When I first came to the lands of the Mirumoto, I was alone.  They did not accept me as more than a curiosity, and they did not understand me any more than I could understand them.  When I began my search for Niten, they thought that I was an adult searching for something that a child might understand. They did not see then that I was not searching for their Way.  I had come so far to find my own path.

-          Kakita Brent

 

From the Journal of Kakita Brent, On Mirumoto Hojatsu's "Niten"

  I am not Mirumoto.  I have not walked the paths that he has walked, and nor have I ever drawn my wakizashi to defend any other or myself.  Still, I have come so far to seek the words and the spirit of this Niten, and so do I put this to pen.  I include also the comments of Mirumoto Kijome, the student of Hojatsu who organized this text so many years ago…

-          Kakita Brent

 

Why This School Is Called the Two-Sword School

I have spent many years on the road, and I have fought forty-seven duels, and I have never lost.  This is because I employ a technique that has no anchors to tradition.  I employ a technique that teaches movement rather than memorization.  My school is called niten, for I use both of my swords, not just the katana.  Those who ask why do not understand my thinking.  They will attempt to build a house with nails but no hammer…

(Brent's Commentary: This school is unique, and not simply for the way of holding two blades.  Hojatsu's thinking, his learning from his father, shows not only the strengths of his way, but also the weaknesses that the Mirumoto see in the styles of other men.  This must be remembered, and both styles considered while understanding Niten…)

 

Stance

Your stance should never change, not from peace or time of war.  Natural, natural, natural!  The way you stand with a sword in your hand is the same way you stand with a tea cup in your hand.  If you fight as you stand, your stance is natural and you do not need to shift your mind.

Kijome's commentary: The word Mirumoto uses for "stance is "kamae."  It means posture and stance, but it as also come to mean school.  Often times, a samurai will say to one another, "Show me your kamae," and the other will fall into his stance.  From this stance, a perceptive samurai can determine which school his opponent has attended. "Shift your mind."  Many schools teach that there is a "martial mind" and a "non-martial mind."  Hojatsu's school did not teach such nonsense.  If you train your mind to be always sharp, always ready, while others are "shifting their minds," you are ready and they are dead.

(Brent's Commentary: Here, at least, I find a certain balance.  It is as Kakita said, "In both peaceful times and in war, one's attitude should be the same - refined, noble and disciplined."  Peace and war require the same concentration…merely trained to different ends.  On a natural stance, I have found that this is true, and yet it is not.  Your stance changes as you train, but it is not merely your fighting stance.  Your very stance of life changes, being more prepared; more trained.  This is natural, to change wholly, and not divide yourself into pieces.)

 

What You Show

There are two concepts taught by Shinsei: "What you show" and "What you do not show."  Strategy is nothing more than knowing how to deceive.  Truth is in the killing. Practice showing something different than your intentions.  Practice as often as you can.  Then, when the need arises, you can do it without effort or concentration.  When it is time to draw the sword, your mind should be on nothing else.  Hold your swords out of position, to show your ignorance or vainglory, and anticipate his half-hearted attack.

(Brent's Commentary: As I looked upon this at the first glance, I saw great dishonor is such a tactic.  And then I contemplated.  The way of the Daidoji to make war is deception.  Akodo wrote, "All is war."  It seems that Mirumoto Hojatsu understood.  A duelist shows nothing, but a Mirumoto steps further.  He shows them what is wrong, and thus defeats an opponent with both his strike and his mind.)

 

Seeing the Surface

Do not be deceived by the surface.  Learn to see what you are not meant to see.  Watch what your opponent cannot hide from you.  Do not look at his eyes.  A man can always lie with his eyes.  Watch his shoulders, his belly, his breathing.  Watch all of these.  Keep a broad mind.  A man can fool you with one, but if your mind is broad, he cannot fool you with all of them.  You must practice this diligently.

(Brent's Commentary: Many people have questioned Hojatsu's section here.  Why include a counter to your own techniques?  But this is because it is a truth of the sword, not just in the schools of the Mirumoto, but also in all schools.  Understand that every man or woman that you face, all of them strive to hide their true strength.  Learning to recognize what is real, this is an important skill, vital to victory.)

 

Strike From the Spirit

When you strike, strike from the spirit.  Thought is slow.  Spirit has no time, no hesitation.  Nothing can distract the spirit.  Leave the mind behind.

