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From The Book of Five Rings:

There is a time and a place for use of weapons. The best use of the companion sword is in a confined space, or when you are engaged closely with an opponent. The long sword can be used effectively in all situations.

The Halberd is inferior to the spear on the battlefield. With the spear you can take the initiative; the halberd is defensive. In the hands of one of two men of equal ability, the spear gives a little extra strength. Spear and halberd both have their uses, but neither is very beneficial in confined spaces. They cannot be used for taking a prisoner. They are essentially weapons for the field.

Anyway, if you learn “indoor” techniques, you will think narrowly and forget the true Way. Thus you will have difficulty in actual encounters.

The bow is tactically strong at the commencement of battle, especially battles on a moor, as it is possible to shoot quickly from among the spearmen. However, it is unsatisfactory in sieges, or when the enemy is more than forty yards away. For this reason there are nowadays few traditional schools of archery. There is little use nowadays for this kind of skill.

From inside fortifications, the gun has no equal among weapons. It is the supreme weapon on the field before the ranks clash, but once swords are crossed the gun becomes useless.

One of the virtues of the bow is that you can see the arrows in flight and correct your aim accordingly, whereas gunshot cannot be seen. You must appreciate the importance of this.

Just as a horse must have endurance and no defects, so it is with weapons. Horses should walk strongly, and swords and companion swords should cut strongly. Spears and Halberds must stand up to heavy use: bows and guns must be sturdy. Weapons should be hardy rather than decorative.

You should not have a favorite weapon. To become over-familiar with one weapon is as much a fault for not knowing it sufficiently well. You should not copy others, but use weapons which you can handle properly. It is bad for commanders and troopers to have likes and dislikes. These are things you must learn thoroughly.


Use the right solution for victory 

The right solution is not what you’re most comfortable with.

Your comfortable solution may fail you every day. You may be trapped on a plateau created by your inability to search for solutions outside of your grasp.

The proper solution for victory is what works.

There are no asterisks in history.

When things go wrong, most people double-down on their original choice instead of turning to the alternative or the unknown to find a better solution.

However, you continue returning to it because it is the only solution you know; you return to it like a lion who dies of thirst returning to a dry well year after year.

People are entirely terrified of the unknown, preferring the painful comfort of what is known; living in the miserable town you were born in until you die.

Before you go exploring the darkness, figure out what you are looking for. Set a target even if it’s vague. Don’t plot the exact points of how you will get there. Instead, test solutions but never marry them.

If your goal is happiness after a period of unhappiness, you must be willing to become an explorer and look for solutions in the darkness. Even if those solutions require you to sever ties with what you are most familiar with.

Do not define your solutions or assume they will come from what you know. Do not seek solutions from what you know. Be open to any path to victory.

Narrow mastery is death 

A master archer will be defeated by a intermediate gunner in most circumstances.

A novice gunner who believes his solution is superior to all others will be defeated by the archer who is open to all possibilities.

A master swordsman caught in a narrow hallway, opposing an archer, will think through his sword and rush his opponent, only to be filled with arrows matching the steps he took. If he is narrow in his thinking.

You cannot see solutions through one path. Nor can you expect the present to remain the same in the future.

Uber and Lyft are insane ideas. You call a stranger for a ride, hitchhiking to your destination.

Taxi’s never thought their human-delivery mastery could be uprooted by a new idea.

Refusing to see the world outside of your lens of mastery creates an open wound visible by all who want to destroy you. And they will. The better idea prevails.

By possessing narrow mastery, you become a target for all who found a weakness in your mastery.

Live in the moment. Plan for the future.

Mastery never ends 

The archer must continue to innovate, even if his innovation requires walking down a different path, putting down the bow and picking up the rifle.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi
src: pbs | Jiro Dreams of Sushi

In a way, the rifle is the next step in the evolution of the archer, who is not a master of the bow but a master of accuracy.

One archer may think of himself as master of the bow. He will fall to the master archer, an amateur gunner who sees himself as a master marksman willing to eliminate his target with whatever tool will give him an advantage.

The true master holds mastery at the root.

Instead of mastering accounting, the true master chases perfection in finance. He is never irrelevant because he is a student of a larger, ever-growing mastery that can never be tamed.

Do not seek to master one skill. Instead, seek to master many skills while maintaining a beginner’s mind on a road with many paths.

A martial artist does not master karate and quit learning. He becomes a mixed martial artist; a student for life.

Mastery never ends. But it always changes.

Function over style 

Style isn’t made to be efficient, it’s made to stand out.

Before something can be stylish, it must be functional.

Style first comes at the cost of function.

While a Ferrari may be a stylish car, it’s functions are limited.

A Ferarri cannot drive through the snow, maneuver over speed bumps, or tow another vehicle. A beat-up truck can do all of those tasks.

Image result for broken ferrari

Style for style’s sake always reduces function. However, function has a style of its own that often looks better than style for the sake of style.

A classic suit looks better than the trendy style of the present decade. This applies to all decades.

A stylish product that doesn’t function is useless. A functional product is a useful solution.

Style should not be sought out. Style is a product of function if done properly.

The flashy fighter may excite a crowd but will leave them hollow after being defeated by a functional fighter.

The stylish new product appears fantastic until people use it and see there is no function or it does not function as well as a less styled product.

Style is emphasized when function does not exist at equal quality. Put function before style.

Style may come after, but function must always come first.

Function defeats style in all things.

Read next: Musashi’s 21 principles for life