Preparing oneself for battle

Preparing oneself for battle

Admiral Drake and Tadamasa

We have a famous story about Admiral Drake, the British naval hero who lived at the end of the 16th century. The Spanish king equipped and sent a great fleet, called the Armada, to attack Britain. He had good reasons to expect the attack but did not know when the Spanish fleet would come. It must have been like Hojo Tokimune6 waiting for the Mongol fleet. Drake was playing a game of bowls when a messenger rushed in with the news: ‘A great fleet had been sighted!’  We have time to finish the game’, Drake said calmly. And they finished the game. He then joined the British fleet, which then defeated the Spanish. (We were helped, just as the Japanese had been, by the weather.)

This story is probably not true. I admit that when I heard it as a small boy, I thought Drake was a bit of a fool. He ought to have gone straight to take command of the British fleet. But the purpose of the story was to give an example of absolute self-control and confidence.

A better example, which I sometimes use when lecturing on Japan, is the way the tea ceremony was performed even just before a battle. British people are always very surprised to hear about it; they find it almost unbelievable. The tea ceremony requires very delicate precision of movement. For instance, unless it is set down with absolute precision, the delicate little tea ladle will fall over. The slightest shaking of the hand or other signs of nervousness will be clearly seen. ‘So they do it as a demonstration of perfect calm—inner and outer’. When I say these words, some of the Western audience give a little gasp of surprise and admiration.

Japanese who intend to go abroad should learn a few things like this about the Budo of yin. They should find a translation and memorize a few sentences so that they can explain it without difficulty in the foreign language. It will be very interesting to the foreigners whom they meet.

There is an account of an early tea ceremony not well known even to historians of Budo. Shonan katto-roku1 of the Muromachi era—which I translated into English and published in Britain in 1985—gives a brief description of a warrior of yin and a Zen follower, who imitated a warrior of yang:

Tadamasa, a senior retainer of Hojo Takatoki, the regent, had the Buddhist name Anzan (quiet mountain). He was a keen Zen follower and for 23 years came and went to the meditation hall for laymen at the Kenchoji temple. When the fighting broke out everywhere in 1331, he was wounded in one engagement, but in spite of the pain galloped to Kenchoji to see Suzan, the 27th teacher there. A tea ceremony was going on at the temple, and the teacher seeing the man in armour come in quickly put a teacup in front of him and asked, ‘How is this?’  The warrior at once crushed it under his foot and said, ‘Heaven and earth are broken up altogether’.

When heaven and earth are broken up, how is it with you?’ asked the teacher. Anzan stood with his hands crossed over his breast. The teacher hit him, and he involuntarily cried out from the pain of his wounds.  Heaven and earth not quite broken up yet’, the teacher said.

The drum sounded from the camp across the mountain, and Tadamasa galloped quickly back. The next evening he came again, covered with blood, to see the teacher. He came out and asked again, ‘When heaven and earth are broken up, how is it with you?’

Supporting himself on his blood-stained sword, Anzan gave a great katsu (loud yell) and died standing in front of the teacher.


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