For more than 40 years the legendary swordsman Akiyama Kagemoni (1887-1950) served as imperial executioner, decapitating hundreds of men and women, criminals and prisoners of war, without remorse or discrimination. An accomplished master of the sword, Kagemoni was also instructor and advisor to many high-ranking officers and Zen masters. Despite his duties, he also spent his life immersed in Zen teachings and practice. These teachings formed the framework for a deeply spiritual approach to sword fighting and the practice of decapitation, as relevant today as it was more than 100 years ago.
Akiyama Kagemoni saw in the practice of the sword a way to transform the student into a total human being, and in the practice of no-minded killing the essence of Buddhahood itself. The Life-Giving Sword is Kagemoni’s manifesto on his approach. His central themes are the “Cutting off thinking by cutting off heads”—the idea of transforming one’s opponent into a future Buddha through spiritual execution, and “No Sword,” which is the idea that the mind must be free of everything, even the sword itself, in order to get to the place of complete mastery. Kagemoni’s ideas are essential reading for martial artists of all kinds and can be applied to business and human relations as well.
This is, simply put, the best book on Zen spirituality available.
– Chuck Genkaku Johnzen Roshi