The Way of Two Swords
“For beginners in my school, the real thing is to practice the science wielding both swords, the long sword in one hand and the short sword in the other. When your life is on the line, you want to make use of all your tools. No warrior should be willing to die with his swords at his side, without having made use of his tools.”
The Book of Five Rings, translation by Thomas Cleary
I came across this passage in my reading the other day and it stuck out to me so much, that I shared it with one of my fighters and felt the need to share it with you all. Now, while this could be interpreted and applied multiple ways, today, we put it in the context of mastering multiple skill sets, and contemplate the impact this has on our training.
In the past, fighters tended to "master" or better said, focus all their effort on one skill set, Muay Thai, Boxing, Wrestling, BJJ, etc. They had mastered one “sword” and were wielding it with two hands. It's was their bread and butter, and little time was focused on other elements of the game.
Royce Gracie exposed a weakness in stand-up fighters who had no, or very little, training in Brazilain Jiu Jitsu after he won the first Ultimate Fighting Championship ( UFC 1). He had mastered the sword of BJJ which proved to be of more use than the sword of stand-up.
As the sport advanced, fighters began to pick up more than one sword. Combining both a stand-up style such as Muay Thai or Karate, with a ground focused style, such as BJJ or wrestling, which proved to be far more effective in combat.
Today, competition has become increasingly difficult, and downright brutal for a fighter who has only trained just "one sword".
Musashi agrees, and goes on to say,
“The trouble with wielding a long sword with both hands is that it is no good on horseback, no good when running hurriedly, no good on marshy ground, muddy fields, stony plains, steep roads, or crowded places.”
“It is better to wield two swords than one long sword when you are battling a mob all by yourself…”
When I meditate on this, it occurs to me that it is better to be master of multiple “swords”, or in plain terms, talents and abilities, rather than relying purely on one. For mastery of only one skill set, leaves me exposed and inadequate should my terrain change. Fading, are the days when a person could learn and master just one thing. We should be in a continued state of learning and intentional effort when mastering multiple weapons.
So what is your marshy ground, muddy field, stony plain, steep road, or crowded place? Are you comfortable on the feet? In the clinch? On the ground? How is your defense? Cardio? Offensive wrestling? Do you have a second sword that needs sharpening? Are you prepared for the mob of different fighters that you will face in your career?
Or how about we broaden our scope outside the physical. Another way this passage can be interpreted is we should sharpen both the sword of mind and body. So much time can be spent sharpening all elements of physical preparation that the mind is often neglected and left dull.Competition today takes supreme focus, strategy, and mental preparation. Both mind and body. Assess yourself. Where are you strong? What do you consider your broad sword and your short sword? Do you have a plan for making sure to train both. Bring meaning and purpose to each training session. If you would like any assistance, let's talk.
I encourage you to think diligently on this.