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Before going into the true essence of the Book of Five Rings, Gorin no Sho, I will preface this paper with the following statement that I have personally come to understand after many years of devotion to my particular martialist form, Hebi-ryu budo, The School of the Serpent. The more you study something without knowingness and acceptance of being its master, the more its essence will elude you. Intellect is an abysmal pitfall.

Musashi knew the value of certain actions. Whether intuitively, instinctively, or by sheer luck. He even alludes to it in the Book of Earth. He also advised that it was not necessary to have a teacher, but that was not a good path for everyone, and, to tread it alone, one had to be very secure in self-esteem and disciplined enough to maintain the constant hammering in one’s head to overcome the incessant trials and tribulations of self-doubt. He also understood something that most of his interpreters did not—that the void was not ‘nothing,’ something that could be identified but, having no identity: no-thing.’ The ultimate release of ego, arrogance and false pride is essential to enable ascension for understanding the essence of any desired discipline. It is this very ‘no-thing’ that is the ultimate essence of his Gorin no Sho, Book of Five Rings.

It is essential to understand and to acknowledge that to enter into a relationship with a higher ideal, a practitioner must give oneself over to the Spirit of the Thing Itself without any form of personal definition, but only a desire to become the very thing itself. As an example, rather than throwing a punch, being the punch, with no thought as to how it is executed by the Spirit of the Thing Itself in you, as you, and through you. Have no doubts…to do this requires a stern resolve and an ardent desire to overcome the limits that one has from either accident, birth, or just plain misfortune. Nonetheless, with true devotion, any matter can easily—yes, easily be overcome.

In the first ‘book’ of the Book of Five Rings, Musashi relates matters of earth as the true foundation of every ascent to mastery. The primary message is for a person to think of the highest form of accomplishment, or else remain a drone worker and never ascend to personal greatness, regardless of self-imposed definitions. Keep in mind there is a vast difference between mastering an art or simply entertaining oneself or performing for the crowd. To further illuminate, the discipline of detachment is a fallacy and fools the psyche with a false sense of security. Without succumbing to audacious arrogance, the master is always aware of controlling an accepted destiny and further guides the Spirit of the Thing Itself to deliver the results based on their own devotion to it—the essence, and not the thing—the sword.

It is called knowingness, and it is the result of long, tireless practice and awareness of the self as an instrument of the thing itself, without being vain to think of being apart from the thing itself. Avoidance of that reality comes when total connection to the ideal is attained. The warrior attitude is based on the belief that constant practice will eventually enable you to overcome your own personal limitations with everything. The essence of the ideal must be first nature and NOT what is referred to as second nature. You either are the thing, or you are not. It is not a matter of getting into the ‘zone,’ when necessary, but being in the ‘zone’ as a complete matter of fact.

The ancient adage of the ‘sword being the soul of the samurai’ Is only half correct. The complete adage must be: ‘the sword is the soul of the samurai, only when the samurai is the soul of the sword.’ Again, you either are the ‘thing’ or you are not. This is not a clever play on words. From the highest level of knowingness, the craftsman or artisan knows very well the positive and negative aspects of any particular tool being used, assuming, of course, there is the attendant mastery beforehand.

Musashi lays out fundamental attitudes that reinforce his thinking and teaching. The postulation of the nine principles, all obvious truths, maintain a necessity to meditate on them until they become an aspect of your being.

Lastly, the Book of Earth teaches the importance of your individual need and responsibility to function in society and to maintain your dignity with correct action and behavior that befits any appropriate situation in all things.

As we enter into the Book of Water, keep in mind the importance of being grounded in earthly values in order to maintain stability in the flowing of water.


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Internationally acclaimed with several awards for Best Documentary, an astounding project by award-winning Canadian film maker, Peter Sacco, about the absurd notion of current governments in their insipid attempt to cajole and incapacitate the public regarding their rights. But it is far more reaching.

For decades the individual freedoms of individuals have been robbed from them one step at a time–LOCKSTEP. Most people had no idea that this was occurring. It was the ‘boiling the frog’ in a sauce pan approach, gradually, without anyone really noticing. Lockdowns were a ‘Godsend’ in many ways, as it opened up peoples’ eyes around the world and they became awake. Was there some ‘world power’ at play the whole time, stealing peoples’ rights, freedom and even everything they worked so hard for, away from them? Listen to experts from around the world as they share their opinions and expertise for what they believe has happened, or will happen.

