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What Adachi Masahiro Can Teach Us about The Development of the Mind

Updated on September 30, 2014
Training the Samurai Mind Cover
Training the Samurai Mind Cover

I had the chance to read this book on the samurai mind recently. It was extremely interesting because it gave you a clear idea of how several notable individuals from Japan's past thought about duty, honor, strategy, among other things.

Now of those many writers, Adachi Masahiro was definitely one that I had never heard of but what he wrote resonated with me.

His focus was on the psychological side of military thought and strategy. In fact, there was a lot of commonality between what he wrote and what could be found in Musashi's Book of Five Rings. The difference was where Musashi had been vague, Masahiro was crystal clear.

Now I'm going to analyze what he wrote by section.

Yin and Yang

Yin and yang, a common and symbolic phrase, yes. The focus here though is on the state of your mind when you face a challenge.

Once you read this whole passage, the clear takeaway is that being able to quiet your emotion and be calm will significantly improve the odds of achieving success.

I've had personal experience with this. I compete a lot in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, and I've noticed that I perform far better when my mind is calm. Thoughts about the past and future or highly emotional states have always had a detrimental effect.

Reality, Action, and Groundwork

I read this and I was reminded that few ideas are truly new, not even my own. As a result, I came to the understanding that technique equals the fusion of movement and concept.

Masahiro adds a psychological element to that by defining groundwork as movement, action as concept, and reality as being able to perform with a calm mind after having successfully developed groundwork and action.

The Physical Mind and the Basic Mind

There is a phrase that I've heard from a book I've never read. It's applicable to this passage, and the phrase is simply active mind, passive body, passive mind, active body.

The first part of that phrase directly applies to what Masahiro means by the physical mind. He describes it as techniques and knowledge that is held but cannot be adequately used because the mind is otherwise occupied.

On the other hand, when the mind is calm at a deep level far more technique and knowledge can be utilized masterfully.

Practicing Swimming in a Dry Field

Interesting title, eh. It really gives a visual impression of the concept that will be explained because it is not possible to learn how to swim without water.

Thus, it is clear that to prepare yourself to face challenges, you must train with conditions that are as close as possible to what the reality will be.

Mental Posture

The state of mind is once again emphasized. An example is given of how a strong mental posture can lessen conflict by making adversaries reconsider their intentions.

Four Attacks

Everything written here relates directly to martial conflict, but it also can be applied to a wider range of topics.

Here's an alternative way of looking at it. There are four ways to address a problem. You can do so directly, wait and react, attempt something then change tactics based on the reaction, or gather intelligence and target a weakness or vulnerability from the start.

Five Technicians

Masahiro describes five archetypes for martial artists, which can be applied more broadly. The five types are: the aggressive, the clever, the technical, the calm, and the masterful.

It can be further broken down into tiers where the aggressive, clever, and technical would be placed on the lowest level, then calm would be one step up with masterful at the pinnacle.

Outward and Inner Courage

The difference between appearances and truth can be quite startling. I have no doubt that it's even more the case when it comes to courage.

Masahiro agrees. He likens outward courage to fire which rages strong but inherently has weakness. He then compares that against inner courage which is calm yet relentless like water.

Adepts and Masters

Once again, Masahiro reaffirms the concepts that a calm mind that cannot be disturbed is the key to mastery.


An interesting story is told about a meeting between Miyamoto Musashi and Yagyu Hyogo.It also happens to be the most vague passage in all of Masahiro's writings.


A lot of time has been spent explaining why a calm mind should be achieved. Now the focus is the steps to achieving such a state, and the first step is not to fear the possible outcomes of a situation.

Demonic Difficulties

The greatest difficulties are the ones that we make for ourselves. Any obstacles that stand in our path will never give us as much as the obstacles that we create within.

That message is all that Masahiro wants to convey when he compares outer difficulties to lesser demons and inner difficulties as greater demons.

Two Wheels Two Wings

Once again, Masahiro reaffirms an earlier principle with a different explanation. This time the link is to reality, action, and groundwork,

He explains movement and concept as being the two wings of a bird or the two wheel of a chariot. Without both, a bird would have great difficulty flying and chariot wouldn't move very fast if at all.

Then he makes the point that there is an element that is even more important than the two wheels or two wings. It is the axle of the chariot or the body of the bird. Once again, it comes back to psychological state.


If you take away nothing else from all of this just understand that state of mind has a clear and significant effect on what is possible.


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    • KBEvolve profile image

      Kenneth Brown 5 years ago from United States

      Adachi Masahiro's theories only make up a small part of the Training the Samurai Mind book actually. There are a lot of other great concepts there as well.

    • profile image

      Angelo 5 years ago

      Ran into a BJJ article you had and have been reading several, this one is a great read and I will def read Masahiro's book

    • SidKemp profile image

      Sid Kemp 5 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach)

      Thank you for showing us the power of an empty, flexible mind. You did an excellent job summarizing the book. Reading this is a big help. For some, it is all that is needed. For others, it is a reason to read The Trainings of the Samurai Mind. All that is here can be used to prevent conflict, not just to win. Thank you. Voted Up and Useful.

    • Spirit Whisperer profile image

      Xavier Nathan 5 years ago from Isle of Man

      The mind commands and the body obeys but so many nowadays have got it the wrong way around but not you great warrior! Great work and greatly appreciated.