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The Book of Five Rings (Shambhala Classics) Paperback – December 12, 2000

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Written by legendary Japanese swordsman Musashi, this 17th-century exposition of sword-fighting strategy and Zen philosophy has been embraced by many contemporary readers, especially business school students, as a manual on how to succeed in life. There are many English translations, but every one, including this one, suffers from inadequate cultural, literary, and philosophical commentary. Musashi's work should be studied, not simply read, and Cleary's translation lacks commentary; it also makes the prose seems flat and the philosophy simplistic. Yet what makes this new translation worthwhile is the second text, buried deep in the back like an appendix: Yagyu Munenori's The Book of Family Traditions on the Art of War. This text, also an exposition on sword fighting and Zen philosophy, is difficult to find in an English translation, and its availability is welcome. Recommended for academic libraries generally.
- Glenn Masuchika, Chaminade Univ. Lib., Honolulu
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"Embraced by many contemporary readers as a manual on how to succeed in life."— Library Journal --This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Series: Shambhala Classics
  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Shambhala (December 12, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1570627487
  • ISBN-13: 978-1570627484
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (437 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #213,537 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

92 of 97 people found the following review helpful By Swing King on February 29, 2004
Format: Hardcover
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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84 of 91 people found the following review helpful By A. L. Boyle on October 24, 2009
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
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 By A Customer on January 11, 2000
Format: Hardcover
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 By C. J. Hardman on February 15, 2003
Format: Hardcover
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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98 of 116 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 2, 2002
Format: Hardcover
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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