having three people under the Soke awarded Menkyo Kaiden even to today). These three were Terao Magonojo, Terao Kyumanosuke (Magonojo's younger brother), and Furuhashi Sozaemon. However there were problems here. Musashi wanted his Hyoho to continue as a complete teaching, and wanted to prevent there being any alteration, so it was important that each Menkyo Kaiden holder was equally proficient in all areas.

    When it came to the three contenders, Musashi felt that Terao Magonojo excelled in his technique, however he lacked when it comes to insight (in regard to strategy and the more spiritual teachings). Furuhashi, on the other hand, excelled in his insight, but his technical skills were not up to the other two. Knowing that the answer to Furuhashi's issue was simply more training (physically), Musashi wrote the Gorin no Sho to give Magonojo guidance in his understanding of the less physical aspects. He gave it to Magonojo on the understanding that it was read, then burned. However Furuhashi managed to borrow the book for a few days, and on the orders of the local Daimyo, Hosokawa Mitsuhisa, made two copies, one for the Daimyo, and the other for himself. This is where the copies we know of today came from.

    So the book was intended for someone who already excelled in technical skills, as a result the technical aspects in the book are not written as a manual, or guide. In fact, when read clearly, the technical aspects, even to the way to hold your sword, or your face, are more a description to demonstrate the strategies, not the physical aspects themselves. It is just too difficult to actually get the physical aspects right from the book, even down to the grip, or stance, without which all other physical descriptions held within are not really accessible.



    The catch here, of course, is that unless you are studying the book as part of your study of Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu, then you won't get the actual lessons that Musashi is trying to impart. Mainly because you won't understand the way they are intended, the meanings that are held in the descriptions, the physical representations, and so on. Now, that isn't to say that you won't get any lessons out of it, or that anything you do get has no value, but it does categorically mean that you will not be getting the lessons that Musashi intended.



    Constant study and practice is indeed the key, however in order to actually get what the Gorin no Sho is saying, that practice needs to be Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu. There really is no other way, I'm afraid.

    I personally have been reading the book for coming up to two decades, and I thought I had some understanding of it. It was only when I began being exposed to HNIR's teachings and technical curriculum that I started to see what was actually meant by a lot of his writings. Now, what I had thought I understood was in no way contradicting the text, and it was certainly valuable, however it was not what Musashi had meant, and there was no escaping that. Without training in Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu you will not get what is meant. It was written specifically for someone who had a real understanding of the school and it's kata, without that, it's like trying to look at a bunch of ingrediants for a 10 course meal, and thinking you can make the same dishes as a chef.



    Okay, the Gorin no Sho is a document of the Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu. Period. It has no real place outside of there. There are various Ninjutsu-related documents along the same lines, such as the Shoninki, which is a text of the Kishu Ryu about the strategies they employed. However without understanding the context of the writing it has little value in it's writings, although you can certainly try to get things out of it.

    When it comes to being necessary to have knowledge of the Buddhist Sutras to read and understand the book in HNIR, not really the point there either. It is necessary to understand both the Buddhist Sutras and HNIR in order to really understand the Gorin no Sho. Without them (and I count myself as not having them yet), you really can't understand it the way it was intended. Note the last part - the way it was intended. You can get many things out of it, but you cannot get the lessons that Musashi intended. Unfortunately it really is that simple.

    No, you'd still need to be training in HNIR as well. Without that, the Gorin no Sho is an interesting document, but it is not something that can actually be understood. I know I'm being pedantic here, but it may help to think of it like a religious document, lay-people can get many valuable things out of it, but it requires the lessons of the Clergy (or any other similar group) to really get everything out of it, and understand what it is really all about.
     
  3. kegage

    kegage Green Belt

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    Chris, again thank you for providing me with more interesting and educational information that I have not had the opportunity to be exposed to before.

    I don’t have any problem with bluntness as along as it remains cordial, and is done with courtesy and respect. Most of my friends have more than a tendency to be blunt.

    I am always referring to “my perspective”, because I realize that I am “ the oddball” on this forum. My perspective has been dictated totally by the independence of my training, experiences, and historical studies, and is more than likely to be different from others on this forum.

