A few days ago, I was talking to Akane about the difference between various clans I have been a member of. She claimed that my life had never been so good at any clan before this; I noted that it was nearly as good at Clan Iwinaga, but I had left because it seemed I had no opportunity to advance my career there. Here at Noriaibasha, I said, I still have no real chance to become a leader or captain, but I no longer care; I am content to be a rank-and-file fighter without needing to seek advancement.

“But,” she said, “if you wanted to advance at Clan Noriaibasha, I have no doubt you could.” I agreed this might be true, but it was irrelevant.

Today there was a lunchtime feast, to rally all the troops and others who have been part of the Shiemesu Raisei and Saitekika campaigns. Various nobles and priestesses of the prestigious Tendai order spoke about how we are making great progress. While chatting with Amon, Kento and Makishi, Amon introduced me to one of the Tendai priestesses.

“This is Ichirō, one of our ninjas,” he said. “Ichirō fights in the cities, and he is very skilled. Even when Kento thinks an enemy would be too difficult to kill, Ichirō often speaks up and says, ‘Actually… I know a way I can eliminate that person.’” I tried not to blush, and thanked him for his very kind words.

Later, one of the ikebana masters under Kento’s command, a man named Torai, came to see me. He had a question, one which he said he would normally ask Kento. “But I have looked, and he seems not to be here in the castle right now. So I thought I would ask you, since you are Kento’s right-hand man.”

I simply answered Torai’s question at the time, and did not express the astonishment I felt in my heart. Right-hand man? Kento has said nothing of this… but as I look at the missions he sends me on, and compare them to other missions and duties that Sakito and Satonori are assigned, I begin to see that I am highly valued on Kento’s team.

It seems Akane was quite right. She is wise.

This was originally published at The Tales of the Ninja Coder. You may comment here, if you wish, but Ichirō invites you to comment at his humble blog.

An interesting thing happened to me a few days ago. As I was returning home from Castle Noriaibasha, I was passing by an inn. A wagon had stopped in front of it, and some happy young people were disembarking from it and collecting their luggage from the back. Other people had just come out of the inn. I don’t know if the travelers were their relatives, or close friends, but they were all obviously very happy to see each other.

They were hugging each other hello, smiling and laughing. Their good cheer was infectious; I felt my own mouth turn up into a huge smile, and I was glad of it.

Then Yutaka, the head of Clan Tenya, came strolling by.

I nodded in silent greeting to him, and he to me. I was happy enough that my smile did not falter. And shortly afterward, I realized that I was very glad that Yutaka had seen me in such a happy state. I want to be sure he does not have the option of wondering if I am forlorn or miserable since leaving Clan Tenya. I want to be sure he knows I have no regrets whatsoever about my departure, and that everything about my life is better now.

This desire is petty, I know. Caring even one bit about what Yutaka thinks is an attachment, of the kind that monks sensibly counsel us all to avoid. Nonetheless, I am human, not a Bodhisattva or saint. I know what I felt, and I will not deny it.

This was originally published at The Tales of the Ninja Coder. You may comment here, if you wish, but Ichirō invites you to comment at his humble blog.

There was a large peasant uprising in Sakai today — just one part of the ongoing unrest that has gripped all of Izumi Province recently. And as one of the larger and more powerful clans of the province, Clan Noriaibasha was one of the targets of the peasants’ ire.

I arrived to find them gathered in front of the castle, shouting demands and chanting slogans. To be seen entering or leaving the castle would be unwise. Of course, since I am a ninja, I was able to slip past them undetected.

But my heart is heavy at having to do so. I have never been a rich man. I was born and raised in Iga Province, where nearly everyone is a peasant of one sort or another. We are simple folk there, and my heart has always been with the peasants, even as my own fortunes in the world have risen.

In another time, earlier in my life, I would have stood with those peasants, shouting that the rich and powerful must support the poor and weak, not trample them underfoot and use their might to steal what little the people still have left. I still believe those things… but this morning was simply not a time that I could spend making political and philosophical statements. I had to meet with Sakito not long after arriving at the castle. I have duties to my clan-mates, and to Akane.

By the time I went out for lunch, the people had dispersed. I wish I had done something to support them.