I am featured in this film as an expert discussing aspects of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War in relation to the anomalous conduct of the present administration.

Note: Some content may be strong for sensitive viewers including genocides, destruction of indigenous peoples, human trafficking, contrived pandemics, and much more that everyday folk think about in regards to their own quality of life issues.

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Concerning the warriors of the enemy that have not fallen before you: treat them with respect, especially if they have fought with all of their hearts. They can be made into allies and will serve you with great zeal if they learn respect for you. It does not matter that they have fallen. Perhaps their leaders were not as good as they thought they were and did not plan adequately. Perhaps their leaders demanded too much of them. The reasons are countless and you can do nothing to enhance your understanding of victory in war by pondering another’s reasons for failure. You must carefully analyze the actions that brought you victory and, in that manner, determine where the enemy was weak.

Ever so intelligently, and with compassion, bring the enemy warriors into your own fold. But do not bunch them together; they can rise up against you when they realize what has happened. That is why it is well to reward the warriors of the enemy that have given great battle. Warriors are warriors and do not concern themselves with anything less than war. Do not humiliate them in their defeat. Do not deride their past masters more than is necessary to assert control for the benefit of all concerned.

If war is waged it must be for the benefit of all. This includes the people of the beaten country as well. If this attitude is not understood and prevalent then perhaps you are just a barbarian. If so, you will eventually fall. Do not think that because you have won in combat that you are invincible. The strength of your victory also depends on the weakness of your enemy, which you must have determined. After victory is attained, be prepared to govern the conquered. The people will do your bidding once you have their trust and if they believe you have done for them as you have done for your own people.

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Taking what he needs from local peasants and merchants to replenish his troops, the warlord does not involve himself with commerce when he is in the midst of battle. He makes sure to leave some for the local people, knowing there is always the possibility that he will see them in a time of retreat. However, if the people deny assistance they should be destroyed. Peasants can be replaced: troops are not that easy to find. Although you may have adequate supplies in the rear, it takes some of those very supplies to deliver the remainder to the troops in the field.

Care must be taken not to humiliate the enemy troops more than is required for quick victory. The more humiliation you place on the enemy, the more vengeance he will crave, and the more intense his actions will be. If you intend to subjugate the enemy, do so within the constraints of intelligent planning for the future. There will be ramifications regardless of the manner in which you operate. Understand this before you make your final decision to overrun a country. If you see no value to the enemy in any way or fashion, then you should totally destroy every remnant of his culture. However, this is generally not wise because there is always something of value to be gained from other cultures. Change brings about change, though this is not always good.

Reward the warriors who have served with distinction to the maximum extent you can. Do not skimp on the rewards you place before them, and make sure to do so within the view of the other troops. Do not reward those who have done a halfhearted job, regardless of how fervent their halfheartedness was. Levy swift punishment to those who have created difficulty in your process of victory. Do that in front of the troops as well.

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When mobility of troops is difficult and the enemy is more familiar with the territory, the edge in the battle will go to the enemy. Attacks must be delivered with blinding speed and proper plans must be well thought out. If they are not, the enemy will detect the approach, giving him time to prepare his defenses. A lack of speed may be caused by not having been discriminate in selecting the correct fighting ground. An aware warlord knows that good ground is essential for the mobility of his troops. The place of fighting must be thoroughly researched before he can attack with authority. In this way he insures his victory, despite the unpredictability of fate.

A true understanding of the principles of war means that he does not need reinforcements to make the initial attack. If the attack is planned properly and the men are properly trained and prepared emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, the warlord will have investigated all possibilities.

Errors in judgment are not too rare and adequate force should be employed when attacking. This coupled with the speed of the attack comprises his action. If you determine that five hundred soldiers will do the job you must be sure to have a thousand. They must all travel together and understand the necessity of completing the maneuver in one thrust. They must have the heart to destroy the enemy. All provisions and supplies must be carried with the troops as they prepare to enter into battle. It is bad policy to have to call for supplies when involved with tactical maneuvers. Even worse is to discover that the supplies being requested are not available. This is poor planning and results in failure, unless Heaven is determined that you shall win the day.