    The history you put forth is part of what I was referring to in my thank you. I have read several translations of Gorin No Sho, and none of them have related this particular historical aspect. I also, happen to speak yesterday with a local kendo and iaido sensei, that studied both arts for ten years in Japan, and I mentioned this conversation, and this particular part, to him. He knew the history and we conversed about it in detail for a few minutes. There was, however, one major difference between your telling and his. In his telling the document was not to be burned, but was actually supposed to be disseminated as far and wide as possible.
    The reason for my pointing out these differences is that of different people, with “direct knowledge” telling the same history in all accounts except for the end result of how the history was “supposed” to turn out. Unless Musashi actually wrote down what his wishes as to how Gorin No Sho was to be disseminated and used, and considering the amount of time that has passed, I believe we can only surmise and speculate as to his true intent.

    I have my own perspective and speculations as to Musashi’s intent, and the how and whys Gorin No Sho is seen, and used, the way it is. However, all the evidence is antidotal, and, as such, I give it that much creditability. I think one point that we both can agree on is that Musashi never envisioned his work to be used as a strategy guide for business, but it is. Then again he does say that the lessons he is relating can, and should be, used in all aspects of life, not just the martial arts.

    I don’t want to get into a Book, Chapter, and Verse debate on the meaning and understandings of Gorin No Sho. That is a whole thread, or even forum in and of itself. I think we are probably going to fundamentally disagree on the depths, esoteric meanings, and truths of many of the passages and their relations to the martial arts and life, although it would be a very interesting discussion.

    Gorin No Sho works very well as a “technical manual”, and that term, it should be understood, is used in a generic semantic fashion. No one I know of has ever read Gorin No Sho and concluded that it could be simply, or even complexly, used as a step-by-step instruction manual. It has to be intently studied, meditated on, and experimented with to have useful influence in training and combat. Even with the assistance of those that have successfully used Gorin No Sho in their training, it will most likely take the novice or intermediate combatant years to incorporate most of the lessons fluidly into their combat style.
    I personally know dozens of people, and know of thousands, that successfully use Gorin No Sho in their training. As I have stated before it is the basis of my style of kenjutsu, and I have used the lessons learned in other areas of my life outside of martial arts. I have successfully used the strategy put forth by Musashi not only in one-on-one and multiple (as many as 10) on one combat and have been successful, but also I, and others, have used it in large scale (thousands-on-thousands) battles with success.

    For you and others who are a part of HNIR it may be an absolute truth that without the training and lessons learned through the ryu one cannot truly understand the depths of Gorin No Sho. I won’t dispute that contention. Whenever I get an opportunity to expand my knowledge and understanding of Gorin No Sho I try, and will continue, to do so. However, for me, and others like me, your experiences are not a possibility. I probably will never have that opportunity, but to me, that does not in any way invalidate my understanding of Gorin No Sho. It is just a different understanding, not an incorrect one.

    Also with respect,

    Kevin
     
  4. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Grandmaster

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    Hi Kevin,

    As I hoped to get across earlier, I'm positive you are getting lessons out of the Gorin no Sho, I was just saying that the lessons you are getting are not actually the ones that Musashi intended, as that requires training in HNIR, that's all.That can sound like a small difference, but when dealing with Musashi's legacy and the Ryu he left, it can be a big one. From what I gather, the Ryu is rather pleased (if somewhat confused at times it seems) over the popularity of the text outside of even martial arts circles, so they do expect people to find value in it.

    In terms of the Iaido and Kendo instructor you were speaking to, I haven't heard of anyone else claim that Musashi wanted the book "disseminated as far and wide as possible", as that actually seems to contradict the Ryu's teachings and traditions themselves (including only three people in a generation, in this case meaning under a Soke, being awarded Menkyo Kaiden, a reflection of Musashi only leaving three people to continue his art out of all his students). So I'd question where he heard that story. It's rare that martial traditions want to have their texts popularised, they are supposed to remain the secrets and property of the Ryu themselves. Giving them out to anyone who asked would open the school to rivals, and that just wasn't done.

    To add to your history, though, there are other theories about the Gorin no Sho. For example, Donn Draeger, amongst others, believed that it was written by Musashi's disciples, not by the man himself, and cite a number of reasons for that. The letters in which he expresses that idea are found here: http://ejmas.com/jcs/jcsdraeger_musashi.htm

    For contrast, as expected the Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu holds the position that Musashi definately did write the book. The following thread gives some of the reasons and evidence from Colin Hyakutake Watkins: http://www.kendo-world.com/forum/showthread.php/8670-Don-F-draeger-on-Musashi?

