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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clarity of Purpose
I have enjoyed reading the reviews of Kaufman's interpretation. They have been insightful and in many cases extremely witty and thought provoking. The intelligence behind some of the comments verges on genius. Well done.

I have given this book 5 stars for one reason only. I am a full time sports coach and coach professional athletes at a world class level...
Published on April 6, 2011 by Haydn Ellis

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71 of 77 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Fanciful Interpretation of Musashi's Work
I have no doubt about the author's sincerity in offering this personal interpretation of Musashi's original work, "Book of 5 Spheres" (or "The Book of 5 Rings"). The problem I have with what Stephen F. Kaufman has done to Musashi's book deals more with his implied suggestion that this edition is the result of an actual ~translation~ which he was responsible for (see pages...
Published on May 26, 2006 by C. J. Hardman


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71 of 77 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Fanciful Interpretation of Musashi's Work, May 26, 2006
By 
C. J. Hardman (San Diego, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Musashi's Book of Five Rings: The Definitive Interpretation of Miyamoto Musashi's Classic Book of Strategy (Paperback)
I have no doubt about the author's sincerity in offering this personal interpretation of Musashi's original work, "Book of 5 Spheres" (or "The Book of 5 Rings"). The problem I have with what Stephen F. Kaufman has done to Musashi's book deals more with his implied suggestion that this edition is the result of an actual ~translation~ which he was responsible for (see pages xi-xii, "Translator's Note"). In fact, when asked Mr. Kaufman has admitted that this volume (and some others he has written) are not translations at all, but rather his own personal interpretations of English translations done by other authors--something he DOESN'T bother to communicate to his readers. The title of this volume, at odds with the "translator's note" on pgs xi -xii, is actually "...The Definitive _Interpretation_ of Miyamoto Musashi's Classic Book of Strategy". I fail to understand why Kaufman confuses his readers by mixing and matching interpretation with translation. It should be noted that Mr Kaufman himself does NOT speak or read Japanese, and in fact innocently named his own martial arts school "Dojo no Hebi" ("Place of Practice's Snake"), when he was trying for "Dojo of the Snake" (which in Japanese would have been "Hebi no Dojo", meaning "The Snake's Place of Practice"). Innocent mistakes yes, but one would expect a Black belt of the 10th Dan (degree grade) and a proclaimed "Hanshi" (master practitioner) to at least check his spelling with someone who _could_ speak the language he was borrowing.

Kaufman doesn't bother to provide a bibliography of which English translations he used, nor does he include notes explaining _how_ he drew his conclusions from the texts he studied. I am bothered by the fact that many of Musashi's original words have been heavily edited, re-arranged, or deleted altogether by this author until they have been removed entirely from their original context. In doing this, Mr. Kaufman has actually ALTERED the _meaning_ of Musashi's work! What remains appears to be little more than a new age self-help guide for modern martial artists which has retained a smidgeon of flavor from Musashi's original work.

A brief example illustrating Kaufman's tendancy to put his own words in Musashi's mouth is in the fourth paragraph on page 6 of Kaufman's book. Kaufman reworks Musashi's words regarding Merchants as a class to read, "Merchants are a ridiculed class because they produce nothing except profit from the work of others." Two other men who have actually translated Musashi's work from the original Japanese suggest nothing sinister in Musashi's original work concerning the merchant class.

Victor Harris in his translation of "A Book of Five Rings" offers: "The way of the merchant is always to live by taking profit" (page 41, 1974). Translator Thomas Cleary offers the same sentence as: "Whatever the business, merchants make a living from the profits they earn acording to their particular status" (page 7, 1993).

This is a minor demonstration of the differences between Kaufman's work and those offered by actual QUALIFIED translators--the translators make an effort to convey to the reader the actual meaning of Musashi's words in English, while Kaufman crafts a new meaning which never existed in Musashi's original work. Suffice to say, Kaufman's interpretation seems heavily influenced by his modern view of martial arts and his concept of what he feels samurai may have been like four centuries ago. It bears little resemblance to competent translations of Musashi's writings. Or perhaps it is Kaufman's guilt over his own attempt to exploit the expertise and writings of a respected master.

