Sun Tzu and the Art of Medieval Japanese Warfare

For the first time, this study examines in depth how the medieval Japanese masters of Heiho – the Art of War – sought to interpret, illustrate and transmit the principles of China’s time-honoured military strategist Sun-Tzu during possibly the most turbulent period of Japanese history, the war-torn Muromachi period (c. 1350 – 1575). In these two centuries a number of gifted warriors, steeped in the teachings of Sun-Tzu and the Chinese Military Classics, developed their own concepts of the arts of warfare, expressed in personal combat, to heights of formidable effectiveness. Rather than consider the weaknesses and strengths of the medieval military command structures, the author focuses instead on certain basic strategies still to be found in the upper levels of these individual masters’ teachings, some of which have fortunately survived the five hundred or more years that have elapsed since these strategists passed away. Sun-Tzu’s lasting legacy was encapsulated in one simple statement: ‘All warfare is based on deception’. This volume, supported by a sixteen-page Plate Section, demonstrates how, and from where, some of these master swordsmen derived their unique understanding of these ancient teachings.

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Biographical Note

Roald Knutsen was born in Hertfordshire of Anglo-Norwegian parents and educated at The Perse School, Cambridge, and Watford Grammar School. After studying Art and Design he served as a regular in the Intelligence Corps and followed with a successful career in graphic design, choreographing complex medieval combat sequences for a computer film project in England and the USA, and writing. For the past half-century he has practised traditional Kenjutsu, Kendo, Iai-jutsu, and So-jutsu under a succession of famous Japanese masters, having menkyo-kaiden (senior master’s licence), in one of the oldest transmissions of Iai-jutsu, and the rank of 6th dan Renshi in Kendo. He has researched and written extensively about the Japanese warrior traditions and aspects of Japanese history. His is also the author of Japanese Polearms (1963), Rediscovering Budo (2004), and Japanese Spears (2004), which he co-authored with his wife Patricia Knutsen.

Table of contents

Acknowledgements; List of Illustrations; Introduction; 1 The Muromachi Warriors and their Approach to Sun Tzu: Some Historical Benchmarks; 2 Who Were the Bugeisha?; 3 Ch’I Within the Eishin-ryu; 4 Hasegawa Eishin-ryu Structure; 5 Mao Tse-tung and Unorthodox Tactics; 6 Iai-jutsu Seen as Flexible Warfare; 7 Foreknowledge; 8 The Distinction in the Heiho between Ch’i and Cheng; 9 The Influence of the Mountain Religion; 10 The Esoteric Principles Contained in In and Yu; 11 Unexpected Attacks Against an Unprepared Enemy; 12 Fundamental Teachings; 13 Warfare and Ritual; 14 Conclusions; 15 ‘Subtle and Insubstantial . . .’; Notes; Glossary of Terms; Bibliography; Index



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