The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi

51gCzgn1HrL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Musashi gives timeless advice on defeating an adversary, throwing an opponent off-guard, creating confusion, and other techniques for overpowering an assailant that will resonate with both martial artists and everyone else interested in skillfully dealing with conflict. For Musashi, the way of the martial arts was a mastery of the mind rather than simply technical prowess—and it is this path to mastery that is the core teaching in The Book of Five Rings.

We are all so lucky & truly blessed that, nearly 400 years ago, someone called Lord Hosokawa had the foresight to ask the ageing Musashi to write down his secrets of success. Musashi himself was not only extremely talented but must have been a very intelligent man for his time to write such a treatise.

Musashi’s work focuses on practicing the `martial arts’ – particularly swordsmanship – not from the perspective of learning technique but from internal spiritual development; the ascendancy of `mind’ to which all technique must ultimately become subservient.

book-of-five-rings-by-miyamoto-musashi-1-638The `five rings’ are in fact five chapters themed:

1. Earth (the South)
2. Water (the East)
3. Fire (the West)
4. Wind (the North)
5. Emptiness (the Center: all action and response is most effective when preceded by emptiness – i.e. no internal noise, no preconceptions; “this must be learned”)

Each themed chapter incorporates short paragraphs explaining a specific aspect of how to win a contest or fight.

What a wonderful book this has been. For all students of martial arts and even for people interested in finding more out about the Japanese culture, this book is essential for the insights into the ways of a warrior. My favourite part is the one dealing with what you should do as a person:

1.Do not think dishonestly.
2.The Way is in training.
3.Become acquainted with every art.
4.Know the Ways of professions.
5.Distinguish between gain and loss in worldly matters.
6.Develop intuitive judgement and understanding for everything.
7.Perceive those things which cannot be seen.
8.Pay attention even to trifles.
9.Do nothing which is of no use.

I had to stop for a second and consider all of these and see if they applied to me. Thinking honestly, I think I fail as a good person. I am trained and I understand so many things but I do not pay attention to small details and usually end up doing things that have no real use (think about all the hours wasted playing Candy Crush or Fallout).

The second thing I loved about this book is the relentlessness of the pursuit and distruction of the opponent

Everything can collapse. Houses, bodies, and enemies collapse when their rhythm becomes deranged.
In large−scale strategy, when the enemy starts to collapse, you must pursue him without letting the chance go. If you fail to take advantage of your enemies’ collapse, they may recover.
In single combat, the enemy sometimes loses timing and collapses. If you let this opportunity pass, he may recover and not be so negligent thereafter. Fix your eye on the enemy’s collapse, and chase him, attacking so that you do not let him recover. You must do this. The chasing attack is with a strong spirit. You must utterly cut the enemy down so that he does not recover his position.

You must understand how to utterly cut down the enemy.

Applied to the modern world – I was thinking that in order to destroy an enemy entirely, you must not stop to take pity in him. Much like Ender in “Ender’s Game” – when he defeats his bully, he does not stop. When asked why he continued pummeling him even after he was down, he said that he fought for this battle and every other future battle that might ensue.

If you are interested in reading this book, you can get a free PDF version from here

About the Author

Miyamoto Musashi (1584-1645) was a renowned swordsman and painter. A masterless samurai, he developed the two-sword style of fighting and emerged victorious in more than 60 sword fights in his travels throughout Japan. The author of The Book of Five Rings, he is also the subject of the novel Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa.

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