A sutra is an axiom or basic principle put in a specific form designed to be easy to learn and remember (the sutra), but which also requires explanation (the meaning), and invites commentary (the practical application, slang and appropriate quotes), to be fully understood. In fact, the word “sutra” is used because it is something a bit unusual and easy to remember.

All martial arts systems have basic sayings or principles. Like all basic principles they are relatively few in number.

1st Sutra (On Keeping Your Head):

Do Not Give Away Your Head

Meaning: Leave the battlefield unscathed.

The Field: Strive to finish the fight whole. Defend first and do not get hit. If an actual weapon were involved you would not want to be hit. Intentionally sacrificing a limb to try for an attack will not teach you how to improve nor will it guarantee victory. Always aim to finish the battle fully intact.

In Life: Consider where you are putting yourself and the situations you are in. Risk is unavoidable, but consider if the risk is worth the reward. Do not put yourself in a lose-lose situation. Defense in your spiritual life represents actively avoiding situations where you find yourself struggling with a temptation. When a situation is unavoidable, have others help keep you accountable.


• The whole art of war consists in a well-reasoned and extremely circumspect defensive, followed by rapid and audacious attack. – Napoleon

• Invincibility lies in the defense: the possibility of victory in the attack – Sun Tzu (The Art of War)

• Defense is the stronger form of warfare – Clausewitz

• Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. – 2 Timothy 2:22

Slang: Sucks to be cut.

2nd Sutra (On Your Word)

Honor Your Word

Meaning: Your word is your honor and your honor is what you are known by. Your word is sacred.

The Field: The biggest application of this is following the rules and taking shots. It is not fun when someone cheats in that way as the whole system breaks down. It is obvious to everyone when someone does not take shots and it reflects poorly on them. In addition, when making alliances or truces, if you are trust worthy, people will be more inclined to believe you and work with you. If you are not, it will not take long for people to stop trusting you.

In Life: Words mean things and should not be used carelessly. Keep your word whenever and however you give it. People should be able to rely on what you say. Your words will carry more weight if you have a flawless track record of honoring them. If you are untrustworthy in what you say no one will find you reliable in any other area of life.


• Rather fail with honor than succeed by fraud. – Sophocles

• No one can acquire honor by doing what is wrong. – Thomas Jefferson

• Simply a truthful witness saves lives, but a false witness is deceitful. – Proverbs 14:25

Slang: Liars suck.

3rd Sutra (On embracing failure as a learning opportunity)

To Die without Death is to Learn

Meaning: Learn from mistakes as each failure now represents success later.

The Field: After a fight, analyze what happened and how different actions could have resulted in a better outcome. Keep trying new things and take note at what works when. Challenge yourself by fighting someone better than you as that is when you will learn the most.

In Life: Everyone fails and everyone falls short of the glory of God. Pay attention to your mistakes but do not dwell on them. Analyze how you got to that place and look for ways to actively not repeat it. With Jesus, all things can be restored.


• I claim that we got a hell of a beating. We got run out of Burma and it is as humiliating as hell. I think we ought to find out what caused it, and go back and retake it. – General Joseph Stillwell (New York Times 26 May 1942)

• A man has honor if he holds himself to an ideal of conduct though it is inconvenient, unprofitable, or dangerous to do so. – Walter Lippman.

• Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, – 2 Corinthians 7:10

Slang: Learn from dying.

4th Sutra (On Practice)

The Swordsman Must Practice the Craft

Meaning: If you do not practice you will not improve.

The Field: You need to practice to get better! The more you train the faster you will improve and the better you will become. True improvement requires regular practice several times a week. Similarly, lack of practice can and will result in the loss of ability so always remember to practice the basics.

In Life: In our spiritual life, we need to practice our spiritual skills in order to improve. If you never pray, you will never get better at praying. It may be uncomfortable at first, but practicing spending time in the word, fellowship, or prayer is required to improve at those things. When looking to improve our behavior, remember that it is easier to make the hard choices if we consistently make the smaller, easier ones.


• The more you sweat in peacetime, the less you bleed during war. – Chinese Proverb

• What can a soldier do who charges when out of breath? – Vegetius (Military Institutions of the Romans)

• Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends in forced labor. – Proverbs, 12:24

Slang: Practice makes perfect.

5th Sutra (On Goals)

Do Not Draw Your Blade without the Intent to Draw Blood

Meaning: Be serious about serious things.

