I tried to write it nice so I don’t come out like a jerk, but I just couldn’t find the words so here it goes: I think there is a lot of bullcrap about the application of oriental philosophy in our western lives. It seems that if something was written by some guy with a sing-songy name a couple or three centuries ago, it must have a great relevance and we must bow to the knowledge imparted there because well, it is one of them oriental wise men, you know?
I was told by doctor that acupuncture was going to make me quit smoking. I suffered through the needles and came out wanting a big cigar and a fifth of JD which is weird because I don’t like cigars and don’t drink. Herbal Medicine? Got me a nice case of gastritis that is still with me 20 years later. Have you actually tried real chinese food? Most of it is boiled and bland or just plain gagging. That is why soy sauce is available: it is the oriental equivalent of ketchup or Tabasco, you gotta hide the original flavor.
But the Lord knows that my Mom must have dropped me on my head a couple of times because I heeded the advice of some and decided to read on some Far East classical authors on warfare and how it may apply to Personal Defense. I know I might upset some much more knowledgeable and famous folks than myself but I am sorry to say the knowledge them suckers in kimonos “share” do not apply to Civilian Self Defense. I dusted my copy of The Art of War and added it to my newly acquired copy of The Book of Five Rings to see what knowledge I might absorb.
The Book of Five Rings is about swordfighting, samurai/ronin style. Legend has it that Miyamoto Musashi was a serious hombre with the sword who never lost a match against its adversaries or even got a cut anywhere on the pajama. The book was originally a scroll that Musashi wrote attempting to explain his approach to sword fighting so most of it will not apply to gun skills. One good thing about his literary approach is that he is not “educated” so he dispenses with most of the flowery language common to Japanese and most oriental writers. In the same book I got, the editors also latch on a copy of The Book of Family Traditions on the Art of War by Yagyu Munenori who is “educated and you feel you need a weed eater and the Sierra Club Guide to Japanese Arbor and Flowers to read through it. Munenori’s teachings also apply to sword fighting but more as a combat & battlefield tactics than a civilian self defense issue.
Some of you are now steaming out of your ears thinking “How dare he mock such great and noble warriors? I will throw down the gauntlet right here and now! Katanas at 10 paces sir!” Well, take it easy and pick up your metal glove, I believe in long range acquisition with a modern firearm if possible. Yes, i will cheat, screw the rest. Why am I so “disrespectful” about Samurai (and also about knights while we are at it)? Because they were a bunch of elitists jackasses for the most part, wielding absolute power with their steel and their techniques. The little people were not humans and just basically target practice or ready-to-abuse subjects for these people. I am from the “Great Equalizer” School of Thought which sees a weapon (firearms) as the reset button of a society. Not every Joe had the money, position or budget to avail himself of a good sword, accouterments and training time to master swordsmanship. Yet a simple tube propelling a lead ball shot by a peasant can manage to bring down and abusive cast of assholes. I don’t know why but that easiness to inflict deadly force to a mini dictator brings a warm fuzzy to my heart. We have romanticized so much samurais and knights that we ignore or conveniently forget that they were nothing more than petty Stalins who had the power of absolute life and death over their subjects and no sense of justice but their own desires. Somehow learning anything out of them makes me think that it is like learning medicine from the notes of Dr. Mengele’s experiments at Auschwitz II-Birkenau.
Still, I sat down with a pen and a highlighter to collect the alleged pearls of wisdom and did mark some interesting passages, but there was this nagging feeling on the back of my head that kept saying: “You read this before in a much simple and understanding format….You read this before in a much simple and understanding format….you moron. Think!” Then, around 3 am my degrading brain finally kicked open the file drawer and pulled out the card with the recorded info. There is a modern Book of Five Rings written by a modern warrior who applied his knowledge to teach the common folk how to defend themselves. Not an elitist (except when it came to one’s pursue of excellence with a firearm) and with a no BS view of the world without any chrysanthemums or Cherry Blossoms to adorn his writings: The Late Colonel Jeff Cooper and his excellent booklet Principles of Personal Defense. Forget Musashi, Munenori, Sun Tzu, P. F. Chang’s and Lt. Sulu, just get this book and digest its 56 pages. It will do more for your training and mindset foundation that 10 years in a Shaolin Monastery trying to snatch a pebble out of some white bearded guy’s hand. Its simplicity will astound you and its frankness may freak you out some. But it is God’s honest truth when it comes to Self Defense.
As for the Book of Five Rings, it goes next to the Art Of War to the uppermost shelf with the rest of the book I might want to check some day in the next decade if I need to recall a passage. I think I might be ordering some more Cooper books to absorb more of this modern Master & Teacher.
And if you are still insulted by my lack of respect for the Ancient Oriental Know-It-Alls, it is a feeling, you’ll get over it eventually… or not. I really do not care.