Thursday, March 6, 2008

A note on this blog's title...

One of my favorite books of all time is Hagakure, a martial manual from the 18th century written by a samurai named Yamamoto. It has a lot of great proverbs for combat but also for life in general, and it contains one of my very favorite anecdotes.

Here it is -- and while I may be embellishing some of the details, I promise that my interpretation of the story is pretty faithful to the original:

The young samurai students ask their teacher (Yamamoto) "What is the greatest thing that can be said about a warrior? We think it's simply that he never lost in battle. Is that right?"

Yamamoto says, "No, every great warrior has lost battles."

The students are a bit flummoxed by this but press on, asking, "Well, is it that his sword was never broken?" But Yamamoto replies, "Every great warrior had his sword broken at some point or another. In fact, I'm always a bit suspicious of a samurai who claims he's never broken his sword."

Now the young guys try a third time, and ask, "Okay, we've got it -- is it that he was never knocked down off his horse? That's gotta be it." But Yamamoto shakes his head and says, "Nope. Every great warrior is knocked down a bunch of times."

Truly perplexed, the students demand of their teacher: "Then what is it? No offense, but these great warriors don't sound so great. They're always losing battles, breaking their swords, and getting knocked down off their horses. So what is the greatest thing that can be said about a warrior?"

Yamamoto smiles in his Zen way and replies, "The greatest thing that can be said about a warrior is that he was knocked down seven times, but got up eight times."

BOOM! Now that's a philosophy I can get behind. And to this day in the martial tradition of Japan, it's a revered proverb: "Seven times down, eight times up," as summarized in the four-character Kanji drawing above.

I think it's as good a motto as any, so now it makes its world debut as a blog title. (I checked.)

7 comments:

Katie said...

You and I are not famous for our math skills and I like to think I'm especially (mal)adept when it comes to the numerically-inclined arts...or logic...logical problems are not for me either. I guess this is why they kept me out of the Gifted and Talented Education Program - - but how'd you get in? I get it now though...once up the first time...knocked down seven...back up seven...seven plus one...EIGHT! Dem's skillz!!

Love ya,

"The Aspiring Adept"
bonus points if you know the book title...

joey mack said...

Excellent! Now I have a way to get in touch with you if need be. I'll be sure to drop by your corner of the Web on occasion to see what's happening in the world of DM. How 'bout those Sharks!!

Daniel Morris said...

Ironically, now that the Sharks are finally a good team, I've lost most of my interest in hockey. Once you discover MMA, not much else in the world will do.

Daniel Morris said...

Katie makes a good point: if you're thinking about the advice strictly within the context of "total transactions," then there's no need to get up an eighth time. After all, you were only knocked down seven, right? So seven risings would suffice. Let's assume that the Zen master counted your first appearance as a notch, and that's why "eight times up" are required. If you don't buy that...well, it's a Zen parable, logic isn't the strength of such things. Be glad it's not "one hand clapping."

Ryan said...

Hey, I have a suggestion for the title... How about "Captain Blowhard?"

Ryan said...

Or the "Blah-G."

mom said...

I would suggest the master assumed that with each rise we learn something about why we fell, or how "it" managed to knock us down again (because it isn't always an opponent that knocks one down). This is turn must provide the training and skills to eventually conquer whatever it is knocking one down.
Regardless, staying down is never a good solution. At my age, i've quit counting.....I just get up a little smatter and ready to dance.