The Field: Be careful not to boast of things you cannot accomplish. When talking about your own abilities it is far more advantageous to take a humble point of view so you are not embarrassed if things go poorly. Take what you are doing serious and do not become lax in maintaining safety as that is when accidents will happen.

In Life: Do not over commit, as too much talk without obvious action simply lessens your credibility. Be serious in your actions and do them as if you were doing them for God. Determine your important goals and be serious about achieving them. Not having goals or having vague or unrealistic goals is pointless and leads nowhere.


• If you start to take Vienna, take Vienna. – Napoleon

• Pursue one great decisive aim with force and determination – a maxim which should take first place among all causes of victory. – Clausewitz (On War)

• So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. – 1 Corinthians 10:31

Slang: Only talk the talk if you can walk the walk.

6th Sutra (On Purpose)

Do Nothing Which is of No Use

Meaning: If your action accomplishes nothing, you have wasted your energy.

The Field: If what you are doing does not have a clear benefit, why are you doing it? All orders, deployments, movements, and attacks should have a realistic objective. Check each with the simple question of “what will this accomplish” and if the answer is “I do not know” do something else.

In Life: You have limited time and resources. Do not waste them doing things that do not accomplish your important goals. Prioritize what you really want to accomplish and do not waste energy on other things. This is not saying do not have fun. Rest and relaxation are important tools to recharge and unwind.


• To me, an unnecessary action, or shot, or casualty, was not only waste, but sin. – T.E Lawrence

• All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty. – Proverbs 14:23

Slang: Don’t spin your wheels.

7th Sutra (On Action)

Only Action Accomplishes

Meaning: Desire without action is meaningless.

The Field: The plan is ready and now it is time to carry it out. When you are finished with your orders, do something. Do not just stand around until someone tells you what to do. Look for ways and think about what you will do next. Actively waiting is a valid and important action. Just make sure it is done with purpose.

In Life: All the goals, purpose, and desire in the world accomplish nothing useful unless they are backed by bold action. This does not mean to simply act blindly, but rather to perform something that will lead to advancement. Good intentions and planning are important parts of any task, but without action it is all meaningless.


• He who does something at the head of one Regiment will eclipse him who does nothing at the head of a hundred. – Abraham Lincoln

• A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week. – George S. Patton

• In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. – James 2:17

Slang: Just do it.

8th Sutra (On Frankness)

Be Direct in Your Dealings

Meaning: Do not use middle men or beat around the bush when dealing with problems.

The Field: If anyone is doing something dangerous or is participating in poor conduct it is important that the issue is addressed quickly and correctly. If someone is not taking shots or hitting too hard, speaking to them about it directly will have a much better effect than complaining to everyone else, which only causes drama. Try to give people the benefit out the doubt if at all possible.

In Life: Waiting for someone else to step in and take responsibility for your issue only leads to inaction and frustration. It is important to face problems and to speak frankly, yet appropriately. Listen carefully and speak directly and clearly, so you both understand the issue and can work to an agreement. Be respectful and assume that whatever happened was inadvertent until proven otherwise.


• One must be frank to be relevant. – Corazon Aquino

• If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. – Matthew 18:15

Slang: Tell it like it is.

9th Sutra (On Managing Stress)

Do All Things with a Clear Mind and Open Eyes

Meaning: Do not let stress from one area of life affect the others.

The Field: Often times stress from one area of life can spill into other areas. It is easy to have a bad day of fighting if you are already having a bad day. Do not let your frustrations, worries, or weariness change your behavior on the field. Having a bad day is not an excuse to take it out on those around you.

In Life: It is important not let your emotions control your actions. Problems at work, school, or home can have an effect on someone’s mood without them even realizing it. This leads to poor reactions in the moment that would otherwise be avoided. Keep focused on the task at hand and do not let your feelings get the best of you.


• If a warrior is to succeed at anything, the success must come gently, with a great deal of effort but with no stress or obsession. – Carlos Castaneda Quotes

• He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot, will be victorious. – Sun Tzu

• Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. – Matthew 6:24

Slang: Don’t sweat the small stuff.

10th Sutra (On Self Responsibility)

A Veteran Maintains Their Rigging

Meaning: You must keep yourself and your equipment in good order.

