Secret Tactics: Book Discussion – Part I (HEI-HO-KADEN-SHO)

The book Secret Tactics by author Kazumi Tabata, is a analysis of historical martial arts texts from various martial art masters and writers. I will be giving this book a more overall detailed review at a later time, but currently I am really digesting the various parts of the book through my eyes and experiences.

In the first section named the book of seven masters, the initial book is “HEI-HO-KADEN-SHO (Hereditary Manual of the Martial Arts)” by Yagyu, Munenori. This book approaches different aspects Munenori Yagyu feels were essential to learning and understanding for swordsmanship. The first section I want to comment on was:

A Gate is the Vestibule to a House (pg. 4)

“The books of Confucius are thought of as a gate to those who devote their mind to learning. What is a gate? A gate is the entrance to the house. Only by going through the gate can one meet the master of the house. Learning, for example, is the gate to truth. Only by going through the gate can you obtain truth. Opening the gate should not be mistaken for having entered the house, for the house lies beyond the gate.”


Initially reading this I think that to do anything you must enter the gate and do/try what you are attempting to do. By just opening the gate and looking through you cannot really see what is inside. On the surface this to me is how most people see martial arts. They see movies, TV shows, magazine articles, news and make their impressions by these external inputs. Yes, these are some of the information that you can receive, but to really understand and process this information you need to participate and train in the martial arts.

Over the 20+ years I have been training and teaching I can’t tell you the amount of times I have heard peoples ideas and concepts of how martial arts are this, or Aikido is that. 98% of these people have never even tried martial arts or just had a small taste when they were kids. It is very hard to have in depth conversations with these people about martial arts because of context. We can start to share our ideas and thoughts on it (like I am now!), but I always try to encourage them to try one martial art of their choice to really start to see and build that context to filter the external information that we get. It is a fine line, as if you have too much context you can filter out other martial art concepts and ideas if you are not careful.

On the other hand this also talks about the books of Confucius, and these are thoughts to a gate in themselves. I believe it is a mix of both reading, taking in external sources (tv, movies, documentaries, experiences, and in my mind most important training) to get the best overall view and learning of the art. I think a good example is swimming. You can read 50 books, and watch every program on swimming there is. Then with these ideas we plop you into the deep end of the pool at let you swim. You will probably sink (or at least have a hard time). However, with this knowledge and also progressive practice you can fuse the both into what you call swimming.

I will be adding more points from this book (and others) for discussion soon. What do you think of the quote from the book?

— Andrew

Comments (3)

Kara StewartJuly 23rd, 2008 at 8:19 pm

Very thought provoking. >>Only by going through the gate can you obtain truth. Opening the gate should not be mistaken for having entered the house, for the house lies beyond the gate.”<<

I wonder if this also speaks to the sequential steps we must take on any journey, whether it’s learning to walk or to perform the first interpretations of kotegaeshi…meaning we can’t rush the process and we can’t skip steps getting there? Opening the gate is the first step. Then, we need to keep walking up the path to the front door and be invited in to meet the master and hopefully be allowed to spend some time there. All steps are essential to that end goal (is it the end goal?) of meeting the master. It seems that simply wishing we can meet the master won’t enable it to happen without the other steps. I’m not familiar with Confucius’ philosophies and this nudges me to pick up a book and at gain some knowledge of the work.

AndrewJuly 24th, 2008 at 8:45 am

No reading is bad 🙂

AndrewJuly 24th, 2008 at 8:47 am

Good comment. I think the “process” of martial arts is simpler than we think. Like you said going in, walking up, knocking, and getting invited in => going to dojo, making a commitment, coming to class each night, and listening and practicing what knowledge the teacher gives you. Seems pretty straightforward to me.

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