It must also be realized that when the army is in the field, supplies are very expensive if they have to be locally procured. Peasants and usurers will charge as much as they can; that being the nature of peasants and usurers. An enlightened warlord knows that peasants do not really care who is in charge of the government; or for that matter who wins the conflict. They are only interested in providing for their families. It is a good idea to have them on your side and you should maintain their goodwill by giving them something extra. If they determine that you are weak in spirit or intent, they will take undue advantage and assist the very people you are attacking, whether they are in accord with them or not. If you are good to them, they will mind their own business. This does not mean that you are to trust them under any conditions. Regardless, when you subjugate them you don’t have to trust them-they will fear you.

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Supplies are essential for the proper management of a conflict and its resolution. Without supplies there is nothing to sustain the army except bare hands and berries. Oversupply presents problems of a different nature. Though it may appear better to be oversupplied, consider the hindrance in mobility when approaching the enemy or when retreating. Proper rationing of supplies includes food, ammunition, and money. All are equally important. Food is essential on the march: more so than weapons. Weapons are more important in combat than is food. Money is more important during times of rest. There must be adequate rationing of all supplies.

Without food the army cannot sustain its energy. Overfeeding troops will make them sluggish and interfere with their desire to win as much as too little food will make them nervous and edgy. There must be a sufficient supply of arrows and spears to replace those lost in battle and on the march. Replacements must be available when needed. Money must be paid when the troops are at rest. Some men may wish to buy presents for their loved ones. Some will prefer to gamble. Others will wish to buy books, trinkets, or sweets. The warlord should not be concerned with how a soldier spends his money, as long as it doesn’t interfere with command.

All food, weapons, and money must be in safekeeping prior to ordering your troops into battle. Only then can you appropriately deploy your men. There should be enough money in reserve to counter any surprises that could deplete your supplies and force you to change your plans during unfavorable times.

The intelligent warlord understands that entrance into conflict is senseless without an attitude of complete and total victory. There is no reason to contemplate anything else. Paper tigers are burned up at the first contact with a flame and cease to exist. If victory is not his main goal, then what is to be accomplished? If plans do not include destruction of the enemy, the warlord’s troops will sense this and develop a lack of morale. Their keenness for battle will be dampened by the lack of leadership, and they will challenge the chain of command. Neighboring states will also see that he has no heart for the matter and take pleasure in setting traps that they normally would not attempt. They will look to humiliate him and see him falter. He cannot permit these conditions to arise.

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Destroy your enemy in any way you can, but never forget that he may have resources as well and may be prepared for your attack. Consider him a fool for self-aggrandizement if it is appropriate, but do not become vain in your estimation of him nor permit yourself to consider him weak-minded, regardless of appearance. Remember, you did not invent war and he may be maintaining his place of power in the same manner that you maintain yours. Never think that he is incapable of destroying you.

If he moves right, you move right in an encircling gesture—leaving some men to move left. If he moves left, you move left in an encircling gesture—leaving some men to move right. Do not permit him to flank you. If he moves back, you move forward-leaving some men in the rear for support. If he moves in, you move in with greater resolve taking care to outflank him. All of your troops must be committed to the battle. They must be well equipped.

Insult the enemy with subtlety where and when you can insult him; degrade where and when you can degrade. Offer fool’s bait and entice him to display his stupidity. Do something that may appear stupid and capitalize on his arrogance. Insult his children and insult his parents-it will anger him and bring about rash acts. Insult his wife-he physically joins with her and it will force him to focus his rage incorrectly. Insult him directly-as a commander he will be forced to protect his face and attack with less than well-thought-out tactics.

If he is not resolute in matters of war, he will easily be kept off guard. He will issue inappropriate orders, and his men will react without conviction and fall in battle. It is always best to let the enemy kill himself. If these actions do not motivate him towards combat, then you had best reconsider your enemy and his sense of beingness.

It is wise to keep the enemy on the move, forcing him to cover areas that ordinarily need no extended care. Create disturbances that force him to settle his mind elsewhere. Create dissension among his troops by providing them with gifts they would not ordinarily receive. Poison his food supplies. Disease his men with unclean women. Create a strain in his thinking and when he is flustered, drive in and destroy him-totally, including the people thought to be his allies who must be intimidated by your ferocity of purpose. If they were his allies, they cannot be your allies; at least in the present time. You will need time to watch them and see how they react to all of your actions and your enemy’s defeat.

Do what I tell you to do. You will then always be successful in war. If you ask what happens if he does the same things to you, you do not understand what I am talking about. Study deeply.

