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The Book of Five Rings

The Book of Five Rings

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The Book of Five Rings

4/5 (16 valutazioni)
91 pagine
1 ora
Jun 8, 2015


A Strategy Manual from a Martial Arts Master

"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." — Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings

In The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi, the author lays out the five elements of battle which are applicable in the boardroom as on the battlefield.

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    Jun 8, 2015

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    The Book of Five Rings - Miyamoto Musashi



    I have been many years training in the Way of strategy, called Ni Ten Ichi Ryu, and now I think I will explain it in writing for the first time. It is now during the first ten days of the tenth month in the twentieth year of Kanei (1645). I have climbed mountain Iwato of Higo in Kyushu to pay homage to heaven, pray to Kwannon, [God(dess) of mercy in Buddhism.—Slaegr] and kneel before Buddha. I am a warrior of Harima province, Shinmen Musashi No Kami Fujiwara No Genshin, age sixty years.

    From youth my heart has been inclined toward the Way of strategy. My first duel was when I was thirteen, I struck down a strategist of the Shinto school, one Arima Kihei. When I was sixteen I struck down an able strategist Tadashima Akiyama. When I was twenty-one I went up to the capital and met all manner of strategists, never once failing to win in many contests.

    After that I went from province to province dueling with strategist of various schools, and not once failed to win even though I had as many as sixty encounters. This was between the ages of thirteen and twenty-eight or twenty-nine.

    When I reached thirty I looked back on my past. The previous victories were not due to my having mastered strategy. Perhaps it was natural ability, or the order of heaven, or that other schools' strategy was inferior. After that I studied morning and evening searching for the principle, and came to realize the Way of strategy when I was fifty.

    Since then I have lived without following any particular Way. Thus with the virtue of strategy I practice many arts and abilities—all things with no teacher. To write this book I did not use the law of Buddha or the teachings of Confucius, neither old war chronicles nor books on martial tactics. I take up my brush to explain the true spirit of this Ichi school as it is mirrored in the Way of heaven and Kwannon. The time is the night of the tenth day of the tenth month, at the hour of the tiger (3-5 a.m.) ——-


    Strategy is the craft of the warrior. Commanders must enact the craft. and troopers should know this. There is no warrior in the world today who really understands the Way of strategy.

    There are various Ways. There is the Way of salvation by the law of Buddha, the Way of Confucius governing the Way of learning, the Way of healing as a doctor, as a poet teaching the Way of Waka, tea, archery, and many arts and skills. Each man practices as he feels inclined.

    It is said the warrior's is the twofold Way of the pen and sword, and he should have a taste for both Ways. Even if a man has no natural ability he can be a warrior by sticking assiduously to both divisions of the Way. Generally speaking, the Way of the warrior is resolute acceptance of death. Although not only warriors but priests, women, peasants and lowlier folk have been known to die readily in the cause of duty of out of shame, this is a different thing. The warrior is different in that studying the Way of strategy is based on overcoming men. By victory gained in crossing swords with individuals, or enjoining battle with large numbers, we can attain power and fame for ourselves or our lord. This is the virtue of strategy.


    In China and Japan practitioners of the Way have been known as masters of strategy. Warriors must learn this Way.

    Recently there have been people getting on in the world as strategists, but they are usually just sword-fencers. The attendants of the Kashima Kantori shrines of the province Hitachi received instruction from the gods, and made schools based on this teaching, travelling from country to country instructing men. This is the recent meaning of strategy.

    In olden times strategy was listed among the Ten Abilities and Seven Arts as a beneficial practice. It was certainly an art but as a beneficial practice it was not limited to sword-fencing. The true value of sword-fencing cannot be seen within the confines of sword-fencing technique.

    If we look at the world we see arts for sale. Men use equipment to sell their own selves. As if with the nut and the flower, the nut has become less than the flower. In this kind of Way of strategy, both those teaching and those learning the way are concerned with coloring and showing off their technique, trying to hasten the bloom of the flower. They speak of This Dojo and That Dojo. They are looking for profit. Someone once said, Immature strategy is the cause of grief. That was a true saying.

