From the moment of my birth, I have been a duality. My mother was a Mirumoto, and my father, a Master of the Kakita Iaijutsu Duelists. From both of them, I would inherit both the gift of the blade, and the burden of the blood of the ancestors. From the first day that I stepped into the school of my father, I searched for an answer to their questions.
I am a Crane. My entire life has been spent searching for excellence...and I have not yet found it. I have studied and trained many days in the ways of our great ancestor, Kakita. And yet, I did not find perfection. So I asked of my sensei, my father, for the right to walk the path of my mother. So I have come to this place, so that I might better understand this way, this Niten, that which is the soul of the Dragon. In doing this, I also seek to understand better the ways of Kakita, and my father.
In doing this, I have been called a heretic and a coward. Dragons have laughed at my path, and my own Clan watches with scorn. But they do not understand. Shinsei showed our Lady Doji the importance to experience all life.
Thus have I come to fight as I do, and thus I carry these three swords.
- Kakita Brent
From the Journal of Kakita Brent, On Kakita's "The Sword"
I am not Kakita. I do not yet understand that which he did...and yet I am searching for his truth, walking a different path towards the same goal. Thus I take this time to examine this text, in an attempt to understand.
- Kakita Brent
Sword of a Warrior
Understanding the way of the sword is within the understanding of one's own body. To accomplish this, there must be a time of meditation and contemplation of the self. The wielder must be forged, as the sword is forged. The body must be made ready. There has never been a sword which was forged until its steel was true, and there should never be a warrior who would wield a sword unless they, too have undergone the fires of the forge. Discipline and practice, these are the fires which harden the student of the blade, and humility is the snow into which he should be thrust. The stance, the hands, and the eye must all be trained, allowing for the quick and correct response to any situation. Whenever striking the opponent, the sword and the body must be as one. Strengthen the spirit as well as the body, and the depths of the soul will become the steel of the blade. To become one with the sword, the practitioner must learn patience, perseverance and humility. To achieve this, there must be a hundred days of hand, a thousand days of spear, and ten thousand days of sword...
(Brent's Commentary: This is truly the heart of "The Sword." The sword is not the weapon. The swordsman is the weapon. The sword alone has nothing. No life...no feeling and no skill. This is what is forgotten, in Kakita's eyes, with the techniques using two swords. The soul is the true weapon. One sword, two swords...it is irrelevant if you understand this. Your body and your soul must be trained, be strong, and be pure. The sword, or the swords, and the body are one. Strike from your soul, and you will succeed.)
To observe without moving the eyes, to sharpen the mind as well as the body - the enhancement of the sixth sense should be practiced and refined in order to gain full control of one's mental attitude. In both peaceful times and in war, one's attitude should be the same - refined, noble and disciplined. Ascertain the truth from the outside in - take in the broad viewpoint, and sharpen the mind until you find the truth within all things. Even when the body is at rest, the mind should be controlled and in a state of concentration. Walk the path of various arts and skills, broaden your knowledge of the world and do not be deceived. If your mind is strong then your spirit will never be hampered by your physical condition, even when you are exhausted or in pain. When one speaks of "crossing the expanse," it can be in the context of a small lake or a large sea - it can be a short distance or a long one. In the course of a lifetime, one must cross many waters - both the mind and the body must be prepared for the journey. In order to pass through life, one must have a keen mind and a decisive spirit, so that the weaknesses of the body can be overcome. The body is little more than the vessel for the journey. It must be forged, but the mind must be its guide, or the voyage is failed before it begins.
(Brent's Commentary: This, too, is a part of the heart of "The Sword." Many people say that they "know the sword" because they have mastered striking fast, or hard, or in the right place. This is important, of course, but it is not the true path. Watch a painter to understand this - there is a blend, both of the spontaneous (the spirit and the strike) and the practiced (the mind and the motion). A samurai must have both prepared, if he is to triumph. Let the Lion speak of their "no-mind" school and the Scorpion whisper of their techniques of fooling the mind with the mind. This is the way of Kakita, the Way of the Crane. If you are ever to understand this path, then you must accept that your mind alone will never be enough.)
On the Body Strike
The body is also a weapon. Those who insist on wielding two swords against a single opponent have forgotten that the greatest weapon is the self. The Kenshinzo, or Swordmaster, must have mastered his own body before ever touching the sword - and the body is the greatest weapon one has. To disregard it in favor of a second sword is foolish. It dishonors you as certainly as if two men struck the same opponent, and it does not allow the use of the full body - only the arms. It is certain that the greatest of techniques is called the secret sword - the sword of the body. Position, force and the generated power of the chi is the fundamental strength against which no opponent can stand. When attacking a strong force, one would be wise to use strategy and strike where the opponent is weakest. If the opponent wields two swords, they appear strong, but they have forgotten the meaning of true strength. They hide their cowardice behind steel, and are no more than a rice paper cottage behind a stone wall. The strongest weapon a warrior has is not the steel of the blade; it is the true strength of courage, the true sword of bushido. Among other schools, there are some which are partial to using two swords. In my school, this is a sign of cowardice. Attempts to achieve victory by a few extra inches of steel are a sign of weakness of spirit. Although those who study such a school have rationalizations for such a path, such rationalizations have no ground when they are seen from the true path of bushido. I have no dislike for the technique of two swords; only for the spirit which leads to the preference of two swords. It is a true weakness, a weakness of the soul. Is it impossible for one man to win against two opponents? There are many examples where one man has defeated two - or more. In my school of iaijutsu there is a dislike for such a narrow spirit. This should be carefully studied...
