Tracking down the original Japanese from an English version of a quote can be challenging. And sometimes it produces unexpected results.
This week I was asked to do a quote attributed to Miyamoto Musashi as follows:
“The warrior attitude is very simple. Focus your mind on your goal, constantly strive for perfection and don’t allow yourself to be sidetracked.” – Miyamoto Musashi
This quote is from a book by Stephen F. Kaufman titled Musashi’s Book of Five Rings: The Definitive Interpretation of Miyamoto Musashi’s classic book of strategy. The title should raise some flags as this is an “interpretation” not a “translation”. Further, in the section “About the Translation” Mr. Kaufman writes “It [the book] explains in depth, with additional definition, the truths that must be comprehended before it is possible to come to terms with the teachings of Musashi.”
With this in mind, I found the quote in The Book of Fire between the headings “Confusing The Enemy” and “Three Fierce Shouts”. The text around the quote is:
You must be fully resolved to kill the enemy by any means. You must practice constantly to understand these principles until they become second nature. The warrior attitude is very simple. Focus your mind on your goal, constantly strive to attain perfection, and do not allow yourself to be sidetracked. Think only of winning. You must maintain your own ideals and study properly or you will be sure to lose the Way.
THREE FIERCE SHOUTS
There are only three times when you can scream fiercely in combat: before, during and after. Shouting and screaming are the same as long as they fulfill their purpose, which is to terrify the enemy.
Now let us compare this to a translation by Victor Harris which is at Victor Harris: Go Rin No Sho – A Book of Five Rings. The relevant section is:
To Throw into Confusion
This means making the enemy lose resolve.
In large-scale strategy we can use your troops to confuse the enemy on the field. Observing the enemy’s spirit, we can make him think, “Here? There? Like that? Like this? Slow? Fast?” Victory is certain when the enemy is caught up in a rhythm that confuses his spirit.
In single combat, we can confuse the enemy by attacking with varied techniques when the chance arises. Feint a thrust or cut, or make the enemy think you are going close to him, and when he is confused you can easily win.
This is the essence of fighting, and you must research it deeply.
The Three Shouts
The three shouts are divided thus: before, during and after. Shout according to the situation. The voice is a thing of life. We shout against fires and so on, against the wind and the waves. The voice shows energy.
Now let us look at the Japanese. Which, interestingly, is not as easy as it sounds because modern Japanese versions of “The Book of Five Rings” are all translations from old Japanese to modern Japanese. And the translations vary greatly! Reading the original text would be like trying to read Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in the original Middle English. Though to be fair, Japanese has changed much more dramatically than English in the same time period.
With that said, here is an online ebook with the modern Japanese The Book of Five Rings 火之巻
Again looking at the sections entitled roughly “confusing the enemy” and “three shouts” we have the Japanese sections as:
The last line in the “To Throw into Confusion” section closely matches Victor Harris’s translation and is roughly “having confused the enemy, winning is easy. This is the essence of fighting research it thoroughly”. Here 能くゝゝ is yokuyoku meaning “exceedingly” and 吟味 is ginmi meaning “careful investigation”. With this, even one not familiar with Japanese can see the Victor Harris work is a translation while Stephen F. Kaufman is an interpretation.
With this evidence then it is clear that the quote “The warrior attitude is very simple. Focus your mind on your goal, constantly strive for perfection and don’t allow yourself to be sidetracked.” should be attributed to Stephen F. Kaufman and not to Miyamoto Musashi.
As there is no original Japanese to find then, the only alternative is to translate the English to Japanese which I offer as follows:
bushi no kokorogamae wa tanjun de aru
kokoro wa mokuteki ni shuuchuu shi tsune ni kansei
no tame doryoku shi michi wo hazureru koto wo yurusazu