    There are four Ways in which men pass through life: as gentlemen, farmers, artisans and merchants.


    Using agricultural instruments, he sees springs through autumns with an eye on the changes of season.

    SECOND IS THE WAY OF THE MERCHANT. The wine maker obtains his ingredients and puts them to use to make his living. The Way of the merchant is always to live by taking profit. This is the Way of the merchant.

    THIRDLY THE GENTLEMAN WARRIOR, carrying the weaponry of his Way. The Way of the warrior is to master the virtue of his weapons. If a gentleman dislikes strategy he will not appreciate the benefit of weaponry, so must he not have a little taste for this?

    FOURTHLY THE WAY OF THE ARTISAN. The Way of the carpenter is to become proficient is the use of his tools, first to lay his plans with a true measure and then to perform his work according to plan. Thus he passes through life. These are the four Ways of the gentleman, the farmer, the artisan and the merchant.


    The comparison with carpentry is through the connection with houses. Houses of the nobility, houses of the warriors, the Four houses, ruin of houses, thriving

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    Cosa pensano gli utenti di The Book of Five Rings

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    Recensioni dei lettori

    • (4/5)
      Excellent book, Excellent Author, and informative enough to keep you on your toes.
    • (5/5)
      1. The Book of Five Rings2. The Book of Family Traditions on th eArt of War, by Yagyu Munenori
    • (5/5)
      this is a good book if you want to know more about swordplay and war strategy.
    • (5/5)
      If you are this deep into my website, you are no doubt aware that I do medieval sword fighting in the SCA and books like this are simply must reads. It was originally recommended to me by my teacher. He was convinved it was the seminal work on swordfighting and it would help me master the weapon. So, I read it like a good student, I did want to be a good fighter after all...I have to say that after the first reading, I did not believe him. It took me 2 week to plow through this thin book and mostly it left me confused. When I mentioned this to him, he suggested that I reread it about 10 more times, slowly and I will start to ‘get’ it. I thought he was nuts, to that point I had never read a book more than twice and that was a work of fiction that I reread because I didn’t have a book that I hadn’t read and I needed something to do... I also thought that perhaps the fact that he had blown his own weight in dope might have had something to do with his ‘deeper’ understanding. I reality, he simply thought about it more (although being high probably gives you more time to contemplate these things).It took me a while to get around to attempting the text again. In fact, it took untilo after I was knighted and had squires of my own. These students wanted information that they could work on on their own time and books like this are always mentioned as important reads. I felt that I couldn’t ask them to read it without rereading it and maybe preparing myself for their questions. The second read was better, I didn’t have to stop to read the extensive footnotes, I had significantly more experience as a fighter and, probably most importantly, I was mentally a lot more mature.Then I got an audio tape of it, that is the way to go. Driving in the truck and spinning an unabridged 90 minute tape on sword fighting philosophy will surely take your mind off the length of the drive. I have now read the complete text about 5 times and listened to the tape at least a dozen times. I think I get most of it now. The last chapter (The Book of the Void) is deep, deep Zen shit though.OK, we are four paragraphs into the review and you are thinking, “all he has talked about was how hard it is to read...” OK, none of this was meant to discourage you, in fact, quite the opposite. But, I want to start off by making sure you understand what the book is not. This is not a how-to manual on swordfighting, it isn’t that explict. If you want something like that, get a Kendo manual with pictures. It is often billed as a must read strategy guide for businessmen, I am not sure that most of the managers that I have met will benefit from this text. Again, it isn’t a how-to guide, it is a philosphy treatise. It’s focus is swordfighting, but the concepts can certainly be applied to many other ways of life, including business. However, that is going to take a lot of reflection to internalize the philosophy presented here and apply it to something like business. You would be better off with The Prince, I would think.OK, on to the book itself: This is a very thin book. The translator starts off with a 75 or so page section that includes a biography of Musashi, a political and cultural overview of feudal Japan before getting into the text proper. These parts are useful for