This was originally published at The Tales of the Ninja Coder. You may comment here, if you wish, but Ichirō invites you to comment at his humble blog.

Once, I went to interview with Clan Toyotomi. They are one of the largest clans of Kansai — perhaps even of all Nippon. As I wrote at the time, the Toyotomi forces are a mighty army. They are renowned for the skill of their warriors and the subtlety of their tea masters.

But they have not always been so. Within my lifetime, the clan has grown to its present stature from a tiny cadre of just a few people. Much of the clan’s success has been due to the wisdom of its leader, the daimyō Hideyoshi.

Please, make no mistake. I am no great lover of Hideyoshi’s philosophies or style. When he captures a territory, he gives the peasants very few options in how they will conduct their affairs; they will do things the Toyotomi way or not at all. His ikebana masters and gardeners are trained to ruthlessly prune every branch and bud in their care, so all his holdings appear sparse and wintry. And yet somehow, the people in his lands all claim this is wonderful and so much better than any other way of life could ever be.

But I cannot deny his military genius, or his almost instinctive grasp of righteousness. Time and again, Toyotomi Hideyoshi would enter a battle with a strategy that all onlookers declared to be the height of madness… then, he would not only achieve victory but make it look effortless. And afterward, everyone would proclaim that of course Hideyoshi’s victory had always been certain.

Hideyoshi built Clan Toyotomi into a mighty power, one that set the pace for nearly all other forces in Kansai. The armies of Oda Nobunaga are larger in size, but they have been fading in relevance for years now. Even the mighty Tokugawa clan must consider Toyotomi’s actions very carefully when planning their strategies.

And now, Hideyoshi has passed from this world. No longer will his leadership and righteousness direct Clan Toyotomi. Just a few months ago, he handed over the rulership to his successor. Now, the illness that has afflicted him for so long has claimed his life. Even the Emperor himself has publicly noted — and mourned — Hideyoshi’s death.

A giant has departed. Kansai will never be the same, even though Clan Toyotomi goes on. Hideyoshi’s like will not be seen again for quite some time.

This was originally published at The Tales of the Ninja Coder. You may comment here, if you wish, but Ichirō invites you to comment at his humble blog.

Recently, Clan Tokugawa opened a new front in its war: A direct attack on the Kao-no-Hon gumi. This is not the first time they’ve tried to invade Hikone; there was their Būn attack last year, and their Nami initiative. But Būn was a disharmonious and ill-considered plan that aroused even the Emperor’s displeasure, and Nami more of a curiosity than anything else. I’m sure Lord Satōyama, who rules the Kao-no-Hon, was laughing at both of those failures.

I do not think he is laughing now. The new Kabō Campaign promises to cause major trouble for the Kao-no-Hon gumi. Practically everyone in Kansai is talking about it; at least everyone who cares about the eternal war.

I am wondering… should I join this fray? I already ensure that these messages of mine are sent to Yumehaba; perhaps there might be some way to also send dispatches to the front lines of this new battle in Hikone? But I fear there is no way I could include the explanatory text that is so useful to so many people. Without those explanations, I think most people would be too confused by the life of a ninja.

This was originally published at The Tales of the Ninja Coder. You may comment here, if you wish, but Ichirō invites you to comment at his humble blog.

Sometimes, the enemies you’re most scared of turn out to be those in your own mind. In my mind, I had imagined that the rōnin from Hikone would be a terrifyingly dangerous foe, skilled on rooftops and deadly with the kusarigama. But I would not let fear keep me from my duty.

I went to Ichimen, hoisted myself up to the rooftops, and started searching for him. Atop the Nanashi-ji Temple, there is a high vantage point. From there, I could see many parts of the city. A little west of the temple — right near the intersection of Shiryō-no-Hako, Kuraberu-no-Hako, and Migaku — there’s a marketplace full of food stands, with an inn on one side. And there he was, buying some yakitori for a snack.

Stealthily, I crept to the roof of the inn. It would be in bad form to attack him in the marketplace, frightening all those civilians. Instead, I threw a kunai into the wood of the table he was sitting at, making it easy for him to track the angle back to my position atop the roof. As he looked toward me, I stood up with my kusarigama at the ready, then pointed it at him. A challenge.

