A training text, used by a martial arts school to teach members of the bushi (samurai) class, has been deciphered, revealing the rules samurai were expected to follow and what it took to truly become a master swordsman.
The text is called Bugei no jo, which means “Introduction to Martial Arts” and is dated to the 15th year of Tenpo (1844). Written for samurai students about to learn Takenouchi-ryū, a martial arts system, it would have prepared students for the challenges awaiting them.
“These techniques of the sword, born in the age of the gods, had been handed down through divine transmission. They form a tradition revered by the world, but its magnificence manifests itself only when one’s knowledge is ripe,” part of the text reads in translation. “When [knowledge] is mature, the mind forgets about the hand, the hand forgets about the sword,” a level of skill that few obtain and which requires a calm mind.
The text includes quotes written by ancient Chinese military masters and is written in a formal kanbun style, a system that combines elements of Japanese and Chinese writing. The text was originally published by scholars in 1982, in its original language, in a volume of the book “Nihon budo taikei.” Recently, it was partly translated into English and analyzed by Balázs Szabó, of the department of Japanese studies at Loránd Eötvös University in Budapest, Hungary. The translation and analysis are detailed in the most recent edition of the journal Acta Orientalia Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae.
Among its many teachings, the text tells students to show great discipline and not to fear the enemy’s numbers. “To see bad as good is like stepping out of the gate we see the enemy, though numerous we see them as few, therefore no fear awakes, so we triumph when the fighting is just started,” it reads in translation, quoting a teaching from the Seven Military Classics of ancient China.
Last century of the Samurai
In 1844, only members of the Samurai class were allowed to receive martial arts training. Szabó explained in an email to LiveScience that this class was strictly hereditary and there was little opportunity for non-samurai to join it.
Samurai students, in most cases, would have attended multiple martial arts schools and, in addition, would have been taught “Chinese writing, Confucian classics and poetry in domain schools or private academies,” Szabó explained.
The students starting their Takenouchi-ryū training in 1844 may not have realized that they lived at a time when Japan was about to undergo tremendous change. For two centuries, there had been tight restrictions on Westerners entering Japan, something that would be shattered in 1853 when the U.S. commodore Matthew Perry sailed into Tokyo Bay with a fleet and demanded that Japan enter into a treaty with the United States. In the two decades that followed, a series of events and wars erupted that would see the downfall of the Japanese Shōgun, the rise of a new modernized Japan and, ultimately, the end of the Samurai class.
The newly translated text sets out 12 rules that members of theTakenouchi-ryū school were expected to follow. Some of them, including “Do not leave the path of honor!” and “Do not commit shameful deeds!” were ethical rules samurai were expected to follow.
One notable rule, “Do not let the school’s teachings leak out!” was created to protect the school’s secret martial art techniques and aid students should they find themselves in a fight.
“For a martial arts school … to be attractive, it was necessary to have special techniques enabling the fighter to be effective even against a much stronger opponent. These sophisticated techniques were the pride of the school kept cautiously in secret, as their leaking out would have caused economic as well as prestige loss,” writes Szabó in his paper.
Two other, perhaps more surprising, rules, tell students “Do not compete!” and “Do not tell bad things about other schools!”
Modern-day Westerners have a popular vision of the samurai fighting each other regularly, but by 1844, they were not allowed to duel each other at all, Szabó writes.
The Shōgun Tokugawa Tsunayoshi (1646-1709) had placed a ban on martial art dueling and had even rewritten the code the samurai had to follow, adapting it for a period of relative peace. “Learning and military skill, loyalty and filial piety, must be promoted, and the rules of decorum must be properly enforced,” the Shōgun ruled (translation from the book “Studies in the Intellectual History of Tokugawa Japan,” by Masao Maruyama, Princeton University Press, 1974).
The text offers only a faint glimpse at the secret techniques the students would have learned at this school, separating the descriptions into two parts called “Deepest Secrets of Fistfight” and “Deepest Secrets of Fencing.”
One section of secret fistfight techniques is called Shinsei no daiji,which translates as “divine techniques,” indicating that such techniques were considered the most powerful. Intriguingly, a section of secret fencing techniques is listed as Ōryūken, also known as iju ichinin,meaning those “considered to be given to one person” — in this case, the headmaster’s heir.
The lack of details describing what these techniques looked like in practice is not surprising, Szabó said. The headmasters had their reasons for the cryptic language and rule of secrecy, he added. Not only would they have protected the school’s prestige, and students’ chances in a fight, but they helped “maintain a mystical atmosphere around the school,” something important to a people who held the study of martial arts in high esteem.
A new study of anthrax reveals why the infection is deadly.
The findings also offer clues that could be used to better treat people who are infected, which could possibly improve survival rates, researchers said in their study published Thursday (Aug. 29) in the journal Nature.
Doctors in developed nations rarely see anthrax cases, but if they do, it’s important to treat the disease correctly, and as soon as possible, said Stephen Leppla, of the Laboratory for Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health.
“The problem with clinicians treating anthrax is that nobody has much experience doing it,” Leppla said. Understanding exactly how anthrax kills can help clinicians tailor better strategies.
