This is the book that powered my vacation, and it's the third time I've read it.
It is a tough feat to stay on my shelf. Often, I consume a book, gain what I need from it and pass it along to another. That is, if I found worth in its pages. If not, I'll donate it somewhere, and promptly forget what was unnecessary within the words and passages that rambled past my eyes and my mind.
But THIS book. This one stuck with me. Enough to revisit several times, and once again as the subject of this blog.
As I believe it to be an absolute necessity for our development to read and absorb information, ideas, and philosophy; to challenge our morals, and help cultivate our humanity, I thought this to be an appropriate segment to pursue over here on the GM's Corner. Yeah. Once a month, I'll review a book I am reading. So here comes number one:
Budo, Mind and Body by Nicklaus Suino.
Budo, as a principle and a pursuit, is about so much more than learning how to fight. It is about seeking meaning in life. In our actions, our teachers, our lessons, our art. Whatever your training, the pursuit of Budo is a method to forge physical strength, technical strength, and strength of character. In the book, Suino breaks the discipline needed into three main focuses.
The martial arts ARE a physical beast. Suino emphasizes the power of repetition, but marks the danger of "going through the motions." It comes down to caring about skill, and learning each technique as an aspect of that skill, not as a list of "techniques that work" and "techniques that do not work." True skill is derived over time and diligent training, and if you care about getting better, you'll take great care every moment that you train. And train hard, young grasshopper. A body only becomes pure through pushing it to its limits. Practice until you can practice no more. Musicians, artists, writers, and fighters. Train until you can't. Then rest, and do it again.
This is how I would throw myself into music. In my undergrad and even during my Masters, I would have required testing every semester to prove to a panel of judges that I was improving enough to deem the continuation of my degree. That pressure coupled with the fact that I enjoyed getting better, made the experience all the more rewarding, despite how taxing it was on my sleep schedule and workload. After enough, I felt a sense of physical transcendence, but only briefly, as back then, my self-doubt game was strong as hell.
The pursuit of mental skill, however, is a different beast entirely. Suino speaks of mindfulness, self-control, but places the greatest emphasis on one's ability to change dependent upon the setting you are in. Frankly, that the rules of the dojo are not the same as that of an office building, or a frat house, or a home, and a failure to adapt is a failure in your martial skill. We practice the right way to build the appropriate habit for a multitude of situations; in the same vein, for me, to recognize that each problem has multiple solutions and every situation can be handled differently, but it must still be handled. And to find the most appropriate response to an invitation, violent or otherwise, one must be mindful.
We see this at the table all the time. A player who is not mindful of the table's climate and does/says something inappropriate...now players are uncomfortable. In character or out, one that responds always in violence will incur the wrath of the guards, or bounty hunters, or divine justice.
Many lines are drawn toward the correct observation of instruction, but also of your own body. Awareness of your surroundings. But most of all, a pursuit of No-Mind: that awesome state of being where our techniques just "come out" without any bidding or effort. You know how you do this? I bet you can figure it -- TRAINING. Becoming lost in your training. I remember those days. Locked in a practice room until 3am, completely absorbed in the pursuit of the perfect run. Playing till my lips cracked. That's the goal, and telling your body and mind to KEEP GOING is a mental discipline. And now...I just want to return to it.
Bushido roughly translates to "the way of the warrior," but it is so much more complex and powerful than most people realize. To follow Bushido is not to follow a way of fighting; instead, think of it like a way of living. The remainder of the book breaks down living in the Budo life and martial virtues of the warrior caste of Japan. This runs parallel to the little philosophy that I know on the Samurai way of life. Heck, I once spoke on it to a class of graduating 8th graders, trying to instill in them a sense of purpose and maybe, just maybe, the idea that you don't have to be a jerk to get your point across. ;).
But in all seriousness, to follow the path of the Samurai in principle...isn't easy. Let me talk about those virtues a bit.
Integrity - be honest in your dealings with others, and with yourself, and consider all points of view before placing judgement.
Respect - true warriors have no reason to be cruel, or to prove to others how strong they are, so they are always courteous to their enemies, even in battle.
Courage - hiding is not living, so live life fully. Often, courage is not the loud voice; it is the quiet whisper at the back of your spirit that utters "I will try again tomorrow."
Honor - the choices we make and how we make them are a reflection of who we really are.
Compassion - because the warrior is not as most people, they must use their powers for good. They help their fellow humans at every opportunity.
Sincerity - do what you say will do. Speaking and doing are the same action. This also means don't make promises if you're not sure you can keep them.
Loyalty - warriors are responsible for everything they say and do, and all the consequences connected. With this, they are strikingly loyal to those in their care.
Suino extends the analysis toward what it truly means to practice Budo, which is to pursue personal perfection. And this is NOT an easy task. For someone who struggles with physical anxieties and nervous habits, however, this is an especially attractive concept, and probably why I keep returning to the book's concepts as a foundation of my personal development. Every time I walk into the gym, pick up my tuba, compose a song, or stop myself from picking my nails, quotes from this book trickle in.
Though Suino focuses the core of the book upon specific martial arts training as his base, anyone with imagination can extend these lessons to every walk of life. And some of its chapter quotes now hang on my wall.
"The Way is in training." - Miyamoto Musashi
"Purity is something that cannot be attained except by piling effort upon effort." - Yamamoto Tsunetomo
"Perceiving what is right, and not doing it, argues lack of courage." - Confucius
I highly recommend this book to every martial artist, gamer, teacher, and musician I know. In fact, if you want your own copy, I've included a link below.
See you at the table.
Professional Game Master musician, music teacher, game designer, and aspiring fiction author.