Kijome's commentary: Mirumoto uses the word ku, which can mean many, many things.  It can mean "spirit," or "emptiness" or "nothing" (there is a profound difference between "emptiness" and "nothing").  Shinsei explained that the spirit exits "where there is nothing" where "[action] is unclouded by emotion or thought."  He explained that perception (the body) is a veil through which we see the universe.  The body is imperfect, so our perception is imperfect.  But the spirit, that which is in contact with the Void, is pure, and unclouded by emotion and thought.  "Striking from the spirit," then, would mean striking when perception and emotion are put aside.

(Brent's Commentary: Seeking the Void, the essence of the strike, is what this section asks the student to do.  Learning to calm the mind is not a simple thing.  We have a hundred things begging for our attention.  But in a duel, a swordsman must learn to calm and quiet the mind.  Thinking, as Hojatsu saw it, was for before the duel, after the duel, but not during the strike.  Concentration is powerful, but slow.  Remember to seek the swift perfection of the Void Strike, and you will find your opponent's defeat.)

 

Let Him Go By

When the enemy charges us with urgency and strength, let him go by.

A sidestep is quicker than a charge, and puts you in a position where negotiation means nothing.

(Brent's Commentary: These few words are important, and they form a great deal of the strategy of all duels.  Learn to see where the strike comes from…where your opponent's true power lies.  That is important to understanding how to achieve victory.  Avoid your opponent's strength, and then, while his strength is expended, you can easily find his weakness.)

 

Knowing

When the spirit is clear, it is in tune with the elements, in perfect accordance.  Then, your true perception, you will be with mushin, and your spirit will be one with all the universe, and you will know your opponent's every desire.

Kijome's commentary: "Mushin" means "no-thought" or "no-mind."  When one is of no-mind, the spirit is free to act without thought.  Leave the mind behind, for the mind and body are slow.  When a samurai is mushin, he is in touch with all the elements, in tune with the cosmic order, and he knows his enemy better than his enemy knows himself, for his enemy is still hindered by his own perceptions.  Some call this "kime" or "kiho": focusing the ki, or life force.

(Brent's Commentary: This is an interesting duality that is also found in the writings of my ancestor Kakita.  Though niten is devoted to a superior style that must be learned, a samurai must understand that, as Hojatsu said earlier, you must not be clouded by these words, or any words, during the duel.  Consciousness is the key towards understanding the unconsciousness, and effort is the Mirumoto's path towards the effortless way.  "Knowing" as Hojatsu writes is difficult.  Do not let this stop you.)

 

The River Sword

Be like the water, ever flowing with no beginning or ending.  One movement leads to another.  The river can flow in all directions at once.  Make your movements like the river, and you will understand my meaning.

Kijome's commentary: "Be like the water."  There are those who believe a single strike solves the duel.  This is not so.  What solves the duel comes before the strike.  Observe your opponent and watch him.  If you are certain of every stroke, you will never make a mistake, never be caught off-balance and you will always be victorious.

(Brent's Commentary: This is perhaps the most notable skills that can be observed when watching a Mirumoto.  Make your strokes so that each provides you with options.  In the practice of mizu-do, we are taught that resisting gives only two options: resist or fall.  The Mirumoto have much the same thought about the sword.  There is more than defeat or be defeated to this style.  The River Sword, Let Him Go By, these are both marks of this thought.  The way of niten is to provide the swordsman with countless options, so that he is free to change in order to find victory in his swords.)

 

The Virtue of Walking

Many schools have a "secret stepping technique."  I have no secret technique.  It is as I have said, in my school, all movement is natural.

(Brent's Commentary: Natural, natural, natural!  How simple the words, and yet how difficult they can be to achieve.  So many times in life we say, "I am a samurai.  I am above nature."  This is partly true, and should not be wholly embraced.  Be superior to nature's lures of lust and greed, for we are samurai, and must carry ourselves as such.  Yet, do not forget that our stance, our walk, all of this is natural for a reason.  Nature's way is often the best, and has worked for heimen and samurai alike for many years before any of us.  Remember this, for this is a piece of wisdom that many schools have forgotten.)

 

The Five Positions

There are five positions, one for each of the elements.  All positions are an opportunity to cut.  When you take a position, allow your sword to meet your opponent's, and use his own momentum as your own.  Every moment there is an opportunity to strike.

 

The First Position

The sword falls easily at your belly with its tip pointed at your opponent's throat.  The legs are spread comfortably and firmly.  Both feet are flat, so you may move when you wish.  Never move when you must, only when you wish.  The short sword is at your side, resting easily.  Your enemy's confidence will be put asunder by your casual confidence.

 

The Second Position

The sword is lifted high and falls down upon your opponent.  Many think the strength of their arms is what cuts.  They are wrong.  The sword cuts.  The wrists cut.  Never the arms.  The second sword is sideways across the chest to intercept the enemy's cut, then swing about, using the speed of his cut.