He threw his meal aside and came to meet me.

I gave him space to clamber up the side of the inn, waiting with my kama in a salute position. If I was to die this day, I had no wish to have my last moments be anything less than honorable.

Shinobi!” he cried, “You have met your doom!” And he flourished his kusarigama in a threatening manner, then dropped into stance… And I saw that his center was not focused. I sprang to attack, and he deflected me, but not well.

He counter-attacked, and I blocked it easily. And I realized that I was better than him, and he was starting to see it, too.

After that, it was simply a matter of time. He gave a brave account of himself, but in the end, he could not stop me from sinking my kama blade into his chest. As he slumped onto the roof of the inn, I whispered in his ear, “I am sorry, my brother. You fought well.”

In the future, I must remember never to let fear become my master. That way lies destruction.

This was originally published at The Tales of the Ninja Coder. You may comment here, if you wish, but Ichirō invites you to comment at his humble blog.

Back in July, I met with one of the nobles and one of the fighters of Clan Ōkiten, who are based in Kamishichiken. This clan operates in the same areas as Clan Iwinaga, so my knowledge would be useful… and they also need ninjas with Pagoda Bearer skill.

But they are very busy and hectic, like a small upstart group, and I am not sure I would thrive there.

Today, I suddenly received a message from their herald. It is not simply a request for another appointment or negotiation; they want to actually offer me a position with the clan. I could use my ninja-tō, not the strangely curved wakizashi that Noriaibasha would require. I would roam the back streets and alleys of the pleasant Kamishichiken district, and never have to travel to Izumi Province…

But I do not think I would thrive. And negotiations with Noriaibasha are so close to being completely concluded.

I have told Ōkiten no.

And, almost like a blessing from Buddha, a few minutes later I received a message from Megumi, the herald of the Shomei-gumi: I can report to Castle Noriaibasha tomorrow to begin my service there.

This was originally published at The Tales of the Ninja Coder. You may comment here, if you wish, but Ichirō invites you to comment at his humble blog.
ninja_coder: (Default)
( Aug. 21st, 2010 03:11 pm)

I have accepted a post with the armies of Clan Noriaibasha, where I will be doing urban fighting with the manrikigusari and kama, and occasional use of the wakizashi. But there will be no opportunity for me to use the ninja-tō there.

I am still getting messages from heralds, of course. Many of them. And quite a few are in reference to places where I could use the ninja-tō, and even the Pagoda Bearer fighting style that I am so familiar with. I tell these heralds that I am already spoken for, but I cannot help the regret in my heart…

Am I truly doing the right thing? Noriaibasha is big, and has the maturity of a long-standing clan. I need such an environment. But still, my heart is full of ambivalence, as I wonder whether I might be happier fighting in the Pagoda Bearer ryū.

My mind tells my heart to be silent, and stop such such foolishness. I am resolved; I have met with my herald contact of the Shomei-gumi and been properly inducted into their organization. Either on Monday or on Tuesday, I must report to Castle Noriaibasha for my first day as a fighter in their army.

This was originally published at The Tales of the Ninja Coder. You may comment here, if you wish, but Ichirō invites you to comment at his humble blog.

Even while Akane’s mother has been visiting, I have continued to meet with heralds and clans. And it seems my perseverance may have paid off! I have spoken with various fighters and other clan members of Clan Noriaibasha, and they have sent a message via their herald to offer me membership in the clan. However…

As one of the largest of the clans of Izumi Province, their security is paramount. They must have their agents investigate my background, and ensure that I am not a mole or other deep-cover enemy.

Of course, researching the background of a ninja from Iga is often an activity fraught with some peril, so this may take a bit of time. It is still conceivable that something might go wrong, but I pray to Kwannon that everything will turn out successfully.

In the meantime, I have gone to an interview with Clan Zajutsukura — yes, the ones who were once the on-again- off-again allies of Clan Tenya. They asked me to show them some sansetsukon kata, and I performed them well enough. (My recent practice seems to have been helpful.) Then they posed me some problems involving broad strategies and Shima-style net-fighting. Where they had only contemplated two ways of attacking the problem, I came up with a third strategy that combined the strengths of both. They were very impressed.

