Posted by: B Gourley | February 9, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi

A Book of Five Rings: The Classic Guide to Strategy

This was simultaneously posted on my website, The Tao of Loafing.

A Book of Five Rings: The Classic Guide to Strategy by Miyamoto Musashi

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Miyamoto Musashi is probably the most famous swordsman in Japan’s history. Oddly enough,he’s not known for his experience in battle(he lived at the tail end of the Warring States period and was only in a couple of battles), but for his time spent in musha shugyo (warrior’s errantry), during which he engaged in over 60 duels. It is The Book of Five Rings that largely accounts for his continued fame. That being said, Musashi was quite the renaissance man, a painter and sculptor of note. He also left behind a school of swordsmanship, Niten Ichi-ryū.

The Book of Five Rings is divided into five parts: earth scroll, water scroll, fire scroll, wind scroll, and void scroll.

The earth scroll provides an overview of martial science and an introduction to Musashi’s school, which is noted for its simultaneous use of both the large and short sword. A section is devoted the rhythm of martial arts, a crucial topic. It also includes what might be considered Musashi’s 9-point budō kun (a list of warrior precepts.)It’s worth mentioning a couple of these.
#7 Become aware of what is not obvious.
#9 Do not do anything useless.

The Water scroll describes Musashi’s approach to swordsmanship. It covers a range of elements of a martial art including footwork, the focus of one’s eyes, physical posture, mental posture, techniques,kiai (spirit shout), and approaches to cutting and thrusting.

The Fire scroll deals with the strategic or interactive aspects of the battle. Among my favorite quotes from this scroll is, “If your own power of insight is strong, the state of affairs of everything will be clear to you.”

The Wind scroll teaches us about other martial arts. Musashi discusses martial arts that use an unusually long sword, an atypically short sword, that focus on powerful strikes, and those that focus on many rapid strikes. He contrasts other martial arts with his own on subjects such as their focus with the eyes and their footwork.

The void scroll deals with, well, emptiness.

Musashi had great insight into strategy from his career of dueling. His book is worth being read and reread.

View all my reviews



  1. […] like some but I did find a two blogs that did a review of one of the books. Those blogs are Jissen Budōka and Blog […]

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