The Field: Stay away from activities that will cause injury to yourself or others. Prepare your body to fight by keeping in shape and practice proper stretching. Make sure all your equipment is in good repair before use on the field.

In Life: Do not procrastinate on things that need to be done. Preventing a problem, or fixing a small one, is much easier and less strenuous than fixing it when the issue forces itself. Preparation does not guarantee success but it will increase the chances.


• Victory smiles in general only upon those who know how to command it by good preparations – Marshal Ney

• The simple inherit folly, but the prudent are crowned with knowledge. – Proverbs 14:18

Slang: Fortune favors the prepared.

11th Sutra (On Initiative)

React Quickly To Opportunity

Meaning: Do not waste opportunity.

The Field: When a situation presents itself take quick and decisive action to control the pace of the battle. If an opening becomes available, promptly capitalize on it as the opposition will be working to fill the hole. When momentum shifts ensure that it stays in your favor. Once an opportunity has passed it is unlikely to present itself again.

In Life: You never know when an opportunity will arise, be ready for it. Unexpected things or directions we have never thought to go in will become available and it is important not to hesitate. In faith, you may be presented with an opportunity to share your testimony so be ready with what you will say. It does not need to be perfect, just genuine.


• Opportunities multiply as they are seized. – Sun Tzu

• We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations. – Charles R. Swindoll

• Success always comes when preparation meets opportunity – Henry Hartman

• Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. – Colossians 4:5

Slang: Strike while the iron is hot.

12th Sutra (On Following Authority)

Abide By Your Commander's Orders

Meaning: Follow the rules and practices of those in charge.

The Field: When you are given orders, they are part of a bigger plan. If you fail to follow those orders, others who are counting on your support will probably be let down. Even if a plan is flawed, it is important to follow your orders because it will provide a learning opportunity for your team. After a plan fails it is important to ask “why did that not work?” When you are on another field it is important to follow and respect any rules that are different from what you are used to. If you are unwilling to follow their rules you should not fight with them.

In Life: In any system there are rules in place to determine the order of things. It is important to obey the rules and support a leader as they make decisions in order to help establish and maintain stability. In the event that you disagree with a leader’s policy, speak with them in private and do not disrupt or undermine their ruling. When God gives you an order, it is important to verify that it is from God and then to follow it. Often times we are not aware of the larger plan, but if we are able to trust Him it will always work out for the best.


• The strength of an Army lies in strict discipline and undeviating obedience to its officers. – Thucydides

• Obedience to lawful authority is the foundation of manly character. – Robert E. Lee

• Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. – Hebrews 13:17

Slang: Yes sir!

13th Sutra (On Speed and Mobility)

Movement Is Most Essential

Meaning: Speed and mobility are what win battles.

The Field: Speed and mobility are essential components of any team or strategy. The more maneuverable you are, the more effective you will be. Maneuverability is the concept of incorporating speed and tactics to produce a more desirable situation. There is a time and place for waiting and holding a defensive position, however never just “stand around,” even when you are fighting defensively. It is important to know when to react and move from such a position. Increase maneuverability whenever possible and do not burden yourself with unnecessary gear. If you must carry heavy weapons or gear, be strong enough to use them properly. Speed, along with mobility (maneuvers and fast, efficient movement), are the keys to victory. All else being equal, the faster team to react will usually win.

In Life: Always look to be growing or improving physically, mentally, and spiritually. It is very easy to stop actively seeking growth when we reach a comfortable time in our lives. When the motion stops and we stop growing, we can become jaded and bitter without even realizing it. Be on guard for complacency and examine your actions and motives. If they are not what they should be, look to see what you can change to start making progress again.


• What we have got to do must be done quickly. The longer we leave them to fight the more difficult they will be to defeat. – General AS Johnston CSA

• All other things being equal, the most mobile side must win. – JFC Fuller (Memoirs of an Unconventional Soldier)

• But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. – 2 Peter 3:18

Slang: Wear cool shoes.

14th Sutra (On Surprise)

Watch For Shadows and Blind Spots

Meaning: Never allow the enemy to gain an unexpected advantage.

The Field: Never allow the enemy to gain an unexpected advantage. Know who and what are around you so that in the time of action you are prepared. When taking action, keep track of the events that unfold even when it is not your primary focus so that you are not surprised. You will never have all the information about what is going on, but by keeping an eye out and paying attention you can hopefully circumvent being completely surprised.

