The Demon’s Sermon on the Martial Arts: And Other Tales
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This selection of parables written by an eighteenth-century samurai is a classic of martial arts literature. The tales are concerned with themes such as perception of conflict, self-transformation, the cultivation of chi (life energy), and understanding yin and yang. Probably the most parables seem light and fanciful, but they offer the reader valuable lessons on the fundamental principles of the martial arts; “The Mysterious Technique of the Cat” is iconic.
The “demon” in the title story refers back to the mythical tengu, who guard the secrets of swordsmanship. A swordsman travels to Mt. Kurama, famous for being inhabited by tengu, and in a series of conversations he learns about mushin (no-mind), strategy, the transformation of chi, and how the path of the sword results in the understanding of life itself.
The writer, Issai Chozanshi, had a deep understanding of Taoism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Shinto, in addition to insight into the central role of chi in the universe—points that are succinctly explained in William Scott Wilson’s fine introduction and extensive endnotes. This is very important reading for any individual who wants to in reality take into account the philosophical underpinnings of martial arts, and how these principles relate to our existence.