“So when you attain the power of the way, it becomes easy to handle.”
– Miyamoto Musashi. The Book of Five Rings.
Few understand what it takes to fight and win. Fewer understand that our first win is versus ourselves; an internal fight precedes the external. Victory inside births glory outside. Achievement comes after the long internal march, where steps themselves become a battle against the slog, uncertainty, and monotony. Only those who reach know what it takes, and what it gives. Therefore, respect for and from our adversaries is cherished. For they know this fight, and in this struggle, we are comrades. Selfishly I embarked this way; selflessly I mark the path.
Training every day demands relentlessness paired with caution, both far and nearsightedness, rigidness and fluidity, confidence and humbleness – for without these couplings arrogance looms. And when its shadow overcomes, the power of the way is stolen from us, by us. Causing injuries to bubble up or come on catastrophically. Power is fleeting when discipline is saved for the end of the day, or when it is convenient, and when so, the white flag of surrender is waived. Before it was raised for all to see, capitulation is felt when we strung ourselves to the halyard.
Detractors and sycophants encourage failure, saying “that is not the way.” As if there is one path to victory, one means to attain power, one tree that nourishes: superficially governing “the spirit of gaining victory by any means” (Musashi). This intrusion is allowed when advice from defeatists is paid attention. Those corpses laying cold on that internal battlefield, haunting with shrill tales of their own failures; injuries that cripple the will, whether first to body or mind does not matter, each are paralyzed eventually. Disallow the frail ghost’s attempt to injure the victor, you, from beyond the grave dug themselves.
The dead soothsayers preach to those who wish to live. Misfortune-tellers yet to step or who have stopped walking altogether. Gaining power vicariously. They are mired in pity, with more information than action. Trapped by cowardice when the physical buckles before the mental. Both are weak until dedication attains “the power of the way.” Attainment comes with difficulty, first requiring silent internal action; a fight against that naysayer within, the one whose death awards our first victory.
“Even if superficially weakhearted, be inwardly stronghearted, and do not let others see into your mind. It is essential for those who are physically small to know what it is like to be large, and for those who are physically large to know what it is like to be small; whether you are physically large or small, it is essential to keep your mind free from subjective biases” (Musashi).
Strength and endurance are hard won, every pound and every second is earned. Understand that the way becomes easier with patience and consistency; pavement underfoot of those who walk faithfully, unlike the deviant, who falls short or off the path entirely. “Reflect on this,” as Musashi says.
One book ends another begins.