In Life: Unfortunately not everyone in life is trustworthy. Although most people are not out to get anyone specifically, many people will take advantage of their neighbors if an opportunity presents itself. Watch for those who are out to trick you and deceive you. In our spiritual life, this concept can manifest itself in a number of ways. The most common one is things unexpectedly and gradually drawing us away from God. With work, school, friends, family, and any other sort of thing we spend time with it is easy to become so busy that we do not make time for God. Things that in and of themselves there is nothing wrong with, but that if we get too drawn into can leave us not thinking about God and not putting Him in the center of our life. Another way this can show itself is misrepresentation of God. People will bend and manipulate scripture by taking it out of context or simply make something up, so always test what is taught to the full message in the Bible.


• To be defeated is pardonable; to be surprised – never! – Napoleon

• A military man can scarcely pride himself on having smitten a sleeping enemy; it is actually more a matter of shame for the one smitten. – Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto

• Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. – 1 Peter 5:8

Slang: Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.

15th Sutra (On Positioning)

Seek Every Honorable Advantage

Meaning: Position yourself to the best advantage you can.

The Field: Always seek to surprise the enemy by attacking at a time, or in a way, that they are unprepared for. The best position for attack is from behind, then from the side, and only if there is no other way, then attacks from the front. Look for your opponents’ shortcomings and plan around them while utilizing your strengths. Frontal attacks rarely work and cause needless casualties – avoid them or use them only as part of a larger plan.

In Life: Use the tools you have been given to the best of your ability in an honest way. Leverage your skills and contacts to accomplish great things. Try to make the world around you a better place, and do not miss an opportunity to lead by example. There are many opportunities that are dishonest and should be avoided. It may be possible to get away with something now, but eventually it will surface and you will be forced to deal with the consequences.


• Clamor in the East, Attack in the West – Strategy #6 – Thirty Six Strategies of Ancient China

• The best tank terrain is that without anti-tank weapons. – Russian military doctrine.

• All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. – Edmund Burke

• We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. – Romans 12:6-8

Slang: Do not be where they expect you.

16th Sutra (On Flexibility)

The Flowing River Will Not Freeze

Meaning: Expect to change plans as events unfold.

The Field: Your goal should be to develop tactical skills which are not dependent on formula and set patterns. Like water, mold your tactics to the situation you are in. Every battle is a time and place of constant motion. Flexibility of mind and body allow you to adapt effective winning strategies to a rapidly changing environment. As the battle unfolds, keep updating your orders to match the circumstance. The more up to date the plan is, the more likely it will work.

In Life: Our circumstances will always be changing and it is important to be able to adapt to new things. People resist change because it is uncomfortable and unknown, but often time if done correctly can greatly improve a situation. God’s plan for us is usually different than what we have planned, and it is critical that we are able to bend our desires to meet His. Stubbornness is a common reaction to change, and should be avoided because it lacks reasonable thought and evaluation.


• I will bend like a reed in the wind – Paul Atreides (Dune)

• A leader is a man who can adapt principles to circumstances. – General George S. Patton

• The only constant is change. – Heraclitus of Ephesus

• “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him. – Mark 1:17-18

Slang: No plan survives first contact with the enemy.

17th Sutra (On Simplicity)

Do Not Cloud Your Tactics

Meaning: The more complex your strategies and plans are the more chance they will not work.

The Field: Make your plans simple and uncomplicated. Without great practice, a complicated plan will be difficult to perform and will lead to failure. Tell your people what to do and not how to do it. Simple plans are more easily understood and executed, increasing the chance for success. Do not forget that the other team will have a plan as well, and the uncertainty that comes with their actions makes it impossible to detail out every step of your plan.

In Life: Each day consists of twenty-four hours and there is only so much that can be done in each day. Be realistic about what you can do and what is really important. If you over commit it is likely that other areas in your life will suffer. Focus on serving God and being the best you can for Him. Ensure that your plans and your actions are in line with God’s commands. If you have priorities that are not centered on God, they will conflict with being able to do good works.


• Everything is very simple in war, but the simplest thing is difficult. – Clausewitz

• In war, only the simple succeeds. – Field Marshal Paul Von Hindenburg

• “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” – Luke 16:13

Slang: Keep it simple.