I recommend two excellent translations of Musashi's work which stay true to the original Japanese. The first is "A Book of Five Rings" translated by Victor Harris, a mechanical engineer and technical interpreter of Japanese language who not only practiced kendo (Japanese fencing), but studied this art in Japan for 3 years under Ito Kyoitsu at the Seijudo Dojo. A second recommendation is "The Book of Five Rings" by Thomas Cleary, another professional translator. Unlike Kaufman, I did not find translations by these men to be "intellectual exercises in translating Japanese to English" (pg xi). I found legitimate translations by competent translators who were clear and direct...I suspect most scholarly people, whether students of martial arts or not, will draw a similar conclusions upon comparing Kaufman's book to any actual translation.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Overly simple, July 8, 2005
By 
Reader (Bozeman, MT) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Musashi's Book of Five Rings: The Definitive Interpretation of Miyamoto Musashi's Classic Book of Strategy (Paperback)
This is the first translation of The Book of Five Rings that I read. I wasn't terribly impressed with it. After reading the translation by William Scott Wilson, I am even less impressed with Kaufman's translation. While Wilson's may be a bit harder to comprehend on the first read, much is lost in Kaufman's translation in terms of language and metaphor. Kaufman's translation may be better for someone looking for a more simple explanation of technique. However, Wilson's translation offers much more for a reader to wrap his/her mind around. Since I have never read the original text, I can in no way claim to know whose translation is is closer to the original. However for those looking for a more cerebral experience, I would suggest Wilson's translation.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clarity of Purpose, April 6, 2011
This review is from: Musashi's Book of Five Rings: The Definitive Interpretation of Miyamoto Musashi's Classic Book of Strategy (Paperback)
I have enjoyed reading the reviews of Kaufman's interpretation. They have been insightful and in many cases extremely witty and thought provoking. The intelligence behind some of the comments verges on genius. Well done.

I have given this book 5 stars for one reason only. I am a full time sports coach and coach professional athletes at a world class level. Kaufman's interpretation is the only translation / interpretation that I have been able to use 'in the field' specifically to enhance the 'frame of mind' of the athletes I coach before the ultimate testing ground; competition. As a tool for learning and applying strategy as well as improving 'frame of mind' in the realm of professional sport I have found it invaluable. Since I am not an academic I really couldn't care less about who's translation / intrepretation is the most accurate. I only use what works.

As an aside, I am also a martial artist and martial arts instructor. I have recently published a book about my martial arts Master. It is entitled 'Raoul Kent: A Life of Mastery' and will be available at Amazon soon. Master Raoul is a true master of Japanese karate, ju jitsu and judo. He has been bodyguard to the rich and famous as well as the criminal underworld. He went undefeated in martial art competitions of all forms for 7 years straight. Master Raoul also values Kaufman's interpretation and since he is truly the most battle tested warrior I have ever known I value his opinion. Intellectuals may be great wordsmiths and ardent critics but at the end of the day they remain just that. No brilliant intellectual will ever help you win a fight or conquer the battlefield of professional sport.

I suggest purchasing and reading all versions of Book of Five Rings and making up your own mind. The litmus test ultimately will be whether or not the book fulfilled the purpose for which you bought it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Poorly "translated", definitely not worth buying., March 11, 2013
This review is from: Musashi's Book of Five Rings: The Definitive Interpretation of Miyamoto Musashi's Classic Book of Strategy (Paperback)
Quick and simple. He completely disregards The Way of Self Reliance (An imperative component of Musashi's writings) He tends to re-state ambigous nonesense rather than actually discuss Martial Arts (Supposedly what this edition is designed to address), and he inorporates various Eastern philosophies (Taoism, Shintoism, etc.) which have NOTHNG to do with the original text. A bastardized parody of Musashi's work, pick up another translation. This one's just worthlesss.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed feelings, January 7, 2010
This review is from: Musashi's Book of Five Rings: The Definitive Interpretation of Miyamoto Musashi's Classic Book of Strategy (Paperback)
I have mixed feelings about this 'interpretation' of Musashi's classic. It would ring more true to me if the author had titled it "Thoughts on Musashi's Book of Five Rings", or something that indicated the fact that this is not a translation, but rather the author's own words based on Mushashi's writings. A paragraph by paragraph comparison to Cleary's translation made it clear that the author was putting words and thoughts into the text that never were part of the original. To then call it "The Definitive Interpretation" seems pretty smug and arrogant, not to mention that the author has designated himself a 10th Dan in his own system, something not even Ueshiba, Okazaki or Bruce Lee claimed.

