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A Few Concepts from the Book of Five Rings
Miyamoto Musashi’s Book of Five Rings is an incredible book. The concepts you will find within its pages can be applied to a diverse range of areas in your life.
Personally, I've read it several times, and every time I read it I picked up something new or gained a deeper understanding. So I want to strip away the mysticism and give you a little head start on absorbing the knowledge that the book contains.
To Restrain the Pillow
The simple takeaway here is that you should never allow a bad situation to progress to its worst possible outcome because of inaction. In competition for example, your goal should be to stop an opponent at the very beginning of their attack and then take the initiative away from them.
Another way to think of it is that it’s just far easier to deal with any situation at its onset than at its later stages. If I put it in the framework of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, it would be like someone had a grip that leads to a choke with a few more steps. Breaking that grip initially is easier and safer than trying to escape the choke that’s on the way.
One of my teammates at Evolve Academy taught me an intuitive way to think of this whole concept . She broke it down into traffic lights. The green, yellow, and red lights, you know. So at green, everything’s fine. At yellow, it’s time to act, and then at red, it’s too late.
Crossing the Expanse
This whole concept is likened to actually traveling over dangerous terrain. In the process of moving from point A to Point B there will come times when the journey gets rough and obstacles seem to be popping up everywhere.
Here Musashi advises that you should exert all of your focus and energy towards obliterating any obstacle in your path because once done the rest of the journey will be easy in comparison.
Another way to think of it is like climbing a hill. The upward climb may be rough as I don’t know what, but once you hit the top and starting going the downhill, it’s a breeze.
To Know Collapse
Pretty simple concept here, just think of it as the firm belief that you should seize opportunities whenever possible. In the book, it’s presented in the framework of competition or life-and-death combat situations, but it really is that simple.
For example, in competition there are moments when your opponent breaks down either momentarily to take a breather or because their will is broken. Musashi advises that you seize that opportunity and don’t relent in your onslaught.
To Injure the Corners
The simple way to look at this one is to think that when faced with a difficult problem, you should approach it first from its weakest points. There are a lot of ways where this can be applicable.
Here’s an example. In fact, I won’t use a competition situation. Let’s say you have a math problem you have no idea how to solve, but you understand some points. If you separate it into parts and solve what you can, then re-evaluate the whole afterward, the problem will become easier to understand.
Now for competition, it's best to think of it as attacking the weak links in the chain. By the weakening the corners or support structures, you can weaken the whole, and thus make it easier to overcome a opponent.
It’s simply a matter of divide and conquer. Easy concept, I know.
Mountain and Sea Change
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Apparently that's a universal concept since Musashi is clearly advising against insanity in this section of the book.
He states that using the same tactic twice in a roll is sometimes unavoidable but three times is inexcusable. So change it up and take your opponent by surprise. Force them into situations which they are not prepared for, and they will be more likely to stumble and make mistakes.
One way to think of this concept in a context other than combat or competition is to go back to the whole idea of insanity. Becoming so set in your ways that you are unwilling to deviate from course even though it's clear that you are headed straight for a glacier is insane. So if any course of action does not lead to the desired outcome after multiple attempts, switch gears and approach it from a different angle.
If learning and personal growth is important to you, check out my reading list. It includes all of the great books I've read recently, and I recommend most of them. They will benefit you.