18th Sutra (On Leading By Example)

Command Nothing You Are Above Bringing About

Meaning: Behave how you want those who follow you to behave.

The Field: People will emulate what they see. If you exhibit consideration and respect for others then people will grant you those courtesies. Likewise, if you set a poor example you will have a difficult time getting anything but poor behavior out of those under you. A good leader wants those under him to excel; he sets a high standard of behavior while training them to surpass his own abilities. A good leader does not have to be the best at what they are doing, but needs to set the best example.

In Life: Someone who leads by example is an inspiration to all and a much more effective leader. It is difficult to take someone seriously who is not serious about the example he sets. A good leader is polite, respectful, even tempered and fair; his followers strive to emulate his example. If you are not able to live up to your own standard, why would anyone else? Bad behavior from a leader is ten times worse than anyone else because it sets the standard for what is acceptable. Christ calls us to be servants and it is difficult to serve others if you are too busy feeling entitled. When instructing others it is important to not teach others things we are not willing to do ourselves.


• An army of deer led by a lion is more to be feared than an army of lions led by a deer. – Philip of Macedon

• Do everything you ask of those you command. – George S. Patton

• Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. – Philippians 2:3-4

Slang: Lead as you would be lead.

19th Sutra (On Commands)

Wordy Commands Lead To Defeat

Meaning: Actively give loud, clear orders often. Communicate clearly.

The Field: Use short, concise wording in battle. The longer it takes to give a command the more time will pass until it is able to be carried out. Giving your team advanced notice will alert and prepare them to better execute your orders. Keep giving timely directions as the fight continues to reinforce objectives and unite the team in action. Repeating commands while performing them emphasizes the importance, and helps ensure that they will be carried out in a timely fashion.

In Life: People cannot read your mind and do not know what you are thinking. It is important to communicate your ideas, feelings, and expectations to those who are involved in your life in a way that is easy to follow and understand. If too many words are used it can often lessen the value or give the feeling of exaggeration. Too much information muddles the water and makes it difficult to see the important facts from the trivial.


• A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way. – John C. Maxwell

• Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues. – Proverbs 10:19

Slang: Speak clearly and to the point.

20th Sutra (On Appreciation)

Acknowledgement Without Flattery Is Encouraging

Meaning: Congratulate those on a job well done.

The Field: Try to encourage fighters to grow and improve in fighting ability and behavior whenever possible. Recognize their accomplishments without embellishing or patronizing them. Positively reinforce the positive behaviors and ensure that proper credit is given to the people who deserve it. This does not mean tell everyone they are great just because, for this causes your words to lose meaning. Instead, make sure you are genuinely distinguishing exceptional deeds. This will encourage others as well to strive to improve.

In Life: It is essential for individual morale that people know that what they are doing is making a difference. People, who feel welcomed and valued, will be more likely to strive to excel. A leader should be encouraging but never flattering. It is easy to tell when something said is fake, so do not say something just for the sake of saying it. Without authenticity, compliments are meaningless. The goal of a leader is to enable those under to be able to exceed expectations.


• The final test of a leader is that he leaves behind him in other men the conviction and the will to carry on. – Walter Lippmann

• Men who think that their officer recognizes them are keener to be seen doing something honorable and more desirous of avoiding disgrace. – Xenophon, Greek historian

• Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Slang: Recognize and appreciate.

21th Sutra (On Respect)

Do Not Undermine Your Foundation

Meaning: Value those around you.

The Field: Leaders cannot afford to show bias in the way they treat fighters. Never speak disrespectfully of people, on or off the field. A good leader is friendly with all swordfighters and makes an effort to know more than just a fighter’s name. The people that follow you deserve your respect and should be treated in a way to reflect that. If you do not respect those under you, you will quickly burn bridges and have no support.

In Life: Gossip poisons relationships and is never beneficial. It is very important that the people supporting you feel like you value them. It is not enough to simply value them; it needs to be expressed in a way that they understand it and feel it. Listen to and respect the point of view of those under you. Ensure it is obvious to all that you are really listening and giving thought to what they have to say. The character of a leader is shown in the way they treat those under them. Act in a way that you would want someone above you to act.


• Wars may be fought with weapons, but they are won by men. – General George Patton Jr

• If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader. – John Quincy Adams

• The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership. – Colin Powell

• Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up – Ephesians 4:29

Slang: Respect is as hard to earn as it is easy to lose.