(Brent's Commentary: How my spirit ached at reading this. He called my mother a coward, called any brave man or woman who gripped two swords a coward. But I did not understand. I have watched the Mirumoto, studied them carefully as Kakita asked of all that read his words. It is true that they have forgotten their body. Watch a Mirumoto duel...watch his body, not his swords. His body is weak, though his strike is very strong. Only a few have I seen that understand that, and defeat it. To use two swords as Kakita would have wished two swords to be wielded, a samurai must not use only the swords. He must strike still with his body, still become One with his weapons. That is the Way of the Crane. I have sought this truth, this way for many days, and tried to understand.)
The Three Initial Attacks
The three initial attacks are to confuse an enemy, to strike at the mind; to engage with the steel of the sword, to strike at the body; and to intimidate the enemy with your chi, to strike at the spirit. To succeed in any one of these is to defeat your opponent. The source of swordplay is the swift defeat, not the prolonged strike and block technique. Applying the power of the mind as well as the power of the muscle, the sword will effectively become a part of the body. This is the "secret sword" of the warrior. Mastering the sword requires learning to project power into the weapon. The sword must be respected. Moral and spiritual qualities are required in order to perfect the three initial attacks. It requires a strategy of calmness in thought, patience in action, and a meditative spirit. If one has mastered the body, mind and spirit, the three initial attacks come naturally to the sword of the warrior. Once you have overcome the spirit of the opponent, their weaknesses come to light and one is placed in a position of power. Thus can victory be achieved even before the first strike is made.
(Brent's Commentary: Here, I think, is why Kakita was victorious in killing Mirumoto Hojatsu. To project power into the sword; to truly become one with the weapon is the goal of an Iaijutsu Master. Kakita's "calmness in thought" is the opposite of Mirumoto's "strike on one and two." The way of the Mirumoto is a good technique, for it is strike first and strike well. However, when the sword or swords is one with you, you do not need to strike faster than your opponent, for you spirit is already quicker. To use this style, you defeat your opponent before the fatal blow. When you strike with your spirit, you strike the best stroke. Learn to let it come from the soul and the body, not the wrists and the blades. That is where victory lies, when two masters meet.)
The One Strike
This means to strike an opponent with the strike of a single moment; to perform every action so that no second is needed, to strive for perfection in each kata, each duel and each moment. This is the sharpest weapon of the warrior. Complete objectivity, the "eye outside of the body," allows us to choose our moment. The entire body must be unified with the sword. A single man, a single weapon. They are one. But this is not simply to say that the duelist wields one sword - rather the duelist is one sword. Thus, perfection of the strike is achieved as naturally as the outward breath. The strike of the body, spirit and sword - this is the strike which the student must master if they are to become a true Kenshinzo, a Swordmaster. If this is mastered, no other strike is needed. The single strike, the One Strike of the aimed weapon, this alone will defeat your opponent. There are those who tell you that your opponent will defeat himself at the moment of the strike. This is not true. The defeat comes from the single imperfection that your opponent will carry within their soul. The perfect spirit, the soul which bears no stain and the sword whose temper is true - this is the essence of the One Strike. Meditate on this until you understand the eye outside the body, until you reach a point of unity with the Sword...
(Brent's Commentary: Perfection is every moment: this is our heart, which Shinsei gave to Doji. It is why I have left my home and my family; why I have sought the path of the Dragon to help me understand. If there is anyone in the world that truly understands the One Strike, they are unbeatable. And yet, I wonder if there is a way for two swords to also become one with the spirit. The soul knows no limits, and yet we connect it so readily to a single sword. This is true and right, but could it not also be true of two swords made one? This is what I seek, and I must look deeper, to find the One Strike hidden within two swords.)
To Tread on the Sword
To tread on the sword pertains to fighting against large groups of opponents, even when bows or other weapons are used. Responsive attack is the key. If you are preparing your weapon, you will not be able to seize the opportunity to attack when it arises. It is important to attack while others are firing their weapons, and before they prepare for the next volley. A Kenshinzo can use this method against one opponent as well. The responsive attack is to tread upon their sword with your own, and strike as they are readying their attack. One must have the intent to tread with one's body, spirit and sword so as to render the opponent incapable of a second round. To destroy your opponent, whether near or far, one must defeat his spirit. When the spirit is broken, the body can have no power, and a Swordsman can turn his back on his opponent. To seize the opportunity is also to defeat the spirit. When the enemy can no longer attack you, when their weapons are useless and unready, then you will tread upon the sword of your opponent's spirit. Then is their defeat certain.
(Brent's Commentary: Again Kakita speaks of the defeat of your enemy's spirit. This is what he wishes you to seek, in your duel. Understand that the sword, the opponent...they are not what you must overcome. To overcome a man or a blade is a simple thing. You must learn to strike at your true opponent. Find their soul. This is what Kakita "tread on" to defeat his opponents. Find your soul, then use it to strike down his opponent. This is how a duel is truly won.)
The world around us is in a constant state of change. Everything is real only in comparison with reality, only with relation to other things. Have no illusions within your heart, sharpen your spirit as you would hone your sword, and when you clear away your clouds of deception you will always emerge victorious. Men will lie to you. Your eyes will deceive you. Our own thoughts and emotions will attempt to cloud the path. Steel never lies, nor deceives, nor hides the way before you.
In the sword, you can find truth.
(Brent's Commentary: Here alone did I begin to understand. The sword and your spirit as one. "In the sword, you can find truth." Once you learn to look into the depths of your soul, your sword, then you can understand. Your spirit does not lie to you, even when your senses and emotions do. Learn to listen to your spirit...it will show the way to victory.)