|Woven deeply into the martial traditions and folklore of Japan, the fearsome Tengu dwell in the country's mountain forest. Mythical half-man, half-bird creatures with long noses, Tengu have always inspired dread and awe, inhabiting a liminal world between the human and the demonic, and guarding the most hidden secrets of swordsmanship. In The Demon's Sermon on the Martial Arts, a translation of the 18th-century samurai classic by Issai Chozanshi, an anonymous swordsman journeys to the heart of Mt. Kurama, the traditional domain of these formidable beings. There he encounters a host of demon; through a series of discussions and often playful discourse, they reveal to him the very deepest principles of the martial arts, and show how the secrets of sword fighting impart the truths of life itself.
The Demon's Sermon opens with The discourses, a collection of whimsical fables concerned with the theme of transformation—for Chozanshi a core phenomenon to the martial artist. Though ostensibly light and fanciful, these stories offer the attentive reader ideas that subvert perceived notions of conflict and the individual's relationship to the outside world. In the main body of work, The Sermon, Chozanshi demonstrates how transformation is fostered and nurtured through ch'i — the vital and fundamental energy that flows through all things, animate and inanimate, and the very bedrock of Chozanshi's themes and the martial arts themselves. This he does using the voice of the Tengu, ad the reader is invited to eavesdrop with the swordsman on the demon's revelations of the deepest truths concerning ch'i, the principles of yin and yang, and how these forces shape our existence. In The Dispatch, the themes are brought to an elegant conclusion using the parable of an old and toothless cat who, like the demon, has mastered the art of acting by relying on nothing, and in so doing can defeat even the wiliest and most vicious of rats despite his advanced years.
This is the first direct translation from the original text into English by William Scott Wilson, the renowned translator of Hagakure and The Book of Five Rings. It captures the tone and essence of this classic while still making it accessible and meaningful to today's reader. Chozanshi's deep understanding of Taoism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Shinto, as well as his insight into the central role of ch'i in the universe, are all given thoughtful treatment in Wilson's introduction and extensive endnotes. A provocative book for the general reader, The Demon's Sermon will also prove an invaluable addition to the libraries of all those interested in the fundamental principles of the martial arts, and how those principles relate to our existence.
About the Authors
ISSAI CHOZANSHI (1659-1741) was the pen name of Niwa Jurozaemonn Tadaaki, a samurai of the Sekiyado clan. Among his works, The Demon's Sermon on the Martial Arts (1729) and The Swordsman and the Cat (1727) are his most famous.
WILLIAM SCOTT WILSON, the translator, was born in 1944 and grew up in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. As an undergraduate student at Dartmouth College in 1966, he was invited by a friend to join a three-month kayak trip up the coast of Japan from Shimonoseki to Tokyo. This eye-opening journey, beautifully documented in National Geographic, spurred Wilson's fascination with the culture and history of Japan.
After receiving a B.A. degree in political science from Dartmouth, Wilson earned a second B.A. in Japanese language and literature from the Monterey Institute of Foreign Studies in Monterey, California, then undertook extensive research on Edo-period (1603-1868) philosophy at the Aichi Prefectural University, in Nagoya, Japan.
Wilson completed his first translation, the classic martial arts philosophy text Hagakure, while living in an old farmhouse deep in the Japanese countryside. Hagakure saw publication in 1979, and two decades later was prominently featured in Jim Jarmusch's movie Ghost Dog. Wilson's other translations include The Book of Five Rings, The Life-Giving Sword, The Unfettered Mind, Eiji Yoshikawa's historical novel Taiko, The Flowering Spirit Classic Teachings on the Art of Nō, and Ideals of the Samurai, which has been used as a college textbook on Japanese history and thought. He is also the author of The Lone Samurai, the recent best-selling study of the life of legendary swordsman Miyamoto Musashi.
Traveling frequently to Japan for research and pleasure, Wilson currently lives in Miami, Florida.