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The Book of Five Rings

Although it is difficult to grasp it from the book, Go Rin No Sho, these books are actually the teachings which Musashi preached to his students in his own dōjō. Despite taking some ideas from others, the books are not based on any other school of teaching.

The five "books" refer to the idea that there are different elements of battle, just as there are different physical elements in life, as described by BuddhismShinto, and other Eastern religions. The five books below are Musashi's descriptions of the exact methods or techniques which are described by such elements.

The term "Ichi School" is referred to in the book, Go Rin No Sho. When referring to such books, it refers to "Niten No Ichi Ryu" or "Ni Ten Ichi Ryu", which means, when literally translated, "Two heaven, one school", although many could see the translation as "Two Swords, One spirit", or "Two Swords, One Entity". However, the translation of "Two Swords, one Dragon" was thought to be a transliteral misinterpretation of the Kanji word Ryu.

  • The Book of Earth chapter serves as an introduction, and metaphorically discusses martial arts, leadership, and training as building a house.
  • The Book of Water chapter describes Musashi's style, Ni-ten ichi-ryu, or "Two Heavens, One Style". It describes some basic technique and fundamental principles.
  • The Book of Fire chapter refers to the heat of battle, and discusses matters such as different types of timing.
  • The Book of Wind chapter is something of a pun, since the Japanese character can mean both "wind" and "style" (e.g., of martial arts). It discusses what Musashi considers to be the failings of various contemporary schools of swordfighting.
  • The Book of the Void chapter is a short epilogue, describing, in more esoteric terms, Musashi's probably Zen-influenced thoughts on consciousness and the correct mindset.

Taken from:

Excerpt from the book's Introduction:

INTRODUCTIONI 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

English Translation: The Book of Five Rings - 

The Book of Five Rings

The Book of Five Rings

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The Art of War is actually quite deep, the more you get into philosophy and strategy.

That's one of my favorite books. You can learn a lot about relationships too and what goes on during courting etc. Hacking people.

my great kung fu teacher made me read Five Rings before going into the Army.  awesomesauce

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