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If warriors under your command follow your instructions you will have great success. Reward them well and reward them equally, but not too often. If you feel otherwise, for whatever reason, or they give you cause to suspect that their true natures are not sympathetic to yours, they should be disposed of immediately and in proper fashion. If they cannot be trusted with you, then for certain they cannot be trusted among your enemies. If you permit them to remain in your presence, they might rush to the other side and reveal your plans when it is least expected. Do not take this chance. War does not permit faltering personal belief. Never seek to assuage the non-sympathetic in an attempt to convert them to your way of thinking. Empathy will be seen as a sign of weakness among your loyal followers. Men who do not follow instructions can never lead as commanders. They serve no purpose other than to use up valuable resources and create dissension. Dispose of them.

Compassion must be reserved for those who truly need it, and it must be offered with leniency, not indulgence. It debilitates and weakens the strong in their resolve to fight for you. Never try to win someone over by changing your strategy in hopes of befriending them. Hope is nothing more than wishful thinking and must be avoided at all costs: it abrogates definitive focus and creates false friends who are worse than true enemies. It also brings about flatterers. You must truly believe in your own ideal. Preparations for war cannot be intellectual exercises.

Once these principles are understood and they are taken into a warlord’s heart, the next level of understanding can be approached; that of making war without hesitation and without second thoughts.

Correct strategies must be developed by methods that enable the warlord to bring about the implementation of his true beliefs. It does not matter how he does this. He must, however, make sure that his own house is protected before going into the field.

Going into the field means that all preparations are in place and effort can be minimized by using a primary tool of war-deception. The warlord must look busy doing something else when he is in fact positioning himself intelligently and with strength. Enemies must never see you in direct motion, such as coming at them. Enemies must never make sense of your actions.

In war it is essential to make the enemy think one thing while you deliver a strike from another direction. It is essential to keep the enemy off balance, even by feigning assistance to him. Make him think you are befriending him while you plan his demise.

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The successful warlord does not put someone in charge of the warehouse if that person only cares about negotiating. Everyone should be content with their given tasks and in that manner they will perform admirably. You must praise and admonish your men with the same intensity and you must never play favorites. Anything you do that is not built on balance will eventually topple, causing you great grief.

Treat all of your staff as equals and permit each member of your staff to know they are special in their place. But do not let them think they are equal to you. If they realize they are not your equal they will not try to assume command, thereby undermining your efforts. See that your staff treats their subordinates in the same fashion as you treat yours.

The ideas presented to you follow a sensible order, and one must not be considered more important than another. If you prefer one idea to another then you will not be in control of the situation. Trying to determine an easy way to accomplish your goals will, in time, cause you to be defeated. A warlord must maintain personal balance in all affairs.

A warlord of worth must consider all of these matters with an enlightened mind and at the same time maintain full authority and conviction of purpose. Do not let your men participate in your times of meditation. Their interruptions will interfere with your thoughts causing a loss of focus on your goals.

If these matters are given due consideration by one who is astute, then victory is practically assured, notwithstanding the fates. If you will think in these terms and come to understand them, then you will also know if the orders you give are within reason or if they are demands that you yourself would not dare follow.

A warlord must appear to be all things to all men, but first he must be true to himself and not permit indecisiveness to rule his destiny. There can be no room for indecision and nothing less than full commitment to the ideal. These principles must be grounded in his heart. It must be expressed through his actions towards his men: they will know if his affection is real or false and they will act accordingly.

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The wrong weapons placed in the hands of untrained soldiers will result in defeat because of a lack of consideration given the matter by the leader. Generally, men know their own weapons and are comfortable with them. Choose your men with great care and consideration. To let fate choose your situation invites defeat. As a warlord you must be courageous. When you have chosen your men, keep them at your breast, nurture them, and care for them. They will not fail you under these conditions. Never betray them, regardless of your anger at their mistakes. They must know you will die in battle with them if it is required. Think about the following ideas with deep resolve. Meditate with understanding. Preparation for war takes considerable study before orders should be passed to generals and then to the captains and ranks.

1) The morality of the project is essential to the outcome of the project. You must know what it is you wish to accomplish and why. Be firm in your resolve and certain that your generals and captains agree with your desires and can be depended upon to take the matter to the final point. Do they believe strongly enough in your ideal to sacrifice everything that has to be sacrificed for the accomplishment of the goal? Do they believe in you as a leader? Do YOU believe in yourself as a leader? If everything is balanced in your favor then proceed to the next step. If not, rethink your attitudes and desires.

