When we talk about the correct transmission of swordsmanship, the essential/secret techniques etc, there are actually no real special or mysterious methods; winning in a duel is simply a matter of attacking the enemy when they attack their preferred area. By “attack their preferred area” I mean that when two people come together and fight with swords, the feeling of striking a particular area will arise in your opponent. At that time, you should give your entire body over to your opponent. At the exact moment when they see their chance and attempt to strike you should strike them and win…. this is real victory.
For example, if you have a box and you want to discover whats inside, you simply open the top and have a look inside, then you will know whats in there. We can call this a natural “victory.” There are no secret methods to this, and other methods of doing the same thing is inconceivable.
If you think this way is easy, then you can say its very easy; if you think this way to be hard, then in actual fact it is very hard. For someone who studies The Way, arbitrarily choosing what you think to be the easiest way is not good.
Looking at people who study other swordsmanship styles (Yamaoka received menkyo from two different branches of itto-ryu before creating his own style: Itto-shoden muto-ryu. He also studied various other styles) I would say that many people mistake this point. When they face an enemy they suddenly attempt to strike and win first, simply advancing forward and relying on their vigour and excited feeling to achieve victory. This type of swordsmanship is evil (邪法).
If you study swordsmanship like that mentioned in the above paragraph then – even if you make progress and improve your skill when young and full of vigour and energy – when you get older and/or perhaps become ill, then you will find that your ability to move freely and rely on power will wane, and you will lose. There may even come a time where you lose to people who have never formally studied swordsmanship. That is to say, relying on power and vigour alone is, in the end, futile. This happens because people follow an evil path without knowing they are on it. Followers of The Way must ponder this point deeply and forge themselves via hard training and discipline.
If I add something to this it would be that this is not only about the swordsmanship methods but, rather, applies to all aspects of living life as a human, and you must approach all things with this thinking. If you are in the situation (i.e. where you have deep understanding) where you have an army command, participate in government, are a diplomat, follow the teachings of a faith, follow the rules of commerce and industry etc etc then there is nothing that you can’t do nor understand.
The reason I advocate that “discovery of the real truth in swordsmanship comes with understanding of the real truth behind all things” is because of the reasons I state above.
Yamaoka Tetsutaro (Tesshu)
January 15th, Meiji 15 (1882)
山岡鉄舟：剣禅話 。徳間書店.高野 澄(翻訳)