getting the context of the work, but are not critical.The book itself is divided into, you guessed it, five parts: Ground, Wind, Water, Fire and Void. Each address a different aspect of strategy. Musashi himself says in the work that this isn’t intended as a breezy read, “read a word and reflect upon it.” Of course, he is referring to the Japanese characters which can stand for several English words, but you get the point. Another point that he pounds home over and over again is, “you must practice constantly.”It was intended for his students to learn the ways of the warrior from someone with the unusual perspective of old age and what each thing meant in a greater context. The thing to take away from this text, as an SCA fighter isn’t so much the sword moves he teach (many are at illegal targets), but the concepts of strategy: waiting for an opening, being in harmony, observe everything, etc. These are the things that are generally missing from more practical how-to guides, including those penned by SCA fighters.
    • (5/5)
      One of the classic books on military thought from East or West and a must read for anyone interested in tactics or strategy. It is very good for understanding the samurai mindset. There is much on personal combat in the book but it is a bit tough to use as a training manual as there is much that is implied but not really stated (to be fair, Musashi says he wrote it that way intentionally). On the other hand, I found Musashi's method of applying the same ideas of strategy and tactics to both personal combat and "large scale military science" to be somewhat of a stretch as these are not always, as he claims, equally applicable (he is essentially equating the methods of the tactical and operational levels of war which is too broad of a claim). When approaching this book it is necessary to remember that Musashi was a duelist and a soldier, not really a general or field commander.
    • (5/5)
      More of a book on thinking than on specific strategies. It's a way to think on different situations with basic thought as a base that can lead to complex strategy.
    • (5/5)
      There are other reviews here for “Book of Five Rings”, but I feel only one of them is close to understanding the essence of this book. “Five Rings” was indeed originally a martial arts treatise, but the Western Reader needs to remember that Martial Arts was a total way of life: all the principles of Martial Arts was applied to everyday life as well. This theme of strategy applying to everything is one Musahi mentions frequently in this work. As you read the book keep this in mind.Mushai writes, “… the warrior’s is the twofold Way of pen and sword, and he should have a taste for both”. In the Overlook Press edition, there are numerous illustrations of artworks in different mediums created by Musahi himself. Example is the best form of teaching and he clearly shows that there is no division between martial art forms and art forms for pleasure.For the Way of the Warrior, every battle plan must be researched, your enemies’ weaknesses known, your plans constructed accordingly and executed flawlessly. Applying this to the way of the Artisan, something the Western mind sees diametrically opposed to warfare, Musahi’s dictum means the artist must fully understand the medium they are working in, fully understand the idea they are trying to represent and must flawlessly execute their work.The book itself is written like a classical brush painting. Broad strokes suggest the theme and the more we look at the work, the more detail we see in the work. Musahi writes in broad terms, supplying enough detail for us to understand what he is suggesting, but he does not overwhelm us with detail. In many places, the student is admonished to research the subject of his discourses themselves.It is this last aspect that makes this work so enduring and all encompassing. These principles may be applied to any situation, to any profession. It is not a book to be read once and put away. To appreciate “Book of Five Rings” to the fullest, read the book, practice the concepts in everyday life, then, read the book again. Each time you read the book you will find some new insight, just as each time you look at a well-done artwork, you notice new detail. Apply this new insight and read the book yet again. Research this well and practice often.
    • (4/5)
