The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi Book Review – What Can We Learn From the Way of the Sword27:56

Published on July 15, 2016

The Book of Five Rings was composed in 1643 by the famed duelist and undefeated Samurai Miyamoto Musashi. He analyzes the process of mastery, strategy and conflict in the context of dueling on Katanas and warfare.

The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi (translated by Thomas Cleary): http://bit.do/book-of-five-rings

Thomas Cleary’s translation is immediately accessible, with an introduction that presents the spiritual background of the warrior tradition. Along with Musashi’s text, Cleary translates here another important Japanese classic on leadership and strategy, The Book of Family Traditions on the Art of War by Yagyu Munenori, which highlights the ethical and spiritual insights of Taoism and Zen as they apply to the way of the warrior.

The Book of Five Rings (五輪書 Go Rin no Sho?) is a text on kenjutsu and the martial arts in general, written by the swordsman Miyamoto Musashi circa 1645. There have been various translations made over the years, and it enjoys an audience considerably broader than only that of martial artists: for instance, some business leaders find its discussion of conflict and taking the advantage to be relevant to their work. The modern-day Hyōhō Niten Ichi-ryū employs it as a manual of technique and philosophy.

Musashi establishes a “no-nonsense” theme throughout the text. For instance, he repeatedly remarks that technical flourishes are excessive, and contrasts worrying about such things with the principle that all technique is simply a method of cutting down one’s opponent. He also continually makes the point that the understandings expressed in the book are important for combat on any scale, whether a one-on-one duel or a massive battle. Descriptions of principles are often followed by admonitions to “investigate this thoroughly” through practice rather than trying to learn them by merely reading.

Miyamoto Musashi in his prime, wielding two bokken.
Musashi describes and advocates a two-sword fencing style (nitōjutsu): that is, wielding both katana and wakizashi, contrary to the more traditional method of wielding the katana two-handed. However, he only explicitly describes wielding two swords in a section on fighting against many adversaries.

The stories of his many duels rarely refer to Musashi himself wielding two swords, although, since they are mostly oral traditions, their details may be inaccurate. Some suggest that Musashi’s meaning was not so much wielding two swords “simultaneously”, but rather acquiring the proficiency to (singly) wield either sword in either hand as the need arose. However, Musashi states within the volume that one should train with a long sword in each hand, thereby training the body and improving one’s ability to use two blades simultaneously.

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