On the other hand, there are some good thoughts and principles laid out by the author, and I can't really find fault with the content. If it had been presented more honestly, I'd have given it five stars for content. The guise in which it is presented, however, left me a little sour on the project, as if the author is intentionally misleading readers in order to sell a few more copies. Worth a read, but not the true words and thoughts of Musashi.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, July 10, 2014
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This review is from: Musashi's Book of Five Rings: The Definitive Interpretation of Miyamoto Musashi's Classic Book of Strategy (Paperback)
Awesome book!
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5.0 out of 5 stars "Knowing is not enough..." -Bruce Lee, April 29, 2014
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This review is from: Musashi's Book of Five Rings: The Definitive Interpretation of Miyamoto Musashi's Classic Book of Strategy (Paperback)
What is there to say? Read it or miss out on one of the best contributions the literary world has to offer on the subject of strategy.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Raconteur meets Raconteur, March 18, 2014
This is an autobiography of a self made man who killed more than 60 men in hand to hand combat. A self taught polymath, Musashi was an architect; a calligrapher of note in a culture and language where it mattered; an artist, at least 2 of his paintings were considered masterpieces; a sculptor and gardener of note; and a diplomat, soldier, nobleman, and courtier in one of the most intricate and dangerous societies the world has ever known in an era of great upheaval and destruction.

As with many great works of the Orient, Musashi's writings are very ambiguous, and translating them into another language makes them even more so; that is why so many different interpretations of his masterpiece can be found. Now Mr. Kaufman claims "The Definitive Interpretation". That is a very interesting claim.

Who would understand best the message of Musashi? Maybe understanding Musashi will answer that question. Musashi was a wanderer and self promoter who travelled across medieval Japan challenging, and sometimes exterminating, rival schools of martial art. Many of his efforts to attach himself to various noblemen failed. Of the 6 battles he fought in, he was on the losing side at least 4 times, yet always landed on his feet. As he put it "The only reason a warrior is alive is to fight, and the only reason a warrior fights is to win. Otherwise, why be a warrior? It is easier to count beads".

He was a self promoting supremely confident raconteur. An unpredictable man of surprising depths and aptitudes. He was interested in everything, and stressed paying attention to even the most insignificant details.

I was entertained by the few truly venemous and witty negative reviews, but I kept getting the feeling I had wandered into a comic book convention - fans can get so wound up in the minutia that they miss the big picture. Their reviews made Mr. Kaufman sound like a wandering, self promoting martial arts raconteur - exactly the sort of person I might suspect of being capable of "interpreting" Musashi :-)

I have read 2 other versions of this book in the distant past, and this is much better. Much.
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5.0 out of 5 stars classic and informative reader for any tactical minded martial artist, February 15, 2014
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This review is from: Musashi's Book of Five Rings: The Definitive Interpretation of Miyamoto Musashi's Classic Book of Strategy (Paperback)
classic and informative reader for any tactical minded martial artist...a must read for any intermediate level and above student of the arts.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A martial artist interpretation of a MARTIAL CLASSIC, February 14, 2014
This review is from: Musashi's Book of Five Rings: The Definitive Interpretation of Miyamoto Musashi's Classic Book of Strategy (Paperback)
Overall ,i enjoyed reading this book . It was a quick read and easy to follow. I had read Thomas Cleary's translation before so i was able to compare the two books. I thought that this book was clear and to the point and may even be simplistic to those who are well read , but for the masses , i think that it would be a good reference to martial strategy . Hanshi Kaufman, who is an accomplished martial artist with 60 years of experience, has interpreted this historical book on martial strategy in a way for modern practitioners can relate. His outline of the "nine basic attitudes " in the book of earth and his emphasis on the need for a martial artist to continue his training are presented well. I would recommend this book for any serious martial artist .
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Musashi's Book of Five Rings: The Definitive Interpretation of Miyamoto Musashi's Classic Book of Strategy
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