Note: In these two two-part series, I discuss 12 rules (teachings) from sword fighting principles from the 16th century. This first part discussed the first six rules and this second part discusses the other six rules.
As stated in part one of this two-part blog, the principles the masters taught and conveyed to their students even hundreds of years ago are still very relevant today. An example of that is The Twelve Rules of the Sword taught at the Itto School in the 16th century. The remaining six rules are discussed below.
7. The Heart of a Fox
This rule is to “not allow yourself to doubt.” If an assailant attacks you, any doubt, hesitation, or being cautious can lead to severe injury or worse. So, you must train so you are confident in your techniques mechanically and you should always have an attitude and intent that your techniques are effective. I discussed training with attitude and intent in my October 2017 blog, Training The Mind Through Attitude/Intent.
8. Pine Tree in the Wind
This rule is “to not get trapped by the opponent’s rhythm”. We discuss this a lot when practicing sparring to not match an opponent’s timing but to be the one controlling the timing and to not make it predictable. We use drills like Mr. Kim’s Timing Drill to accelerate timing to throw an opponent off or practice variable timing while practicing hyung so timing is not predictable.
9. The Ground Beneath Your Feet
This rule states “Depending on the situation or the strategy, you may be employing, retreating or advancing .., despite its negative connotations, may be the best way to respond to an opponent.” We practice moving forward and backwards. What is key when “retreating” is continuously enforcing that forward energy and intent, so while it may appear to be you are at a disadvantage, you are not.
10. Focus/Preventing Extraneous Thoughts
This rule is “to not allow distracting thoughts to plague your mind”. Being completely present in the moment is a critical principle of self-defense. This principle is the same as the martial arts mindset known as Fudoshin - the immovable mind. I discuss how to train your Fudoshin mind in my January 2020 blog, Training the Martial Artist's Four Mindsets.
11.[Physical] Interval Between You and Your Opponent
This rule is to study and learn the distance relative to your opponent and apply it. For me this also means understanding your strengths or disadvantages against an opponent. For example, if I am sparring against a taller person, I will tend to move in closer where I can still effectively use my legs and arms, but they are unable to use their legs. It also means paying attention to any timing or tells they have that you can take advantage of. I have seen some students slightly tap the ground before launch a kick. This was a tell that could be taken advantage of if I move in right as I saw the tap the on floor and jammed the kick
12. Lingering Mind
This rule is “to strike without any lingering thoughts or doubts”. The rule concludes “If you entered a hundred battles and struck this point a hundred times, never doubt you will achieve victory a hundred times.” This rule is very much related to the Heart of a Fox and Focus/Preventing Extraneous Thoughts rule. Being confident (not arrogant) but confident with no doubts is also a critical concept in self-defense. The minute you start doubting yourself is the minute you can go from beating your assailant to losing. When we teach board breaks, one of the things we ask is if you think you can break the board. If there is a lot of hesitancy, then we waited for another day to try to break the board. Mindset is critical including the attitude/intent to do damage with each strike. This principle is the same as the martial arts mindset known as Zanshin - the remaining mind. I discuss how to train your Zanshin mind in my January 2020 blog, Training the Martial Artist's Four Mindsets.
“Once you understand the way broadly, you can see it in all things.” ~ Miyamoto Musashi (c. 1584 –1645) - famous Japanese swordsman, the author of The Book of Five Rings
The Twelve Rules of the Sword by Ito Ittosai, Translated by Eric Shahan, 2018