Paying Respects to Musashi

The body of Miyamoto Musashi, the greatest swordsman of all times, rests just outside of Kumamoto city in a peaceful park in the town of Musashigaoka. It is a nice place to enjoy the momiji in the fall, and the sakura in the spring. Surprisingly, not too many people visit the park. It’s kind of sad, but most people know Musashi, not from reading “The Book of 5 Rings” or the book by Yoshikawa Eiji, but from the NHK television series or from the “Vagabond” manga.
I look at the words of Henry Cisneros, a former mayor of San Antonio, and am sad that he didn’t do his research or bother to write a better tribut to Musashi. Words that would almost guarantee anyone else an F on an elementary book report are cast into bronze for all to cringe at.
How do you take down a whole school of swordsmen bent on killing you to protect their honor? With a katana in one hand and a wakizashi in the other. This is when it helps to be ambidextrous.
Here is Musashi demonstrating several positions where he holds 2 swords. Before Musashi, Japanese swordsmen pretty much only used 1 sword at a time to fight with. Fast forward to present day swordsmanship and the arts of kendo and iaido. No one uses 2 swords! Oh well. Kendo is kind of disappointing to me anyways, as are the other martial arts that have been made into sports.
It is interesting to note that Miyamoto Musashi prefered to use a wooden swords in his bouts. According to some accounts he defeated Sasaki Kojiro, a prodigy of the nodachi (a long two handed sword), by carving a sword out of an oar that he found in the boat that he rode to the site of their duel.

4 thoughts on “Paying Respects to Musashi”

  1. While most Kendoka do use only one shinai or sword it is not uncommon for there to be at least one Kendoka at most National Competitions who fights Nit? (with two swords). So perhaps let go of some of your disappointment and maybe have a go at Kendo and you will realise a lot of the spirit, honour, and techniques of legends such as Musashi are still alive.

  2. Hey Wade, thanks for weighing in on the subject. As an occasional observer of kendo, I’ve never encountered anyone who fights Nit?, and I’m glad that you were able to provide some information for me to further research.
    I guess that I’m just sad to see some of the more effective techniques being lost as part of a cultural heritage that is forgotten as a result of the progression from using martial arts to effectively down an opponent to one that puts all of its weight on scoring points (that may have nothing to do with how effective those points might be in a situation where one is actually engaged in mortal combat).
    True, there may be little need for one to know these things today, but once this knowledge is gone, it is likely gone forever.
    I hope it didn’t seem like I have no respect for kendo, as I feel quite the opposite.

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