The Life-Giving Sword: The Secret Teachings From the House of the Shogun (The Way of the Warrior Series)

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9784770029553: The Life-Giving Sword: The Secret Teachings From the House of the Shogun (The Way of the Warrior Series)

This is a translation of an important classic on Zen swordfighting. Yagyu Munenori was so widely renowned that he was appointed official sword instructor to two Tokugawa shoguns. (The position was always coveted by Miyamoto Musashi, but he never succeeded in gaining the post). Yagyu's style is known as the Shinkage-ryu style, for centuries the official style of the Tokugawa dynasty. His spiritual mentor was Zen priest Takuan. Here, Yagyu's Buddhist spirituality is clearly reflected in his central idea of the "life-giving sword" - the notion of controlling an opponent by the spiritual readiness to fight, rather than during the fight. His mastery of restraint and diplomacy made him a trusted political and military advisor to the shoguns. This book is a look into a master swordsman's thoughts on nonattachment and even non-violence.

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About the Author :


YAGYU MUNENORI was so widely renowned that he was appointed official sword instructor to two Tokugawa shoguns. (The position was always coveted by Miyamoto Musashi, but he never succeeded in gaining the post). Yagyu's style is known as the Shinkage-ryu style, for centuries the official style of the Tokugawa dynasty. His spiritual mentor was Zen priest Takuan. Here, Yagyu's Buddhist spirituality is clearly reflected in his central idea of the "life-giving sword" - the notion of controlling an opponent by the spiritual readiness to fight, rather than during the fight. His mastery of restraint and diplomacy made him a trusted political and military advisor to the shoguns. This book is a look into a master swordsman's thoughts on nonattachment and even non-violence.

WILLIAM SCOTT WILSON, the translator, was born in 1944 and grew up in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. As an undergraduate student at Dartmouth College in 1966, he was invited by a friend to join a three-month kayak trip up the coast of Japan from Shimonoseki to Tokyo. This eye-opening journey, beautifully documented in National Geographic, spurred Wilson's fascination with the culture and history of Japan.

After receiving a B.A. degree in political science from Dartmouth, Wilson earned a second B.A. in Japanese language and literature from the Monterey Institute of Foreign Studies in Monterey, California, then undertook extensive research on Edo-period (1603-1868) philosophy at the Aichi Prefectural University, in Nagoya, Japan.

Wilson completed his first translation, Hagakure, while living in an old farmhouse deep in the Japanese countryside. Hagakure saw publication in 1979, the same year Wilson completed an M.A. in Japanese language and literature at the University of Washington. Wilson's other translations include The Book of Five Rings, The Life-Giving Sword, The Unfettered Mind, the Eiji Yoshikawa novel Taiko, and Ideals of the Samurai, which has been used as a college textbook on Japanese history and thought. Two decades after its initial publication, Hagakure was prominently featured in the Jim Jarmusch film Ghost Dog.

Wilson currently lives in Miami, Florida.

From Publishers Weekly :

Just in time to capitalize on the cinematic vogue for samurai epics comes this new translation of a classic 17th-century Japanese swordsmanship manual. Heavily influenced by Zen Buddhism, Munenori, a swordsmanship instructor to several Shoguns, downplays the training and extols the spiritual enlightenment and life lessons to be gained through martial arts. A few rules of thumb like "you attain the victory by having your opponent make the first move" and "it is dangerous to get any closer than one foot" could be useful in a sword fight, but actual combat maneuvers like Billowing Clouds, Flower Wheel and Sword of Mystery must be learned through "oral transmission" since "they are difficult to express in written words." (A lengthy appendix taken from another source, containing period illustrations and detailed but still opaque instructions on fighting moves, confirms this insight.) Instead of specific routines, Munenori emphasizes the attainment of No-Mind, the Zen version of "flow" in which one's swordplay proceeds without self-conscious thought. The book's philosophy, it must be said, is also pretty difficult to express in written words, and is conveyed through poetic imagery ("with a pilfered glance, the dragonfly evades the shrike") and mystic paradoxes ("that which is called existence is nothing other than non-existence, and that which is called non-existence is none other than existence.") Munenori's rambling exposition of it may lead readers to conclude that, whatever wisdom comes of a lifetime of sword fighting, it doesn't impart a polished literary sensibility. Fortunately, Wilson, translator of several samurai works, includes a substantial biography of Munenori that illuminates the political and cultural background of the samurai ethos and clarifies Munenori's doctrines for novice readers. Photos.
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Munenori, Yagyu
Edité par Kodansha USA (2003)
ISBN 10 : 4770029551 ISBN 13 : 9784770029553
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Munenori, Yagyu
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ISBN 10 : 4770029551 ISBN 13 : 9784770029553
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