    Happy reading!
     
  5. ride57

    ride57 Yellow Belt

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    I am on my third reading of it (Tenji Tokitsu). It is the ~most~ bookmarked book I have ever had, even more so than any college book. The Life Giving Sword, The Unfettered Mind, Hagakure, help to give me a insight to that era. Yojokun is also a good read. Do I understand it? I'll be the first to say no. I do feel that by reading the other books, that bits and pieces of it seem to make better sense.
     
  6. Krevon

    Krevon White Belt

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    I read the Book of Five Rings for my 4th kyu test.......It's definitely something to go back and read over the years.
     
  7. Aiki Lee

    Aiki Lee Master of Arts

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    I love Tokitsu's presentation of Gorin no sho. Chris brings up a good point that it is impossible to get the true understanding of the writings without being a student of Musashi's sword style, but there is always somethig to get out of it even if it is not what was intented.

    Krevon, I'm curious as to what you got out of your reading this time around?
     
  8. Ken Morgan

    Ken Morgan Senior Master

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    ummmmm, no I disagree. I practice HNIR and other sword styles, as does Chris.
    I think you just need to practice any sword style.
    Do you really want to know the secret teachings of TBO5R?
    Practice, practice, practice and just walk up and kill the other guy.
     
  9. Krevon

    Krevon White Belt

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    The part that jumped out (this being my first reading) were the analogies to apprenticeship, journeymen, and master. Also if I can't remember the exact quote, but Having your mind centered while all else remains flexible.

    I think this last idea written here is an essential part that allows technique trained in the dojo to be applied on the street.
     
  10. Aiki Lee

    Aiki Lee Master of Arts

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    I was just saying that is it possible to pick up everything taught in Gorin no sho without practicing HNIR?
     
  11. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Grandmaster

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    My take on it is rather literal, and therefore simple.

    If you are not a practitioner of HNIR, you can certainly get a lot out of the book and it's writings. However, you cannot truly get a real understanding of it (the way Musashi wrote and intended it) without training in HNIR, as that was the filter through which the concepts are described.
     
  12. Kenpo5.0Hawker

    Kenpo5.0Hawker Orange Belt

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    I am a bit confused. If Musashi was not trained by any established school. (self trained) how can his lessons only be properly understood by someone who goes to a school? Heck. I could even make a very strong argument that his words couldn't be properly understood by someone with formal training in the sword... Yet I could equally argue that any westerner without any real cultural knowledge let alone historical learning regarding his place and time would be equaly lost.


    I am "untrained" in the sword. Yet I've practiced the sword quite a bit just for fun. I've used his book quite a bit. I can see what a informal swordsman has to gain. But I don't see how someone who is from a formal school would gain extra insight from his unorthodox teachings.

    Did your school utilize his teachings to improve their techs? Or is your belief that your formal teaching somehow makes you better able to interpret the often "heritical" and certainly unorthodox Musashi teachings?
     
  13. Kenpo5.0Hawker

    Kenpo5.0Hawker Orange Belt

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    Do you feel this was a cultural filter that Musashi instinctively employed? Or a modern filter that us Westerners need. Because he obviously rocked the sword thing without much real training. Thus. If he was untrained and bad ***. Than anyone utilizing his sugestions might rock( his training could easily be at least as bad ***). In theory. Even without formal training. Especially without formal training.

    My best day at swords to date. I defeated ten guys over a twelve hour period. Using two "swords" (made of bamboo)all told. I wone 150 fights streight. The Kendo guy gave up and left after four fights. I've never been "in the zone" that way since. I might not ever be. That could have been my best day ever.

    What I fail to understand is how a practitioner of a diff sword school could possibly gain a monopoly On Musashi type training. Just as I came to Kenpo with a ton of bad habits from my previous TKD training and I still seek to overcome those. How can your formal school embrace this unorthodox style without having previously studied it in favor of more Tradirional aproches?

    Please forgive my apparent rudeness. I mean no harm. I do not seek to be rude. I'm on an I phone and was texting fast. I am no expert. Only a beginner with questions.

