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Body and Spirit

shingitai calligraphy


Spirit, technique, and perfect physique – shingitai  – is the triune principle of martial arts.

Legend has it that the gates of ancient Shaolin bore the inscription: “be light as a butterfly.”
It did not refer only to the body (a warrior shall be strong and very fast, “light,” otherwise he is a dead man), but also to the state of mind, which is supposed to be empty, fast and free.

If a person controls his outer state (body) on a permanent basis, his spirit will become stronger.
On the other hand, if a person constantly exercises his mind, strengthening his Spirit, the latter will strengthen its vessel - the body.


Our bodies are given life from the midst of nothingness.
Existing where there is nothing is the meaning of the phrase:
"Form is emptiness." That all things are provided for
by nothingness is the meaning of the phrase: "Emptiness is form."
One should not think that these are two separate things.

– Yamamoto Tsunetomo

An “empty” shell freed from “blockings” imposed by an ordinary mentality starts acting spontaneously and flawlessly, easily, making the best use of the body polished by years of training and filled with Force and courage. In such a state of mind a warrior is not burdened by thinking, and yet his actions are perfect.

Masutatsu Oyama, founder of Kyokushinkai Karate

→It is important to make one's whole life in training and therefore not aiming for skill and strength alone, but also for spiritual attainment.
– Masutatsu Oyama
→Obtaining only physical strength is similar to the attempt to carve a sculpture of Buddha without putting your heart and soul into the process.
– Masutatsu Oyama
→If one’s thought has attained the inborn awareness of the good
and truly reached the Great Vacuity, then if the physical body 
that envelops it is destroyed, it will return in an instant
to eternally omnipresent Great Vacuity. 
The sage does not despise the death of the body
but the death of the spirit.
Oshio Heihachiro

A warrior appreciates life as an opportunity to improve the spirit through the body. He respects death as the door to rebirth. He has the sharpest of swords in his hands, quick as lightning; the sword is an implement of karma. Concentrate your mind on the sword point!

A samurai needs to take care of his health and physical fitness lest his bodily weakness or unreadiness prevent him from fulfilling his duty. Physical strength and professional fitness couple with the resolution to join the battle at any time and die without thinking twice, if need be.


A warrior should always adhere to the principle of austere simplicity. He must not be enslaved by worldly goods or acquire material excess that waste one’s time and energy. Even his own body, he must not overburden with muscles; otherwise he would serve the body and not the other way around. 

The body is the gift of Nature. To treat it badly means to be ungrateful. Nature makes a man feel the staggering plentitude of the world through his body, and gives him the possibility of glorious interaction with it. The plentitude is a gift, be in harmony with Nature!

In blossom today, then scattered:
Life is so like a delicate flower.
How can one expect the fragrance
To last forever?

Vice Admiral Takijiro Onishi, 
Kamikaze Special Attack Force

The body is a vessel for spirit. Bodily weakness often brings about faint-heartedness. 
Feebleness must not cause weakness of spirit. Make your body strong! This responsibility is yours alone.

One day Lord Hosokawa asked Musashi about the body like a rock. Musashi told him to send for Terao Motomenosuke, one of his vassals who was a disciple of Musashi’s. As soon as Terao arrived, Musashi said, “Terao Motomenosuke, by your lord’s command you will kill yourself by seppuku here and now!”
Terao greeted him calmly and said, “I thank you for this order. Kindly give me just the time to make preparations.” 
When Terao was about to pierce himself, Musashi stopped him and said to the Lord, 
“My lord, this is the body like a rock.”

nana korobi ya oki

Fell seven times, got up eight times.
A Japanese proverb

The energies of body and mind together make one whole. Those destroying the bodily energy also destroy the soul. Healing of the soul also heals the body. The Great Swordsman Yagyu Muneyoshi used to say: a man should tune his mind in the right way. It's a very subtle remark.

The strong are keen to be stronger, they strengthen their body and spirit and constantly prepare for struggle, gaining more and more force. There is no point of equilibrium in life.
Life constantly tests a person. When one wins he becomes stronger and moves up, when one loses he slides down.
This is the law of differentiation.

Life itself is always a trial. In training you must test and polish yourself in order to face the great challenges of life. Transcend the realm of life and death, and then you will be able to make your way calmly and safely through the crisis that confronts you.

– Ueshiba Morihei

The way of the warrior is about mastering martial arts, but the most important thing is to learn how to use them in real life.

– Imagawa Sadayo

A samurai should always maintain a vigilant mind and calmly look at the events of the world being detached from them. He should learn to comprehend every instant. This state of mind is called vigilance.
The ultimate state of comprehension leads to Enlightenment.
Victory is not gained by arms or physical force but through the warrior’s state of mind.

The philosophy of Martial Arts dictates that a Tranquil Warrior who has purged himself of desires, fear, and aggression has a vast advantage, because the fear of death is not a part of the Tranquil Warrior's nature and does not hamper the instinctive reactions of the body. Nothing distracts a Tranquil Warrior. That is why his reactions are instantaneous, like in a mirror reflecting external events while staying out of their reach. In the esoteric aspect an imperturbable Warrior had a bio-energetic advantage because His mental power, 'the bowl of energy' was not wasted on emotions and unwanted distractions. By keeping his consciousness in the state of Tranquility, a Warrior avoided the influence of Nature's cycle of contrary forces (Yin and Yang) that is typically ripping apart biological energy of ordinary people, making them weak.

I look behind and after
And find that all is right, 
In my deepest sorrows
There is a soul of light. 
Swami Vivekananda


Quotes are taken from
the book "Samurai. Spirit of the Warrior" by A. R. Basov

avaliable as an eBook (for Windows, Android, iOS) and a hardcover book (pre-order only).


I will not get lost...
The North Star is shining in the darkness...
The road to Valhalla, straight like a sword, is always in front of me!

Copyright 2000-2021 Alexey R. Basov, Tatiana Basova. All rights reserved.

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