Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Sunday, July 03, 2011

The Mysterious Technique of the Old Cat

Quite some time ago, I had a post linking to an old Japanese story, the Mysterious Technique of the Old Cat. Over at Ichijoji there is a more recent post on the same topic. An excerpt is below. The whole article may be read here.

It is a fable, and this is part of its attraction and why it is so accessible. A samurai named Shoken (his name means 'Victorious Sword' or something along those lines) finds a large rat running about his house. His own cat runs away in fright and he has no luck when he tries to kill it himself. the three experienced rat-catching cats in the area have no luck either, so it is left to an old cat in a neighboring part of town to take care of things. That night, the cats have a little celebration, and ask the old cat to explain why he was so successful. He offers critiques of their methods and goes on to explain his own approach. Shoken has been listening in and interjects his own question, which the old cat answers, expanding on his original answer.

What makes it a key text?
The critiques of the old cat are important in that they compare the different methods of the three cats, each one of which uses an approach focused on one aspect of combat. Actually, each one of these approaches is fairly specific, and anyone with a broad background in martial arts that includes some knowledge about different styles and approaches, and the arguments that surround them will probably find this quite familiar. They are particularly apposite in terms of swordsmanship - from this and other writings, it seems there was some dispute about which was the most effective approach to swordsmanship, both in terms of training and tactical usage during the period in which he was writing... and later, too.

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