    Thank you all for your replies.
     
  14. Kenpo5.0Hawker

    Kenpo5.0Hawker Orange Belt

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    Without meaning to do so. I'm gonna risk beating a dead horse here. Do u use a two sword style that has won u an equal number of life and death duels in the same manner as Musashi? If you use a single sword, how do you claim to know much about a two sword style? That's a big part of his style that's readily apartment to beginners. He said "if it's easy to kill a man with one sword. It must be easier to do so with two" (not a perfect quote.) anyone claiming to get his way but uses a single blade kinda seems to miss a very basic point he strove to make. Or am I missing something profound? (this could be the case. I'm no expert.
     
  15. Sanke

    Sanke Green Belt

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    Just a quick one here (because there are others far more educated than I that are sure to come along soon…) , but you realise that when Chris says HNIR, he’s referring to Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu, the system that Musashi founded, right?
    It’s not just a sword school that happens to use some of Musashi’s teachings, it’s quite hliterally the school that he created. So when people say that if you don’t train HNIR, you won’t understand what’s really meant in the book, that’s quite literally the case.
    Don’t get me wrong, if you’ve gotten something out of the book, that’s great. It just won’t be what Musashi meant when he wrote it, as it was meant for a very specific context (and person, for that matter).
    There are a lot more issues with what you’ve put forward there, but I’m just going to leave it at that one, as it’s one of the most glaring from where I’m standing.
     
  16. pgsmith

    pgsmith Master Black Belt

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    I just have to ask here, since I see this all the time and have never understood it. What in the world can possibly make you think that Musashi Miyamoto did not have formal sword training? He grew up in a samurai family. In the historical era in which he lived, that would mean that he began formal training in weaponry in the family or clan art at about 5 years of age.

    HNIR is the school which was started by Musashi based upon his lifetime's worth of training, fighting, and experimentation. Gorin no Sho was the book that he wrote for this school. Of course someone that formally trains in HNIR would understand the book that was written for the school. To assume otherwise is just plain crazy! :)

    Here's something else that requires correction. Hyoho Niten Ichi ryu is a single sword style that happens to have two sword elements in it. Several other Japanese sword schools use both the short and the long sword, but Musashi's school is the most well known as he is something of a hero figure. Musashi's school consists of 12 long sword kata, 7 short sword kata, and only 5 dual sword kata. Do some research on Niten Ichi ryu and Musashi. You might be surprised at how different history is from movies and anime.
     
  17. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Grandmaster

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    I must be in this kinda mood...

    First, re-read the previous page, specifically posts 22 and 24. You seem to have missed most of what was said.

    You can only really understand the Gorin no Sho if you are trained (training) in Musashi's system of Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu (okay, there are other lines, such as the Gosho-ha/Seito line, the Noda-ha, but I'm sticking with the Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu, as it's followed the Soke progression). That's it. End of story. It was written specifically for a single member of the Ryu (a successor to it) in order to explain a range of concepts within that tradition, and that tradition alone. If you don't study it, you are not going to get what Musashi was saying, as he was being incredibly specific to his own art and what he wanted the student to understand of it. I'll put it this way... what kata does the concept of "Body of a Rock" refer to? How does "To Hold Down a Pillow" relate to the 7th kata of the Itto Seiho? How about "Stabbing the Face"? Seems rather self-explanatory... but it's very easy to miss what is (specifically) meant unless you understand how it manifests itself in the Seiho of the Ryu... in which kata it is applied, and how.

    Get it?

    Bluntly, you haven't "practiced the sword", you've played with a sword. Without being taught, or going out and actually fighting (not sparring, or play-duelling, actual combat with a real sword), you can't get to anything close to actual swordsmanship. And the question isn't whether or not you can get anything out of the Gorin no Sho, it's can you get what Musashi intended out of it (and I'm leaving off, for now, the idea of "unorthodox" versus "formal", as there really isn't the distinction you seem to think there is).

    No, my belief in my being able to have some small ability to interpret the writings is due to my exposure to Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu. You didn't pick that up earlier? Post 28, perhaps? And, again, "heretical and certainly unorthodox"? Dude, no. For the record, though, I also have exposure (experience in) some 4 other sword arts, and are more than passingly familiar with probably a good dozen or two more than that... and can tell you categorically that the writings of the Gorin no Sho are directly applicable to the Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu, and no other. Then again, there are other writings that are similarly directly applicable to the other arts, and not applicable to HNIR.