Anthrax is caused by bacteria, and can infect people in one of three ways: people might inhale the spores, eat the spores, or take in spores via the skin. All three types of infection can be deadly, though the skin route of infection is much less so, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Inhaled anthrax has a mortality rate of about 75 percent, while the gastrointestinal infection kills about 60 percent of infected people, even with treatment. Among those infected through their skin, anthrax mortality drops to 20 percent. [Tiny & Nasty: Images of Things That Make Us Sick]
In the developing world, people become infected though contact with livestock. In the U.S. and Europe, anthrax is now very rare — only one or two cases appear yearly on average in the U.S.
The bacteria themselves aren’t what sickens and kills: it’s the toxins the bacteria produce. A doctor can treat a patient with antibiotics and kill all the anthrax bacteria – antibiotics are very effective against the infection. But the toxins the bacteria made remain in the body, and continue damaging cells.
The two toxins produced by anthrax, called lethal toxin and edema toxin, damage many types of cells, but it was thought that their effects on endothelial cells, which line blood and lymph vessels, were what made anthrax so lethal.
In the new study, it was found that wasn’t the case; rather, much of the toxins’ action seems to be in the cells of the heart muscle and the liver.
To track down which cells anthrax targeted, the researchers looked at mice genetically altered so that a protein called CMG2, to which anthrax toxins bind, was absent from their endothelial cells. They compared these mice with another group that had CMG2.
Results showed that both sets of mice were similarly sensitive to anthrax, which meant that anthrax wasn’t killing the mice via damage to endothelial cells.
The researchers next tested mice that were missing the CMG2 protein from their heart cells. Those mice survived the doses of lethal toxin much better than their litter mates that had the protein, which pointed to anthrax’s effects on the heart muscle as the way that it kills.
Similarly, mice without CMG2 in their liver cells fared better when exposed to edema toxin than mice that expressed CMG2, showing that the edema toxin affects the liver.
Leppla noted that it is not clear whether the findings are also true of anthrax in people. Future experiments on primates would confirm the results, he said.
The fruit Garcinia cambogia was once just the less popular cousin of a trendy fruit, the mangosteen. But now, nutritional supplements containing Garcinia cambogia extract have become the rage, touted for their purported ability to curb appetite and stop weight gain.
The gambooge fruit, also known as the Malabar tamarind, grows across southwest India, Myanmar and Indonesia. It ripens to a red or yellowish fruit about the size of an orange, but resembling the shape of a pumpkin.
People have long used the dried gambooge rinds for chutneys or curries, and sometimes as an aid for stomach problems. But in the late 1960s, scientists identified a substance in the rind of the fruit called hydroxycitric acid, or HCA, which has some potentially attractive qualities.
“Some studies have shown that HCA stops an enzyme that turns sugar into fat,” said Catherine Ulbricht, senior pharmacist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and co-founder of Natural Standard Research Collaboration, which reviews evidence on herbs and supplements.
A fruit extract that could interfere with the body’s production of fat? The appeal is obvious. However, good results in test tubes don’t always translate to an entire person.
Some studies say HCA works, and some say it doesn’t. Animal studies of HCA showed that mice taking the substance ate less, lost weight and produced less fat from sugar.
Human studies had more conflicting results. One weight loss trial showed no difference between people who took Garcinia cambogia and those who took a placebo pill. Other trials linked HCA to weight loss and healthy blood lipid levels (lipids are fats).
“Further, well-designed clinical trials are needed before any firm conclusions can be made,” Ulbricht said.
If a pharmaceutical company wanted to sell HCA as a drug, the company would have to find stronger evidence that the substance worked, coming from better-designed clinical trials. Without that data, HCA wouldn’t pass U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval, Ulbricht said. But the FDA doesn’t put chemicals sold as nutritional supplements under the same burden of proof as pharmaceuticals. In fact, supplement makers only have to make their products safe to eat and responsibly label them.
Despite the popularity of Garcinia cambogia, it is difficult to track how effective supplements containing it are.
“Preparation of products may vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, and from batch to batch within one manufacturer,” Ulbricht said. That makes it difficult to compare one brand to another or even to measure the effects of a single brand.
People may safely eat the fruit, of course. And clinical trials have shown it’s safe to take Garcinia cambogia extract by mouth — at least for 12 weeks, the length of the studies.
But take caution. Garcinia cambogia has side effects – it may lower a person’s blood sugar, so it can interact with diabetes treatments. The fruit hasn’t been adequately studied in pregnant women or women who breastfeed. And Garcinia cambogia may be a problem for patients with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, Ulbricht said.
In 2009, the FDA issued a safety warning after receiving more than 20 reports of severe reactions, including liver damage, in people taking the supplement Hydroxycut. At the time, Hydroxycut contained Garcinia cambogia extract and other compounds, including chromium polynicotinate and Gymnema sylvestre extract.
Ulbricht said it’s unclear if the Garcinia cambogia extract caused the liver damage.
The bottom line is that people should tell their doctors before trying a new supplement, including Garcinia cambogia and HCA, she said.