The Book of Five Rings
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94 of 99 people found the following review helpful
on February 29, 2004
This classic text deals with the delicate art of leadership, and was composed originally in 1643 by the famous samurai Miyamoto Musashi. But this book isn't just for those involved in the martial arts, as the previous reviewer suggests, no far from it; it's for anyone who wants to enjoy the neverending wisdom contained within this text. Thomas Cleary's translation of Miyamoto's masterpiece is comprehensible, with an introduction that presents us readers with the spiritual backdrop of the warrior tradition that is vital for the rest that proceeds. This most up-to-date edition also embraces one more important Japanese text - "The Book of Family Traditions on the Art of War" by Yagyu Munenori; here the book highlights insights of Zen and Taoism as they pertain to the way and life of the warrior. Enjoy the book! Cleary is a terrific translator.
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85 of 92 people found the following review helpful
on October 24, 2009
The book appears at first to be written simply; it stated the obvious. Written at a time when perhaps things were simpler.

This is NOT a book to read in one sitting, though you easily could.

Read just a bit, then put it down and walk away. Allow what you have read to be mulled over in your mind.

The book is really complex. It contains secrets to living every day, for dealing with everyone you encounter no matter what their state of mind is. It contains secrets about how to do business.

The title is a translation. Like English, words can have multiple meanings. What is translated into the word "ring" can also be translated into "spheres" which I think is a more appropriate translation. The sphere is the most perfect thing in the universe. Beginning at a point and drawing the ring/sphere/circle you will get to a point where the line begins again upon itself. This is a key to understanding the book.

Cleverly written, it holds the knowledge to live at peace with the universe.

