Miyamoto Musashi (1584-1645)

Shinmen Musashi No Kami Fujiwara No Genshin more commonly known as Miyamoto Musashi was a samurai and swordsman whose life and writings have had great influence. Mostly known for his excellent book on swordsmanship and strategy , "A Book of Five Rings", his life was filled with events that made him a legend in his own lifetime and leading to his being known as a Kensei or sword saint. He became a master of kendo killing his first foe at thirteen. After his second victory the now sixteen year old left his home with his uncle (his mother had died and his father had either died or abandoned him at an early age) to embark on a Warrior Pilgrimage. This was to last until he was fifty years old and took him through six wars and countless victories.

During this time he was mostly Ronin or masterless samurai but he never resorted to robbery like many Ronin. Instead he chose to live apart from society and master his art. He fought at Sekigahara (on the loosing side) and went on to travel Japan fighting duels, always victorious against some of Japan's best warriors of the day. His most famous duel took place in 1612 when he was in Ogura in Bunzen province, here he defeated several sword armed opponents with a weapon made from a boat oar he had been using. After this he stopped using real swords in duels although he later fought against those who were once his friends at the siege of Osaka castle in 1615. As he got older he focused on teaching, and ink painting which he also mastered and his ink paintings are highly prized, finally just before his death he wrote Go Rin No Sho or A Book of Five Rings, which was to become a master piece and still popular reading among Japanese business leaders over three and a half centuries after his death.

A Book of Five Rings, Miyamoto Musashi. Translated by Victor Harris. An excellent and fascinating short book and a must have for any serious student of Samurai history. The book has an excellent historical introduction and the section on the life of the author is as good as the book itself. The focus of book is the way of the warrior, especially the swordsman and has much thought provoking text for the careful and diligent reader. Detailed footnotes add to the translation and the text is very interesting for any interested in Kendo or the martial arts, mixing philosophy with strategy, giving a real insight into the life and beliefs of a samurai.
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How to cite this article: Dugdale-Pointon, TDP. (16 September 2001), Miyamoto Musashi (1584-1645), http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/people_miyamoto_musashi.html

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