The Book of Five Rings review

Review of The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi

The book of Five Rings was written in 1643 by Miyamoto Musashi, undefeated dueler, , masterless samurai and independent teacher. What is known about him is that the first time he killed a man he was thirteen, and his last kill was at twenty-nine.

At some point he gave up using a real sword but continued to inflict mortal wounds on his opponents until the end of his fighting career. The last 30 years of Musashi’s life were spent refining and teaching his military science. His writing is relevant today for not only warriors and sheepdogs, but also people in search of mastery in their chosen profession.

What Musashi passes on to us in his book are several principles key that he developed in his practices. First is keeping inwardly calm and clear even in the midst of violence and chaos. Second: not forgetting about the possibility of disorder in times of order.

What I got out of the Book of Five Rings, which is broken up into five scrolls –  the earth scroll, the water scroll , the fire scroll, the wind scroll, and the emptiness scroll –  was a straightforward way in which to conduct oneself in the violent chaos of battle on an individual basis and on a team basis. Many of the practices are applicable today. One passage from the Earth scroll caught my attention:

“In this particular science you can hardly become a master of martial arts unless you can see the immediate in a broad context. Once you have learned the principles you should not be defeated even in individual combat against twenty or thirty opponents.” The Musashi goes on to say “First of all keep martial arts on you mind, and work diligently in a straightforward manner then you can win with your hands and you can also defeat people by seeing with your eyes.

Furthermore, when you refine your practice to the point where you attain freedom of the whole body, then you can overcome people by means of your body. And since your mind is trained in this science you can also overcome people by means of mind. When you reach this point how could you be defeated by others” This is the core of his teachings. The various scrolls mentioned above go into detail on how to defeat your opponent in various situations using space and movement. Musashi’s principles have become an important part of the Japanese psyche. This is a must read book.

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