Title: The Book of Five Rings
Author: Miyamoto Musashi
Publisher: Independently published
Throughout the age of the samurai, none has been more influential and revered than Miyamoto Musashi.
In his lifetime, Musashi lived as a swordsman, a philosopher, and also a writer, with his very principles and tactics outlined in “The Book of Five Rings”, a mesmerizing piece of literature that has influenced many martial artists down to this day.
In his famous book, “The Book of Five Rings”, Miyamoto Musashi reveals a stunning combination of discipline, self-improvement, dedication, and enlightenment in the art of combat.
Written decades after the end of the Sengoku period of warfare, the author delivers his teachings as a samurai who learned his craft through years of fighting and self-discovery.
This book is not just about the essence of combat, it is also a spiritual exploration of being a true warrior…and a true human being.
The book contains five of Musashi’s spellbinding books, each one named after the four elements of the earth, with the last book covering the concept of the void.
The author breaks down the Niten Ichi-ryū style, which he developed over years of battle. This includes battle tactics, handling the main weaponry (the long sword), and the philosophical implications of his teachings in one’s development.
The Ground Book
In the first book, The Ground Book, Musashi introduces the Way of Strategy and the various attributes of his craft.
The Ground Book serves as an introduction to Musashi’s way of strategy and his approach to combat based on his experience during the Sengoku period of warfare.
The author not only expresses the benefits of swordsmanship over other weapons, but also discusses his own school of swordplay, nitō ichi-ryū, and the benefits of employing two swords.
The Water Book
Musashi’s second book, The Water Book, nails down the spirit of the Niten Ichi teachings of strategy.
The author illustrates the vital elements of his craft, especially when it comes to swordsmanship; including the swordsman’s stance and posture which he should adopt in the heat of battle, how one observes the opponent or the surroundings in combat, and how to handle the main weapon when striking down the enemy.
In this book, the reader will learn the important approaches and disciplines of combat without succumbing to recklessness.
The Fire Book
In The Fire Book, the author expands on the important fighting elements of Niten Ichi-ryū. When involved in combat, the goal is to study the enemy, realize the strengths and weaknesses of their attacks, and analyse the ways of approaching and manipulating the adversary.
Although this book seems to lean towards battlefield tactics, the strategies for overcoming obstacles or mastering timing can apply to everyday challenges in life, too.
The Wind Book
In the fourth instalment, The Wind Book, Musashi emphasises the value of educating oneself in the disciplines of other schools, and therefore writes on the numerous traditional arts of the period and critiques their limits.
Musashi records each of his unsatisfactory experiences of attending schools that focussed on a singular approach to fighting, yet it was these valuable experiences that helped lay the foundation for his Niten Ichi-ryū school.
The Book of the Void
For the final instalment, The Book of the Void delves deep into the concept of nothingness and clarity.
Author Musashi states that being conscious of what exists, equally gives way to discovering what doesn’t exist.
Unless we look at things in an objective light, we are at risk of yielding to a number of doctrines that could threaten the true Way.
This final chapter acts as a spiritual meditation that takes the reader along the enlightened path of self-discovery.
Miyamoto Musashi’s work is an extraordinary piece of literature that illustrates a poetic journey into the author’s style of swordsmanship, while encouraging readers to study the texts in great detail as they put their studies into practice.
The master of the Niten Ichi-Ryu offers his expertise to those who not only seek to master the art of swordplay, but also a life-changing experience in which the reader can delve into the voice of Musashi’s teachings collected over years of battles and discovery.
The Way of Strategy has made an influential impact on many athletes when it comes to learning about their adversaries and putting the pieces together for their endgame.
Along with the Niten Ichi-Ryu principle, however, also lies a spiritual journey within the book that has the potential to bring out the best in the reader, to be able to see the world in a new light through the eyes of Musashi whose prodigious legacy still lives on to this day.
Whether it be through various media adaptations of his enthralling tales, or his captivating writing, his teachings remain engaging, compelling, and true.
- “Immature strategy is the cause of grief.”
- “Do nothing which is of no use.”
- “There is nothing outside of yourself that can ever enable you to get better, stronger, richer, quicker, or smarter. Everything is within. Everything exists. Seek nothing outside of yourself.”
- “You can only fight the way you practise.”
- “Strategy is the craft of the warrior.”
- “The void is virtue, and no evil. Wisdom has existence, principle has existence, the Way has existence, spirit is nothingness.”