Texts of the Ways


The secret scrolls of the various Ways, generally given only to graduating pupils, were mainly memoranda of instruction given verbally. They were made deliberately obscure so that outsiders who might see them would not be able to understand.

They are mostly in brief paragraphs with a heading, or else in verse. Sometimes there is only the heading, with under it the words ‘oral tradition (kuden).

There is a good deal of repetition – some of the verses, for instance, are identical in scrolls of sword, spear and archery.

The extracts given here have not to my knowledge been translated before. I have tried to choose representative sections which are yet not so obscure as to defy translation. Readers who are themselves engaged in some activity as a Way will be able to find an application in them.

I have chosen from the traditions of the martial schools because these involve the problem of response, which Ways like tea or calligraphy do not, at least in an overt form. And there is the futher point that, by historical accident, the Ways developed in Japan mainly through warriors. There are movements in the Tea Ceremony, for instance, which derive from those made by fencers and archers.

The first set of extracts, from the Heihokadensho classic, show the influence of the Zen priest Takuan, who himself wrote two works on parallel lines but from the Buddhist standpoint only.

Similar Posts