The Strike of Running Water

Should you and your opponent be equally matched… you must inflate both body and mind, let your sword follow your body and, quite slowly, strike with all the power of momentarily restrained water bursting forth from a running stream. – Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings (translated by William Scott Wilson)

The Strike of Running Water

The Strike of Running Water

Should you and your opponent be equally matched

What happens when you find your competition equally matched? In a tight industry, there will always be competition that is equally matched to you. There will always be different variables where they will be equal to that of yours. How do you pull ahead when you’re identical?

You must inflate both body and mind

It’s important to look at what resources are available to you and gather them. This audit also extends to analyzing the situation:

  • Where are you standing in relation to your competition?
  • How far away are they?
  • Are they in range to mount an offence?
  • What is the current rhythm of attack and defence? Are you in the defending portion of the cycle or attacking?
  • What differentiates you from your competition?
    • What do you do best?

Let your sword follow your body

Through gathering this information and resources, you can then make decisions.

Thoughts lead actions just as the sword follows the body.

Note that every movement is deliberate. Each muscle fibre is moved with clear intention of what is to follow. Likewise, how you use the information and resources should be a conscious decision.

The pinnacle of swordsmanship is when the sword becomes an extension of your body. This phrase can also be taken to mean that your strike with the sword is so fluid that it is now an extension of your arm. The differentiating factor you choose to use to pull ahead of the competition when you’re evenly matched should be a strong intrinsic factor. It should be something innate to your company. Not only will it be an authentic competitive advantage but it also makes the competitive advantage that much harder to copy, thus leading us back to square one of being equally matched.

Quite slowly

Previously I wrote about The Rhythm of All Things. In it, there is a point about imposing your own rhythm. All scenarios in which you are to overcome the competition are rooted in imposing your own rhythm instead of being strung along by your competition’s rhythm.

When you move slowly, not is it only deliberate (see the first point from “Let your sword follow your body”) but this also implies imposing your own rhythm while disrupting the opponent’s.

Strike with all the power of momentarily restrained water bursting forth from a running stream

Once you’ve determined your course of action you should strike with an explosion of power at the opportune time. Likewise, once you find your differentiating factor, you should audit available resources and gather them. Unleashing a strike to your competition in such a way that will cripple them. A pop-up store and sale. Redesign your website and launch party. Customer service meet and greet. The key is whatever actions you decide to take, make sure it is aligned with your differentiating factor and devote all your available resources to deal the blow.


Two Heavens in One

Two Heavens in One

In our country, it is the Way of the Warrior to wear them whether the reason is understood or not – Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings (translated by William Scott Wilson)

All samurai wore two swords. In fact the two swords are the symbol for the entire samurai social class. I’m sure there were many samurai that never questioned why there are two swords. Some may have questioned the purpose only to accept the conclusion that it has always been so. Then there is Miyamoto Musashi, the only samurai deserving of the title kensei, Japanese for sword saint.
He challenged tradition. He decided that both swords should be used. Instead of the traditional method of gripping one sword with both hands, he innovated by holding a sword in each hand. Thus allowing him to use both swords at a time.

When you put your life on the line, you want all your weapons to be of use. Your real intent should not be to die with weapons uselessly worn at your waist.  – Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings (translated by William Scott Wilson)

Don’t be like the other samurai who were blind to the fact that their greatest resource was at their tied at their waist. There is always untapped resources around you. Most often it’s the people.
Open your eyes. People are multifaceted. Everyone can offer insight drawn from different aspects of their life. Solutions to problems can often be found when someone on the team draws from their experience from the  rock climbing adventures over the weekend, the book they’ve been reading, or what they learned at the whiskey tasting event yesterday evening.
Be receptive to suggestions and breed an environment that doesn’t discourage risky ideas.

Unbridled enthusiasm for new, risky ideas is just as dangerous as a complacent attitude. Allow your workforce to pursue a variety of interests but also communicate extensively the purpose of this initiative. This will focus the combined processing power of your entire workforce and evoke inspiration in places you wouldn’t have imagined.

The Rhythm of All Things

The Way of the Sword

The Way of the Sword

There is a rhythm to everything, but particularly in the martial arts, if you do not train in its rhythm it is difficult to succeed. – Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings (translated by William Scott Wilson)

Rhythm in martial arts pertain to the flow of attacking and defending. There is a natural flow; you attack and your opponent attacks, then you defend, while your opponent is attacking. Give and receive. Advance and retreat. How do you get the upper hand though?
Study and observe the rhythm of your opponent. Do not react. Dictate.
Study how your opponent follows the rhythm of the duel. Then, purposefully give an opening to your opponent. Observe how they react to the change in rhythm. Then capitalize on their reaction.

It is the same in business. Study and learn what your competitor’s rhythm is. Study what their moves are in the past. Study what their reaction is to different stimuli. From this, you will learn what their pattern is; you will learn their rhythm. Take advantage of this knowledge. Either disrupt the rhythm or wait for the rhythm to be disrupted by an outside source. Preempt any reactions they will make according to their rhythm.