But sadly, they are a small, upstart group, with few warriors and no Zen monks, using ever-shifting tactics to try to pursue multiple campaign strategies at the same time. And their castle is full of the usual games and amusements, but has no privacy or places to concentrate. If I joined them, I would get to use the ninja-tō; and the Jōgesen style… but I know that I would not thrive. It would be a repeat of my experiences at Clans Nettobuku and Tenya.

Instead, I will pin my hopes on Noriaibasha. If I join them, it will be like my time at Clan Iwinaga: I will use the kama and manrikigusari, and specialize in city fighting. Occasionally, I will have to use the wakizashi, and there will be no occasion for me to use the sansetsukon or ninja-tō. I will have to deal with samurai, and work alongside them, and I won’t get to do forest fighting.

But there will be nobles who have experience leading, and Zen monks and Nichiren priests to guide us in the ways of righteousness and harmony. There will be enough treasury to keep the armies well stocked, and the clan will not be finding its way uncertainly, constantly stumbling and trying new things like an upstart group.

I have high hopes.

This was originally published at The Tales of the Ninja Coder. You may comment here, if you wish, but Ichirō invites you to comment at his humble blog.

I am writing new scrolls to post in Yagyū town, to let the armies of Nihon know that I am available for hire. The last time I wrote such a scroll, I was skilled in the way of the sansetsukon, and particularly the popular Aka Hōseki Jōgesen ryū.

Now, I find that I have not touched a sansetsukon in nearly a year. I am faced with a minor dilemma:

Do I study hard, and try to quickly recover my skills? Many of the messages I have received from heralds recently have stated that they are seeking Jōgesen fighters.

But those same messages also say that the groups seeking such fighters are small clans — just the sort that I no longer wish to join. If I spend my time practicing with the sansetsukon, I may simply make myself attractive to the groups that I don’t want to deal with.

The idea that a skill might prove to be a drawback, rather than being useful, does not sit well with me.

This was originally published at The Tales of the Ninja Coder. You may comment here, if you wish, but Ichirō invites you to comment at his humble blog.
I should describe my work with Clan Tenya, when I get a chance. I have been very busy, traveling and hiding and fighting along the trails in the forests of Ōmi Province. But for now, I should tell of my recent meeting with Iyona.

When I joined Clan Nettobuku, she was the most holy of the priestesses of the Nichiren Buddhist order, until the abbess Jīya came to join the clan. I had recently heard that Clan Nettobuku's fortunes have not been good, and many of the clan's members have left. Others were turned away in a large group a few weeks ago, much as I was turned out last year — and as others were sent away, only a month after I joined the clan.

Iyona, being very good at her priestess-ly skills, quickly found a new post with one of the larger and better-known clans of Settsu Province, with headquarters in Naniwa and castles from Edo to Heian-kyō. On Monday, I went to meet her for lunch at a tasty restaurant in the capital.

Her new clan is a very large one, and she has been accustomed to small ones. She is now but one priestess among many. But aside from that, she prospers and thrives. She also told me some news of Clan Nettobuku's fortunes after my departure.

I had hoped to hear that Jimon's strange strategies, based so strongly on Living Stone techniques, had caused part of the clan's problems. To be honest, I wanted to know that I had been unquestionably right, and Jimon unquestionably wrong, about our strategy.

But of course, life is never so simple and clear-cut. Iyona, being a priestess and not a warrior, was not so involved in the details of strategy. What she did know is that Lord Tai, for all his experience in Izumi Province, knows very little of conditions in Ōmi. Commander Kobushi, for all his previous skill as an individual warrior, had no desire for command. And so the Clan's core was not centered.

They successfully took a small part of the territory they aimed for. It remains to be seen whether they will be able to hold it. Apparently Jimon has left to form his own clan — a thing which I suspect must end in disaster, for he is not a leader who can inspire others. He is too much in love with his own fighting skill, and so he concocts stunningly intricate kata, then is surprised when nobody else can master them.

