Tuesday, 8 February 2011

The Rules of 5 and the 5 Rings

I first read the ‘Book of 5 Rings’ (Go Rin Sho) when I was in my late teens and to be frank I really didn’t get what it was all about. At the time it was much favoured by businessmen as the ‘new thing’ using martial arts strategy in business. I couldn’t see how that worked, and being young I was like most young people, only concerned with ‘technique’. I did not see strategy as the application of laws and principles which utilised techniques to achieve an outcome; I saw strategy as techniques used in battle and business without fully equating it to one on one combat. Remember the distinction I make between strategy using techniques and techniques as strategies as there is an important difference here that you should think about.

Over the years I have read and re-read the Go Rin Sho gradually increasing my understanding of it. It is a book that requires some deciphering: it was written 400 years ago by a samurai warrior named Myamoto Musashi who was and still is one of the most famous of Japan’s samurai. He fought over 60 to the death duels starting at the age of only 13 and was victorious in all of them. However the book is not easy to understand as it was written in old Japanese which has been translated into modern Japanese and then into English and in every translation something of the original is lost. However by reading and re-reading one can begin to understand what Musashi was talking about, not that his concepts are that difficult but being translated as they have been and without the benefit of diagrams and an understanding of his mindset and background it can be difficult to discern his meaning.

However, getting back to my point, I have recently redeveloped our black belt leadership program and as part of that process I wanted to establish the absolute essential elements or laws that govern success in martial arts and life. Using our martial arts training as a metaphor for how we use our life, we at the National Martial Arts Colleges teach our students to gain success in their daily lives by applying the laws, principles, rules, strategies and techniques of combat training. Using martial arts as a mirror to reflect upon how we live our lives.

After many years of studying and applying the principles of martial arts and life success I have distilled what I consider to be the absolute essentials of success down to 5 keys which are: Attitude, Goal setting, Strategy, Action and Study. We use the name of our martial arts system AEGIS as an acrostic for students to memorise the key laws of success as: Attitude, Expectation, Game plan, Implementation and Study. As you can see some of the initials didn’t even need to be changed to fit the acrostic which I found interesting too but I won’t go into that here. After this I also included several other concepts that are essential to making the first laws to work, these are: the RADAR action process, the 4 plus 1 intelligences and the DELTA sequence of key martial arts skills that all techniques rely on to make them work.

After I had begun constructing the new Leadership program it suddenly hit me that each of these key concepts consisted each of Five keys. DELTA, AEGIS, RADAR, and the 4 +1 intelligences (4 + 1 = 5) all have 5 elements. Without realising it I had been developing concepts each of which consisted of 5 I therefore decided to put together a series of rules to support these concepts which I call the ‘Rules of 5’ The rules of 5 enable our students and instructors to quantify exactly the amount of content and context contained in our martial arts system. Knowing that there are virtually 5 of everything in the system allows students to learn the system faster and for the instructors to teach it more easily. If a student is for instance, trying to practice his stances he knows there are 5 and 5 guards, 5 steps, distances, levels etc. It is always easier to learn something when one knows the full extent of the content and the context that is the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ of the subject. No one likes to find that there is, after years of study, more in the syllabus that they didn’t even know about, it would be like turning up to an exam and suddenly being faced with a question that isn’t in the syllabus.

By quantifying our AEGIS system this way we make it so much easier to learn, practice and understand which is refreshing when so many martial arts are no easier to understand than the Go Rin Sho with techniques that are not only not used any more, but no one even knows what they were for in the past. Even the most transparent subject can be further understood and mastered through regular and sustained practice but I despair of those systems that complicate their art unnecessarily which could let a novice down when he most needs his arts defence. A system that takes years of study to make it work is of little value when dealing with a confrontation that happens before you become a master. It has always been my concern to ensure that what I teach can be used immediately and without modification or deep understanding. If it can’t then I have let my student down.

I referred earlier to Musashi’s Book of 5 Rings and I was surprised when reading it again only a few months ago I did not connect his 5’s with the 5’s I have been evolving. It wasn’t until I was reading it again just a few weeks ago that I suddenly realised the connection. I was reading and making noted when it suddenly hit me that as he was detailing his 5 stances and 5 guards that it hit me! Perhaps I’m a little slow but I had put together my leadership program and written thousands of words on the laws, principles etc without making the connection. Why do I mention this? To make some connection with Musashi’s genius, perhaps? Or perhaps I have been unknowingly influenced by reading his work in the past? Who knows? But what I do know is that he was trying to achieve the same end, his work was written just before his death and he knew that he wouldn’t be around to mentor the future generations’ progress and study of his system. He was quantifying his system, creating a distinct content and context for his students to understand his teaching in his absence.

I am doing the same, (hopefully my death is not as imminent as Musashi’s was) I am aware that I can no longer teach all of the students in the AEGIS  system, there are too many schools in too many places and this problem (if it is a problem) is not getting any easier as our schools grow. With this in mind it is my goal to teach my instructors to understand exactly what I know by quantifying and labelling everything that I know so that the AEGIS system is passed to each of the coming generations with as much of my experience as possible in the teaching and who understand the syllabus and can likewise pass on the system without it ending up being almost indecipherable as I see so many other system have become. Only time will tell I suppose, and I must be prepared for the AEGIS system to change and adapt and as long as it remains workable and relevant I will be happy enough that I have done my bit.

Thank you for reading today. For more information on our martial arts programs why not get our full colour brochure by clicking on the link http://www.nat-mac.co.uk/www.nat-mac.co.uk/info.php?p=9

Best wishes

Tony Higo
Chief Instructor
National Martial Arts College
0800 0920948

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