2) The atmosphere and the general attitude is most important. Are the times correct, and can you properly prepare for battle? Have you considered alternatives to the plan of operation? Can you control the needs of your troops with regards to their sustenance? Can your supply lines be made secure? If you investigate these matters and plan correctly, your troops will be secure in your leadership and will not turn on you in mutinous fashion.

3) Are you capable of standing alone when necessary and making decisions that will govern the outcome of the enterprise? Can you penetrate with depth and escape at will? Is there room to renegotiate a situation (should it become necessary), in order to protect the overall condition of your plan? If not, then you must rethink the conditions and put them to your advantage. Once the war begins someone must win and someone must lose, unless both sides are insecure in their desires.

4) Do you have control over those who will wish to be in charge when you have taken your new domain? Will those you delegate authority to be able to deal with the new responsibilities thrust upon them? Do your troops consider you to be compassionate and strong, yet fair, humane, and truly concerned for their welfare? If they do not, then you will never be able to put your plans into motion.

5) Will you do whatever is necessary to accomplish your goals, irrespective of the feelings of others who may otherwise wish you harm? You must be strong enough to confront those who will seek to pull you down. To accomplish your goals, you must consider the reactions of those you are not taking into consideration in your ultimate plan. Even if they believe in you, they will interfere because they know you are not keeping their well-being in mind. If you lie to them, they will know that too. Their attempts at revenge will be sweet to them regardless of your success or failure.

6) The above matters taken into consideration; the warlord’s general philosophy of the ideal must be made manifest before any physical action is taken. Are those to be deposed and reassigned able to maintain their dignity? Have you provided for their needs if you are unable to crush them resolutely? Are the enemy’s men you are saving and delegating authority to able to deal with the changes they must come to terms with?

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Conflict is essential to the development and growth of man and society. It leads either to the construction or destruction of an entire group or state. As a leader of men, you should understand this concept without question. If you do not understand the need for conflict, then you should not be in control of the society you presume yourself to be in charge of.

If there is no conflict-internal or external-there can be no growth. The resolution of a warlord’s affairs, worldly or otherwise, forces personal development in the individual. However, conflict does not always mean physical combat. Being prepared for any eventuality by understanding the controls required to develop your own particular agenda are essential. You must see the need for battle if you wish to develop your own cause on any level, but you should not fight a battle if you cannot foresee winning the war.

The warlord, understanding the tools used to wage war, must also understand men, and must have the presence of mind to give orders without hesitation, regardless of the outcome. This is essential. Correct preparations will generally insure a successfully carried out campaign.

The reality of life and the attitudes of the fates play an important role. You cannot know if you will be successful or not. You can only prepare for battle, and it must be done with all of your heart and with all of your consciousness. In that manner you will have the edge. Being unprepared will bring about defeat unless you are truly exceptional, and there are very few who fit that description. It is stupid to fight a battle that you cannot win, and you cannot win unless you have properly planned for it. Fate, which is based on your true desire, will determine the outcome of the conflict according to the extent of your own belief and faith: nothing more, nothing less.

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To celebrate 25 years of successful sales of my interpretation of Sun Tzu’s Art of War, Tuttle Publishing will be releasing a hard cover version of the book on November 30, 2021. Preorders are now being taken at Amazon.com

The Art of War by Sun Tzu is the best known book on military strategy ever written. Although its wisdom is ancient, its principles and advice are timeless; it remains as influential as ever in military strategy, leadership roles, business tactics, legal challenges, martial arts philosophy and more. Everyone from New England Patriots’ coach Bill Belichick to Tupac Shakur have turned to this time tested treatise.

This translation is by Hanshi Stephen F. Kaufman, one of America’s leading martial artists, and is specifically aimed at martial practitioners to demonstrate how Sun Tzu’s strategies can be applied to martial combat.

The book’s thirteen sections present vital information including:

  • Planning ahead—how a solid battle plan can help lead to victory
  • Attacking the enemy—considerations when choosing to attack or, perhaps even more importantly, when to not attack
  • Flexibility in combat—the importance of changing tactics as the fight evolves
  • Exploiting weakness—how understanding your enemy’s shortcomings is crucial to success

This edition includes 32 pages of full color images, capturing the pageantry of ancient combat. A new foreword by martial historian and decorated martial artist Alexander Bennett explains the importance of Sun Tzu’s text and the value of Kaufman’s interpretation for the martial artist.

For more information on the author and to order signed versions of his books, visit hanshi.com

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