Iyona did mention that Clan Nettobuku was having trouble finding warriors who could cope with Jimon and Bunmei's strange kata. And that even they, when faced with a new problem, would often find it easier to simply invent new kata than to adapt the old ones. This is probably the closest thing I will ever receive to a sign that my intuitions were right.

Two nights after my lunchtime meeting with Iyona, Akane and I had dinner with our good friend Arisa and her husband Baku. I spoke of my current clan and their current plans, and the fact that I must have the mountain passes and the path from Hikone to Kotobasatsuki clear, by Wednesday. And there was some talk of my time with Clan Nettobuku. It very quickly became clear that even speaking of my time with Nettobuku made me very tense and anxious, while my current responsibilities... they may be an important and difficult task, which is its own sort of burden. But now I am motivated to do my best, not tied in knots by frustration and worry.

I am still very busy, but I will try to, at the very least, keep sending small messages and haikus. And I have some larger tales to recount, as soon as I have some time to write them down.
I recently left messages in Yagyū, stating that I am no long a free, independent, unemployed ninja. As a result, I have received a message from General Wāro, who was my commander when I served with the armies of Clan Iwinaga.

When I was turned away from Clan Nettobuku, I sent a message to General Wāro, asking if he would give good reports of my performance at Iwinaga to other clans that might be interested in me. I received no response at that time.

I think that he may have been hurt by my departure from Clan Iwinaga. It is never wise to tell one's current clan when one is seeking to leave and find another one. However, General Wāro was always a perceptive and insightful man, and I suspected that he realized that I was making inquiries in Yagyū.

When I told him of my successful negotiations with Clan Nettobuku, he seemed stunned. I still regret having surprised him like that, for he was a quite excellent commander.

Since I received no response to my messages, I assumed that the General was still upset with me. But I recently received a message that said: "I understand you have found a new clan. I wish you congratulations. You are a skilled warrior."

I do not know what to think of this.

However, I do not have time to worry about it now. I must leave for Edo soon.
There has been much turmoil in my life recently. Some has been good, other parts... not so good.

I shall have to travel to Edo tomorrow, and I will not be back in Iga for nearly a week. When I return, however, I shall have the honor of reporting to Castle Tenya, in Ōtsu. My negotiations with Clan Tenya have been successful, and I will be joining their clan.

This is most happy news for Akane, for I will now be earning gold once again, and so we shall be able to feed ourselves. For me, it is both a triumph and a challenge, for I have (as always) doubts about my skills. Clan Tenya is a very martial clan, composed almost entirely of warriors of one sort or another. Even the clan's lord, a man named Yutaka, is not a noble. Instead, he is a warrior of no small renown, the originator of a very elegant kata sacred to Hachiman, called "Yutaka's Blade".

Clan Tenya, as you may guess, is concerned with ensuring that it has only the best warriors. And I am concerned, because I doubt that I am so highly skilled.

However, their castle is much quieter than Castle Nettobuku was, so I have some hope that I may be able to concentrate enough to perform my duties. The noise and chaos of Nettobuku was a prime reason why I fared so poorly there.

I have gone to Yagyū, the town on the edge of Iga Province where heralds and clan scouts go to recruit new warriors, and taken down the scrolls that describe me as available. In their place, I have placed scrolls noting that I am now busy, and no longer open to meetings with heralds. In the process, I have learned more of Clan Nettobuku's current state.

It seems Clan Nettobuku has not fared well. The clan is coming apart, and has recently been forced to abandon many members in order to conserve its treasury. I am filled with conflict. I wonder: Is any part of their current misfortune due to my actions while I was there? And also, I wonder: If Jimon and Bunmei had listened to my concerns, and adopted more of the techniques I advocated, would their strategy then have been stronger? Or weaker?

I have no answer, and I doubt that I ever will.
The Zen priests tell a story of the Fifth Patriarch, and his disciple. When the patriarch became old, he held a contest among all the monks of the monastery, to see who could write a poem that best expressed their understanding of Zen. The chief monk at the time was Shen-xiu, who was a diligent meditator; all the other monks assumed Shen-xiu would be selected, and made no attempt to enter the contest.