Kijome's commentary: "…using the speed of his cut."  Ride your blade along the blade of the enemy while he cuts, and you will feel this.  His speed can be your speed.

 

The Third Position

The sword is low and against the left leg.  As the opponent strikes, we raise our sword and let his arms fall into its bite while we step aside.  The opponent cuts.  We step aside.

 

The Fourth Position

The sword is low and against the right leg.  As the opponent strikes, we move as if we are dedicated to the Third Position.  He will guard appropriately, and as he does, our wrists bend like water and his head is free from his shoulders while our short sword cuts down on his sword for certainty's sake.  Show one thing, be intent on another.  This is the way.

 

The Fifth Position

The sword is held behind us and the short sword is before us, resting lightly on our belt and we wait for his motion.  If you perform this correctly, you will never need to move.  The opponent will see your stance and he will know that you know the Way.  Sometimes victory is won without a single drop of blood.

  (Brent's Commentary: These stances that Hojatsu left are the beginning from which all possibilities arise.  The Mirumoto understand that they are not in fact absolutes…they were never meant to be.  They are the beginning to the style, and that is the secret to seeing the power of the daisho techniques and all of their countless options.  Understand and master the first four as I have tried to do, and you will be able to find victory for yourself and honor for your family within your sword.  Master the fifth position, and you will achieve something greater than mere victory.)

 

The Five Enemies

You will know your enemies by his weaknesses.  The Vain Enemy can be fooled by humility.  The Negligent Enemy can be defeated with detail.  The Angry Enemy can be drawn off balance.  The Exhaustible Enemy tires himself quickly.  The Cowardly Enemy defeats himself.  Learn this, and you will never be defeated.

(Brent's Commentary: Recognizing your enemy is a challenge, even to a skilled perception.  Kakita said, "Men will lie to you."  Remember this, and remember that Hojatsu spoke of places to see where a man cannot lie.  Look at his spirit also.  Once a samurai learns to look into his opponent and see him for what he is, rather than what he shows himself to be, then the samurai can easily achieve victory.)

 

Timing and Rhythm

There is a profound difference between timing and rhythm.  Many schools teach rhythm.  Their techniques are measured like music in beats and tempo.

My school teaches timing.  I strike between the moments when my opponent is counting time.

Watch your opponent carefully.  If you watch, he will reveal his timing to you.  Strike when his timing does not allow him to act.  Strike when your opponent believes you cannot.  Show him weakness and he will charge.  When he charges, that is when you have him.

You too, must learn to count.

You must understand his rhythm.

If he breathes on one, prepares on two and strikes on three, I am striking between one and two.

Kijome's commentary: This is the true "secret" of Mirumoto's technique, and it applies to all things, not just swordsmanship.  Study your opponent's timing.  If you know it, you will always win.

(Brent's Commentary: Finding someone's technique requires learning to watch, and knowing what to watch for.  Watch the breath, the muscles.  This is where you can find his timing.  Your opponent cannot hide everything from you.  He defeats himself in this.  But also, as the Mirumoto have shown me, be sure that you see the truth, and not what the opponent wishes you to see.  Know his true timing, and you will be victorious.)

 

Three Alternatives

When you engage the enemy, there are three alternatives.

If he attacks first, kill him.

If you attack first, kill him.

If you attack at once, kill him.

(Brent's Commentary: Mirumoto Hojatsu reminds us to have no illusions about a duel.  Once it is begun, we must be ready and willing to do what you must in order to end the duel.  Have no illusions about that.  One of you will die beneath the sword.)

 

To Know

I do not believe that I can win, I know I will.

Kijome's commentary: When my father defeated Ujimona, he told me afterward, "He was the better swordsman.  His skill and technique was better than mine."  I asked, then how did you win?  He told me, "Because I knew I would win, and he did not."  Technique and skill can only carry you so far.  There will come a time when they will not carry you at all, and all you have to rely on is your knowledge that you can never be defeated.  If there is ever even a single shadow of doubt in your mind, you will fail, and you will die.

(Brent's Commentary: "Knowing" is difficult.  It is different than egotism or arrogance.  Knowing should be something that you take no pride in.  Knowing is simply the truth.  It is in you, in your sword.  Understand that, accept it, and one day it will save your life.  Here is the final words of Niten…here is where the Mirumoto are understood.  To follow the path of this daisho technique, you must understand that you can not win…you must know that you will win.  This is the secret of the Dragon, but it hidden only behind your only fear and self-doubt.  Defeat yourself, your ego and your fear.  This is the path to victory.)