A Book of Five Rings

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

“A Book of Five Rings”, Miyamoto Mushashi

The Book of Five Rings is a book on philosophy, strategy, and tactics, written by Miyamoto Musashi (1584 – 1645), an expert Japanese swordsman and samurai. According to the tales, he was an outstanding swordsman with undefeated record. Renowned for his two-swords fighting technique, he conceived an ancient school of Japanese swordsmanship named “Niten Ichi-ryu,” loosely translated as “the school of the strategy of two heavens as one.”

The Book of Five Rings has been translated in many languages over the years, and has an audience composed not only of martial artists but also business leaders. The five “books” pertain to the different elements of battle, namely Earth, Water, Fire, Wind, and Void. Each element has a corresponding chapter that explains in a straightforward manner how a certain element can help a fighter win a battle, both strategically and mentally.

It stands in comparison with Sun Tzu‘s “The Art of War” as it is applicable not only on man-to-man combat but also in all forms of battle. It emphasizes mindset over strength and simplicity over extravagance. Miyamoto provided principles to help lead the way to a zen-like existence necessary to achieve holistic success. As commonly inscribed in timeless texts, the way to mastering a skill starts from inner discipline.

Ultimately, The Book of Five Rings focuses on self-discipline and self-control as one’s most important weapon. Following Buddhist principles, it steers away from the concept of desire and pleasure. As the book says, “Think lightly of yourself and think deeply of the world.”




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