    I didn't mention a "cultural" filter, I was referring to the filter of the methods and techniques (and other teachings) of the Ryu it was directly related and applicable to. The Gorin no Sho is not (emphasis here: NOT!) a list of "suggestions"... they are directly applicable insights into the methods of the Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu itself. Not swordsmanship in general, the Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu itself. Hell, the damn book states that pretty bluntly itself! It starts by describing how Musashi developed the Ryu's methods, then goes into comparisons with other Ryu's methodologies (not always complimentary), as well as into depth in his own methods. It addresses why the name was chosen, how training is meant to be done in his Ryu, and more. It has no relation to any other methods of swordsmanship, as it's not meant to have anything to do with them (other than the Hi no Maki, the Fire Scroll, where Musashi specifically points out that he is discussing other arts than his own, as a comparison to explain many aspects of his Ryu's philosophy).

    And, as Paul said, you're really off base in thinking that Musashi wasn't trained, or thinking that he didn't have "much real training". Completely.

    Well done to you. Nothing to do with swordsmanship, though. It's playing, and it's a game. Don't worry, you're not the first, you won't be the last to believe that what you did has anything at all to do with actual usage or application of sword... but, frankly, nothing there is impressive or relevant.

    You fail to understand as you have no experience to give you a reference point. All you have is playing games. That's fine... but understand that all of your questions aren't necessarily coming from a lack of knowledge, they're coming from a large area of bad information, false assumptions, and misinterpretations.

    Beginner at what? Have you actually done any real training with sword? If so, in what? If you haven't done any, you're not even a beginner yet... you're an interested outsider at best. Again, that's not a problem... provided you recognize it.

    Dude, post 28: (KW Morgan -"I practice HNIR and other sword styles, as does Chris here"). And yes, you're missing a lot, profound and basic. For the record, as Paul said, the Nito Seiho is only five kata... it's just over a fifth of the sword waza in the Ryu (for the record, there are also 20 Bojutsu kata, 13 against Bo, 7 against sword, 6 Jutte kata, and a range of jujutsu waza, along with the swordwork Paul mentioned, although they are all rarely seen outside of Japan), so, no, it's not a big part of his style (numerically speaking), but it might be considered to contain the essence of the Ryu's methods (but that's a much deeper conversation, a bit above the pay-grade here...). The quote you're trying to push there, by the way, is almost diametrically opposed to what is actually taught in the system as well... it's not something he said. He did say that you should train to be able to use a sword in a single hand (one in each), and that, as a warrior, you carried two swords, so the idea of dying without unsheathing one of your swords showed that you didn't do everything you could. But the real lesson there is that you should be prepared to use everything at your disposal to achieve your goals... nothing about it being "easier to kill a person with two swords instead of just one".

    Tell you what, here's a clip of Musashi's system itself... tell me, are these guys missing the point when they use only one sword?



    How about in this one, where they're only using a short sword (Kodachi) for the first half...?

     
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  18. rowland templar

    rowland templar White Belt

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    Hello, I 'get' this aspect of the Gorin no Sho but seeing it written here like this has just brought a question to my mind which I'd never considered before: When and how did a book which appears to be the very specific property of the ryu become so public in the first place? I'm guessing that it's not usual practice for the koryu to release such materials to non members?
     
  19. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Grandmaster

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    From post #22:

    There are, of course, a range of other texts particular to certain Ryu-ha that have made their way out (Heiho Kadensho for [Yagyu] Shinkage Ryu, for instance), but, in the main, almost nothing of such texts make their way out of the Ryu's hands in this way. There might be certain texts that are published specifically for public consumption, but they are often rather guarded, and are best thought of as advertising more than anything else.
     
  20. pgsmith

    pgsmith Master Black Belt

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    I suspect that this one was translated and made it to book form because a) It is general enough to make sense to those outside of the ryu, and b) It was written by Musashi, who is a larger than life character in Japanese history. It is actually more common than one would think for books to be written about a koryu art. The great majority of those are either not translated to English, and/or are too esoteric to be noticed by the general public.
     

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