Yagyū Munenori

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Yagyū Munenori (1571 - May 11, 1646) was a Japanese swordsman, founder of the Edo branch of Yagyū Shinkage-ryū, which he learned from his father Yagyū "Sekishusai" Muneyoshi. This was one of two official sword styles patronized by the Tokugawa Shogunate (the other one being Ittō-ryū). Munenori began his career in the Tokugawa administration as a hatamoto. Munenori entered the service of Tokugawa Ieyasu at a young age, and later was an instructor of swordsmanship to Ieyasu's son Hidetada. Still later, he became one of the primary advisors of the third shogun Iemitsu. In about 1632, Munenori completed the Heihō kadensho, a treatise on practical Shinkage-ryū swordsmanship and how it could be applied on a macro level to life and politics. The text remains in print in Japan today, and has been translated a number of times into English. Munenori's sons, Yagyū Jūbei Mitsuyoshi and Yagyū Munefuyu, were also famous swordsmen.


  • It is bias to think that the art of war is just for killing people. It is not to kill people, it is to kill evil. It is a strategem to give life to many people by killing the evil of one person.
    • Quoted in Thomas Cleary, "The Japanese Art of War," 1991
  • It is easy to kill someone with a slash of a sword. It is hard to be impossible for others to cut down.
    • Quoted in "Behold the Second Horseman - Page 53 - by Joseph Lumpkin - Sports & Recreation - 2005
  • See first with your mind, then with your eyes, and finally with your body.
    • Quoted in "Living the martial way: a manual for the way a modern warrior should think" - Page 88 by Forrest E. Morgan - Sports & Recreation - 1992
  • A stroke of the sword that does not hit its target is the sword stroke of death; you reach over it to strike the winning blow. Your adversarys inititive having missed its mark, you turn the tables arround and get the jump on your adversary.
    • Quoted in "The book of family Traditions on the art of war"
  • Once a fight has started, if you get involved in thinking about what to do, you will be cut down by your opponent with the very next blow.
    • Quoted in "The book of family Traditions on the art of war"
  • When you strike a blow, do not let your mind dally on it, not concerning yourself with whether or not it is a telling blow; you should strike again and again, over and over, even four or five times. The thing is not to let your opponent even raise his head.
    • Quoted in "The book of family Traditions on the art of war"
  • There may be a hundred stances and sword positions, but you win with just one.
    • Quoted in "The book of family Traditions on the art of war"
  • Conquering evil, not the opponent is the essence of swordsmanship.
    • Quoted in "Behold the Second Horseman - Page 44 by Joseph Lumpkin - Sports & Recreation - 2005
  • If you gaze at a single leaf on a single tree, you do not see the other leaves. If you face the tree with no intention and do not fix your eyes on a single leaf, then you will see all the many leaves. If your mind is preoccupied with one leaf, you do not see the others, if you do not set your attention on one; you will see hundreds and thousands of leaves.
    • Quoted in "The book of family Traditions on the art of war"
  • If you have attained mastery of swordlessness, you will never lack for a sword.
    • other version: If you have attained mastery of swordlessness, you will never be without a sword.
    • Quoted in "Soul of the Samurai" - Page 28 by Munenori Yagyū, Thomas Cleary, Takuan Sōhō - Sports & Recreation - 2005


  • It may be said that the swordsmen neither vies in a contest, nor concerns himself with strength or weakness, nor advances or retreats a single step. His opponent does not see him; he does not see his opponent. If he concentrates on the area where heaven and earth remain unseparated and yin and yang do not show, he should achieve success straightforwardly.
  • When you practice archery, if your mind is occupied with shooting the arrow, the shot will be disturbed, and will not be settled (smooth). If you are wielding the long sword, and your mind is fixed on wielding the sword, the sword will not move smoothly. The archer should forget about shooting the arrow, and shoot as he would doing nothing special. Then the shot will be smooth. When wielding the long sword, or riding a horse, do it as though you would not wield a sword or ride a horse. Stop doing everything, have an empty, everydays mind, even when you have lots of things to do, do it easily, smoothly. The man who has nothing on his heart is the man of the Way.

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