Shen-xiu himself, however, was not so sure of his own accomplishments. In the night, anonymously, he posted a poem that read:
The body is the Bodhi Tree,
The mind like a bright mirror standing.
Take care to clean it all the time,
And allow no dust to cling.
Publicly, the Patriarch praised the poem and ordered incense to be burned before it. But when Shen-xiu went to the Patriarch in private to admit that he had written the poem, the Patriarch told him that he still had a long way to go in his understanding of the mysteries.

The story ends with a monk of much lesser reputation writing a poem that repudiates the basic assumptions of Shen-xiu's poem and shows a much more advanced grasp of the principles of Zen, and the Patriarch transmitting the office to the other monk in secret. But that's not what I'm concerned with right now.

I am much more interested in Shen-xiu himself, at the moment. Despite all the acclaim of his peers, he was worried. He was not confident in his ability or his understanding. He was concerned that maybe his reputation was much greater than his actual accomplishments, greater than he deserved.

And, obviously, he was quite right. I mean, honestly... "The body is the Bodhi Tree"? I'm no monk, and even I can see that's kind of weak.

This man was the head monk at the monastery, acclaimed by all the others there. And yet, he fundamentally did not understand what Zen was about. I wonder about my own skills, too. I hope that I am not like Shen-xiu... but I fear that I am.
I have not made a report for quite some time. As I wrote before, my time with Clan Nettobuku is done, and not by my choice.

I returned to Castle Nettobuku to inform Commander Kobushi and Lord Tai of my decision, and to take my leave of the other clan-members. Everyone seemed sorry to see me go. (Jimon was not there that day.) Daigo, in particular, seemed quite stunned and somewhat upset.

Kobushi and Tai were both pleased by my professionalism, and promised to give good report of me to any other clans that might ask. They say that the campaigns Nettobuku has engaged in, and the skills required of me, have been completely different from what I originally was told. As true as this may be, however, I feel that the ability to adapt to unexpected and changing circumstances is a necessary skill for a ninja. My failure to do so disturbs me greatly.

Shortly after leaving the castle for the last time, I became ill, and spent two weeks recovering. Since then, I have been in Henshukoku, practicing my skills.

I have reconsecrated the town's shrine to Bishamonten. I have cleared out some space in the yard of the house I share with Akane, and set up some practice dummies that I can use to practice strikes against. The yard now qualifies as a small dōjō of its own, set up for practice of both sansetsukon and ninja-to kata as well as the weighted chain. (I'm still in good shape with the chain... but I've gotten very rusty at using the Pirōto-style hook, which is far more popular than the Mūtou-style that Nettobuku favored.)

I have set myself a training regime, and I spend part of each day doing kata and drills. I have been converting one of my ninja-to kata into the Living Stone style, for a firm grounding in the Living Stone ryū is an absolute necessity. I have also been learning the art of poisoning my weapons, and adapting my kata to take account for the poison's effects.

And I go every day to Yagyū, to spend time in the inns and hiring halls where messengers from the martial clans and armies come to recruit skilled warriors for Nihon's never-ending battles and war campaigns. But right now, everyone is preparing for o-shōgatsu, so there are no messengers to be found. I can only hope that things will improve once the holidays are over.
This morning, Jimon interviewed another candidate for Clan Nettobuku's warrior corps. When Saimei asked him what he thought of the candidate, Jimon said he was "a brash young fellow... like the rest of us."

I think this is the problem I have with Clan Nettobuku. The others here are, for the most part, young and brash, and I feel that they have not been wounded enough times to appreciate their own fallibility. Only Commander Kobushi and Captain Tomo are older than I, and the others are much younger.

Of course, because I have taken very good care of myself, I look nearly as young as they — and because I came late to the ways of combat, they may actually have more experience than I do. And my worries about being fallible, and easily wounded, may just be my own insecurity and defeatism. In which case, it'd be stupid of me to project that onto the others, and hold back our progress.

But still, I worry.
I have finally slain a few targets — ones that I have been stalking for far too long. I feel bad about how long it has taken me to kill these victims, but at least this is better than if they were still alive.

I am also making great progress in learning the Arusupekku style of acrobatic tumbling. It takes some practice to learn the new and unexpected ways of dodging, but once you get the hang of it, they are a great way of fulfilling what my sensei always called the First Rule of Combat: "Don't get hit!" With such skills, it is much easier to avoid being hurt in my daily work. (And besides, I understand more and more clans and armies are seeking warriors with acrobatic skills...)

