Saturday, September 09, 2006

Strategy in History: Genpei Wars

It must be remembered that Go is a martial art. Among the other skills that a samurai would learn, such as archery, the sword, the horse, and the bow, were skills that refined him. Like the study of the Analects, and Buddhism, the more well-off samurai studied Go, the skill of which would be put to good use as a field commander or general in battle. In todays game we see no ties with life or death, except for the odd Go problem, and we tend to lose touch with the origin of the game in worn-torn China.

As Sun-Tzu said, "All warfare is based on deception." The more deceptive, or those who can deceive at a much deeper level, will be the victor.

In twelvth century Japan, war was very stylized. In many cases, a small group of warriors would separate from a group, have an archery battle, and then the next group would step forward. This was long before the age of the sword. At the Battle of Kurikara, Minamoto Yoshinaka (married to Tomoe Gozen) had a plan to divide his army in two and surround the Taira forces. He had two problems. He had to conceal the movements of his forces. He had to hold the Taira into position.

Using the customs of battle of his age to his advantage, Minamoto proceeded to fight the most stylized battle possible. With so much emphasis given to the declaring of deeds between warriors, and the battles limited to such small numbers, Minamoto knew that neither side would have an edge before morning. Of course, in the morning, his other force would flank the Taira army and the tables would turn greatly.

'All warfare is based on deception.'

On the other side of the Genpei war, at the Battle of Yashima, the Taira hung a fan from the mast of a ship and challenged the Minamoto to hit it. The tactic there was to get the Minamoto to waste arrows to no end.

The human mind, though trained like iron, can bend so easily when a weakness is found. We must look for the simple solution, the simple strategy. Complex ideas do not work. Think of how you may hang your fan on the Go board and cause you opponent to waste precious stones trying to kill a group that is already safe/dead. Looking to the past is the greatest way to understand this game and take it into the future.


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At 3:36 AM, Blogger Nyiti (Gabor) said...

I've read your archive and I found it very enjoyable -- Buddhist thought and Go are both close to me. It's a pity that you've abandoned the blog for some reason.


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