An excellent read and mental workout.
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97 of 109 people found the following review helpful
on January 11, 2000
Everybody should read this book. That's all there is to it. Musashi takes the reader into a world filled to the brim with devotion, self-respect, disciplin, honesty and purity of thought. Even though this book was written by and for warriors and samurai, and in a completely different time and culture, it is a remarkabe source of inspiration for selv-developement. Musashi's teachings are concise and to the point. He uses phrases like "you must understand this" and "you must practice diligently" and explains only general, but unquestionable and fundamental, concepts of the Way of the Warrior. These guidelines are not directly applicable in our time and age, but what is applicable are the things this book contains about working with yourself. Striving to achieve improvement on the inside as well as the outside.
It would be a lie to say that this book is a "positive" book. Taken litterally it's about how to become an efficient, albeit enlightened, killer. The value of this book comes from reading between the lines, and let me tell you: Those lines could fill volumes.
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52 of 57 people found the following review helpful
on February 15, 2003
What I prefer about Victor Harris's translation of Musashi Miyamoto's book is the fact that Harris has gone through exacting lengths not just to present an accurate translation in the context of a 17th-century samurai, but to present Musashi in his proper historical context. As opposed to every other English translation I have read, this one includes a chapter which gives a biography of Musashi, and shows many of his creations, such as paintings (including a self-portrait), tsuba (swordguards), etc. We can see where Musashi stayed, and what his grave looks like, etc. For clarity in understanding, this volume, along with the translation by Thomas Cleary, are the best. I should justify that by explaining that I practice martial arts--for those of you looking for a business oriented edition, there are several translations and interpretations out there which are geared towards your needs. For those of you involved in the practice of martial arts, sports, or with an interest in historical strategy texts, I heartily recommend this translation!
Whay does this book discuss? Musashi's masterpiece eschews practice, and decries vanity, ego, and "secrets". Musashi was a practitioner of Zen Buddhism, and the influence of Zen philosophy can be seen everywhere in his writing. This is however, definately a book on the strategy of swordsmanship, and not a treatis on religion. Musashi Miyamoto fought in a number of duels--back in the era of true challenge matches--when usually the victor was the man left living! The realities of his times, the fact that life was so cheap and had to be guarded fiercly, and that Musashi succeeded in doing this is what makes his writing even more precious. This was the book Musashi passed on to the students of his school, the unusual two-bladed Ni-to Ryu (two-sword school). For more on the historical Musashi Miyamoto, read Makoto Sugawara's excellent (non-fiction) "Lives of Master Swordsmen".
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on February 15, 2003
What I prefer about Victor Harris's translation of Musashi Miyamoto's book "Go Rin no Sho" is the fact that Harris has gone through exacting lengths not just to present an accurate translation in the context of a 17th-century samurai, but to present Musashi to us in his proper historical context. As opposed to every other English translation I have read, this one includes an in-depth biography of Musashi prior to the translation, and shows many of his creations, such as paintings (including a self-portrait), tsuba (swordguards), etc. We can see where Musashi lived and practiced, what his grave looks like, etc. For clarity and understanding, this volume, along with the translation by Thomas Cleary, are the best. I should justify that by explaining that I practice martial arts--for those of you looking for a business oriented edition, there are several translations and interpretations out there which are geared towards your needs. For those of you involved in the practice of martial arts, sports, or with an interest in historical strategy texts, I heartily recommend this translation!
Whay does this book discuss? Musashi's masterpiece eschews practice, and decries vanity, ego, and "secrets". Musashi was a practitioner of Zen Buddhism, and the influence of Zen philosophy can be seen everywhere in his writing. This is however, definately a book on the strategy of swordsmanship, and not a treatis on religion. Musashi Miyamoto fought in a number of duels--back in the era of true challenge matches--when usually the victor was the man left living! The realities of his times, the fact that life was so cheap and had to be guarded fiercly, and that Musashi succeeded in doing this is what makes his writing even more precious. This was the book Musashi passed on to the students of his school, the unusual two-bladed Ni-to Ryu (two-sword school). For more on the historical Musashi Miyamoto, read Makoto Sugawara's excellent (non-fiction) "Lives of Master Swordsmen".
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99 of 118 people found the following review helpful
on August 2, 2002
I have read 4 different translations of Miyamoto Musashi's Book of Five Rings and I would have to say this is the worst translation I have read by far. It is obvious the translator does not have a passion or understanding for Japanese Martial Sciences. The translator made numerours mistakes, and he consistantly referred to Japanese swordsmanship (kenjutsu)as Kendo. This is a major mistake and the very first time I saw Kendo mentioned in the book, I wanted to put it down. It is quite obvious that the translator missed alot of subtle lessons Musashi tried to convery in this book. I would not recommend this version of a classic. However I would recommed A Way to Victory The Annotated Book of Five Rings by Hidy Ochiai. Mr. Ochiai is an accomplished martial artist and has a good understanding of Japanese Martial Arts. I would also recommend reading Legacies of the Sword by Karl Friday. This book will give you a complete understanding of a traditional Japanese (kenjutsu) school still operating today.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on January 30, 2000
I've read several books on sword techniques, methods, philosophies, etc... This book takes all that knowledge and adds an edge to it I haven't found anywhere else. It makes you think about your movements, and style of fighting... and answers the questions on things like why the samurai used a long and short sword instead of two long blades.
Musashi fought back when it meant living or dying, and never lost. He wrote the book years after he retired from fighting and tried to capture the very essense of how to win in any situation. This book does not have any pictures of techniques, but it makes you evaluate every technique.
It offers a great deal of knowledge for every day life and even if you never pick up a sword or raise your fists, this book can teach you how to win in life's battles by way of your mind. A great book, and I feel lucky to have it on my shelf... available when I need it.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on December 2, 2000
In a fit of generosity I gave away my copy of Victor Harris' translation to a martial artist friend. Having searched for a replacement I finally purchased a dismal 'Interpretation' of the book by an American Karateka, who restyled many passages until they spoke the exact opposite of the original. I threw it away. Mr. Harris' faithful translation, however, bears reading again and again and I believe keeps to the spirit of the original which defies simplistic interpretation, and increases in depth with each reading.
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on July 14, 2011
"th way of the sword", The entire book is riddled with spelling mistakes such as these.
A friend of mine lent me another version of this book a few months ago, I really enjoyed it. I decided to buy my own copy due to the excellent material presented within.
This copy however is overall poorly translated, and very badly written.
Many sentences make no grammatical sense, the translator chose a lot of English words that do not do justice to the piece, every page has at least one obvious spelling mistake.
Overall a very poor job from whomever was entrusted with making an English version of this book. Had I not already read a far superior version I would have been stuck trying to piece words together and figure out what the h**l is going on.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on December 22, 2008
I won't waste anyone's time or space on reviewing the book itself; there are plenty of great references and articles on the value of its contents. Instead I'll focus on the format itself and this particular printing; for starters, it's a lot smaller and more compact than I expected, but still easy to read. The book itself isn't terribly long, so they managed to keep it small without having to shrink the text too much. It still has all of the add on material by Thomas Cleary, so nothing is lost in the transfer. All in all, a very worthwhile buy if you're looking for an affordable, pocket-sized version of the book, or just need to replace it.
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