Musashi's "Commander and the Troops"

May 2006

Volume 9 Issue 5

Aibudo Kanji
Picture of Shihan

and fine tune it a bit.  Take that bit of knowledge back home and do the same thing, over and over again.  If you continue with this, over time, that entity of strategy or technique will eventually become easier and more effective.  You will become less of a "troop" and edge closer and closer in becoming like a "commander".  I didn't say "as a commander", I said "like a commander".  There is a difference. 

     You could compare, what I just said to that of being in the service, in law enforcement or in a specific industry.  You might start out as a private in the army, work your way up, say to sergeant.  From there, you might decide to go to officer candidate school.  Now, you'll be working up from the rank of 2nd lieutenant, getting closer and closer to general.  Becoming more and more "like" a commander.  There is a possibly that by "hanging in there", you just might become "a" commander. 

     The martial arts are pretty much just like that.  As time goes by, there will be times, when some things you do, will begin to produce results "like a commander".  Not quite a commander yet, but getting closer.  Something that everyone has to realize is, that even "a" commander fails from time to time.  They just fail less often than the "troops".  Hopefully, much less often.  One too many failures and "a" commander, could lose their command.  They could still be the "leader", but lose the "command" respect.  With a loss of command respect, more and more of the "battles" will be lost and eventually the "war".  In the case of the martial arts, the "war" is the system.  When it's members are not improving and are constantly "losing", the system will lose it's members and without it's members, it will not be an active

system.  There is an old saying that goes like this.  An instructor without students is not.  There is also a saying, that says, those who can, do.  Those who can't, teach.  I hope and pray, that within our system, myself included, our instructors are able to do both, at the same time.  For the members of our system, to be the best they can be, depends upon it.  There again, not everyone can be "commanders" all at the same time.  That said, everyone should work towards becoming one. 

     This time, I will make a comparison to law enforcement.  If all you had were commanders, there wouldn't be anyone to work up through the ranks to do the "work", that needed to be done.  No one would improve, and in the long run, the department would become worthless and  ineffective.  There would be no "failures" to improve upon.  Failures are the life blood of a martial arts system.  Everyone learns from them and everyone improves. even the commander!  Any individual who fails to admit to their failures, is a failure.  As we say in our system, success comes from failure.  If you haven't failed, you haven't tried.

     Last class, the requirement of the "standing front fall" was upon us.  Up to that point, our new 8th Kyu members had failed at it.  They had failed because, the apprehension, had prevented the "trying" of it.  Now we see the results of the "trying".  Success!  The thought of what the result was "probably going to be", turned out not to be the case at all.  That is the continuing "story" of the martial arts.  Reaching, what you initially think is nearly out of your grasp.  You'll never have the ability to walk on water or through walls, as we have joked, but much more than when you began.

     With the above title, comes a question with an obvious answer, but difficult to be.  Do you want to function as a "commander" or a 'troop"?  The obvious answer is, a "commander".  It's easy to be like a "troop", just perform as everyone in front of you wants you to.  Actually, that's not really what most individuals want, but what happens anyway.  Not of their fault, but just what seems to happen.  It's like functioning without direction or guided purpose.  They don't seem to have a proven plan of attack.  They may try this or that, but "this" or "that" doesn't seem to work.  At least, not to what is actually desired.  "This" or "that" may be better than nothing, or what they were doing previous, but the end result seems to come out the same, regardless.  It's really discouraging to try your heart out in the martial arts and still fail at what others seem to do so easily.  You begin to doubt yourself and your abilities.  It's like you're there (in class), but for some reason, your not "listening" or "watching" what's going on.  You can't be, because next class you are still doing the same thing.   The thing is, that one day, one class, everything will seem  to "click".  You might think to yourself, "that's what they meant, with this or that"!  Or, you might just decide to trust what an instructor said or did, as having some amount of value, and just do it.  Generally though, what will generally make the most difference, is taking what you heard or saw, "home with you". Think about it over and over, and then physically do multiples of whatever it was, just as there was an actual opponent dead in front of you.  Bring that "training" back to the next class and test it.  More than likely you'll find that the "failure" is not quite as great.  Have someone look at your now lesser "failure"