Jimon actually asked for my input about how to best sneak up on one of his own targets, a money-changer in the historic city of Fujiwara-kyō. Though I have been very slow in my own assassinations, maybe he has not been looking down on me? Maybe my insecurities have all been my own?
ninja_coder: (ninja coder writing)
( Nov. 4th, 2008 12:26 pm)
We are done with our Hitotsu Nanako campaign. Astonishingly, all of the territory we planned to take... we have actually taken, successfully! Usually, there is some left over at the end of a campaign, but not this time.

Commander Kobushi is proud of us. I feel that my own efforts contributed very little to our victory. Practically every kill I made, and every target I slew, required far too much time spent in trailing, sneaking, and laborious covert-entry.

Tomorrow, we will have a day of meetings with the Nichiren priestesses and the high lords, to review what we have achieved. The next day, we will plan our strategies for the upcoming Hitotsu Hakko campaign. On Friday, we start combat operations.

In the meantime, today is to be spent practicing more acrobatic techniques and defensive rolls, in the Arusupekku style that Benjirō has just explained to us.

I must continue to study hard and increase my skills this winter. I am tired of feeling like an amateur.
I have been busy studying enemy encampments, learning and practicing the intricate Living Stone kata Bunmei and Jimon have created, and occasionally using them against enemies. I have come more and more to realize that Jimon does not consider me a complete fool, and I can argue with him despite his gruff and impassive demeanor.

Last week, we added a new ninja at Clan Nettobuku, a man named Benjirō. He has been hard at work, learning our clan's kata and weapon styles. It sometimes seems as if Jimon and Bunmei simply want to start their own ryū — they could become the founders of Nettobuku-ryū.

Today, however, we had a very upsetting thing happen. I was concentrating hard, and barely saw Binya, the Sōtō Zen monk, walk out with his bowl in hand and his bag on his back. Then Commander Kobushi interrupted our activities, and gathered us together to let everyone know that Binya has left the clan.

Clan Nettobuku is firmly committed to the principles of the Flowing Motion school. Binya has philosophical disagreements with this school; Commander Kobushi says that he will most likely seek a different clan, whose Way is in closer accord with his beliefs. His protegé, Airi, will now be our only Sōtō Zen monk, and she is quite adept in the Flowing Motion teachings.

Still, this is very upsetting to me, and I feel that I should redouble my efforts to improve my own skills, so that I can also depart when the time is opportune. For now, however, I have important kata to practice — and when those are done, some powerful enemies to slay. I must put aside my worry.
ninja_coder: (ninja coder writing)
( Oct. 10th, 2008 12:17 pm)
In the past few days, I have taken part in some talks between Jimon and Bunmei concerning our kata styles, and the forms and ryū we use. I have used some of Jimon's new kata in my recent activities, and...

I must admit, I have never really integrated Living Stone ryū techniques into my repertoire as fully as I should. They make it easy to improve a sequence of strikes, to adapt to changing situations. But in my early learning, I rarely had to deal with such changes. It was always too easy for me to get by in my self-taught Journey of a Thousand Steps style.

Now, when I can see at the very outset that something will fit well into Living Stone, I willingly use those techniques... but otherwise, I go down the wrong path, and later have to adapt things. It is not efficient.

And the insistence of the mounted samurai that everything should always be done in Living Stone style, even the smallest actions (that often make a very poor fit for it) has not helped matters any. The insistence on using Living Stone and Heavenly Patterns for everything is foolishness. But just because some fools have spoken of it does not make the entire school folly. My tendency to avoid it when I should embrace it more easily is folly.

Beyond that, I need to let go of my desire to focus on the small details of the movements and strikes. I need to look more at the larger patterns of kata, or even of the flow of combat between many warriors in a full battle. I have spent long enough looking at trees, and twigs; I must focus more on groves and on forests.

Truly, knowledge is ever-unfolding; there is no mastery, for the greatest master is still but a student. I must always continue my studies.


ninja_coder: (Default)


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