      It's been a while since I read this and it was worth another go through. There are a couple different groups of readers I can think of that would find this book helpful. First, martial arts enthusiasts, who, for instance like reading ancient war manuals such as Sun Tzu's Art of War or German long sword manuals. Second, samurai movie enthusiasts or Japanophiles, who like to study, in detail, well known samurai film directors who have treat this book as a guide to action sequences. Thirdly, CEO's or Mafia Don's who may be looking for philosophical advantages in planning their next move. I could see Tony Soprano reading this and feeling sophisticated.The book is divided into five elemental parts: water, wind, fire, earth, and void. Most of these have paragraphs focused on a certain strategical concept that should be studied. Here is a typical example:The Mountain-Sea Change"The 'mountain-sea' spirit means that it is bad to repeat the same thing several times when fighting the enemy. There my be no help but to do something twice, but do not try it a third time. If you once make an attack and fail, there is little chance of success if you use the same approach again. If you attempt a technique which you have previously tried unsuccessfully and fail yet again, then you must change your attacking method. If the enemy thinks of the mountains, attack like the sea; and if he thinks of the sea, attack like the mountains. You must research this deeply."Almost every technique has a clever metaphorical title such as "To Penetrate the Depths" or "Rat's Head, Ox's Neck". It reminds me of my gung-fu years down in Washington and all the names for the strikes and maneuvers we learned. Almost every paragraph ends in an admonishment like "You must study this well." or "You must learn this." This also reminds me of Sifu Lane or Sifu Fogg after every drill or technique plucked from a move set. I have a sneaking suspicion that the fundamentals of martial arts training has not changed much since 1645 when Musashi wrote this manual. Anyway, a fun little book. I will keep an eye out for other translations. Many of the statements in this book hinge on the meaning of single words and Japanese is known for its use of quadruple entendre. Overall, this edition was a nice reintroduction to the classic.
    • (3/5)
      I found this vintage book (published May, 1982) in my Little Free Library and decided to read it because I've recently become interested in things Japanese. The book was written by a masterless samurai, Miyamoto Musashi, who lived in the late 1500's and early 1600's and practiced what he called heiho. It is said that he never lost a bout with 60 individual swordsmen before reaching the age of thirty. In this book, he wrote the principles of his heiho.I liked this book for learning about this particular form of swordsmanship, but I never took it to be a book about "Japanese success in business" as was advertised at the top of this mass market paperback. It was weird, though, reading a book about mastering the skill to kill another individual. I'm not unhappy that the time of samurai is gone.
    • (5/5)
      The Book of Five Rings is not really a book; it’s a way of life.
    • (5/5)
      I've studied Taekwon Do for 17 years. A fellow classmate recommended this book to me. A bit difficult to get through at first, but it gives invaluable insight into fighting techniques. It changed the way I thought about sparring & I took this book with me when I competed in the 13th World Taekwon Do Championship in South Korea in '04.
    • (2/5)
      Despite the earnest efforts of the translator to place the work in its contemporary context, this translation leaves many questions unanswered. Students of Japanese literature (particularly contemporary strategy literature) may get much more out of it than other readers. Ambiguous statements and overuse of abstract words gave me the feeling that a better translation is possible.The form is letters to a promising young warrior - the writing is didactic and dogmatic assuming a high degree of you-know-what-I-mean knowledge on the part of the reader. As general pedagogy it would be more effective with diagrams to show explicitly what the vague statements mean. Just *what* is a "corner" of the body? Is the head? What about the genitalia?Today, the philosophy of utilitarianism and "enlightened" self-interest are well known leading to a feeling that there is nothing new to modern readers about the principles presented.I won a giveaway of the Victor Harris translation which had a mix of British and American English spellings.
    • (2/5)
      Frankly, I was disappointed reading this, but I approached it as a devotee of western sword combat looking for practical advice. If I had approached it with more humility seeking spiritual guidance perhaps I would have gained more from it.
    • (5/5)
      The creator of Librarything, Bookmeister Spaulding, must have read this book. The Winning Strategy of Miyamoto Musashi,(1584-1645)tells us among other things that one must cultivate a wide range of interests in the arts; be knowledgable in a variety of occupations; be discreet regarding one's business dealings; nurture the truth to perceive the truth in all matters; not be negligent, even in trifling matters; and, my personal favourite: Do Not Engage in Useless Activity.Read the Master's words. You'll be a changed Thingmalibrarian. Highly recommended - its the Zen and Art of Library Maintenance and pretty much everything else.