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To learn a Japanese martial art is to learn Zen, and although you can't do so simply by reading a book, it sure does help--especially if that book is The Book of Five Rings. One of Japan's great samurai sword masters penned in decisive, unfaltering terms this certain path to victory, and like Sun Tzu's The Art of War it is applicable not only on the battlefield but also in all forms of competition. Always observant, creating confusion, striking at vulnerabilities--these are some of the basic principles. Going deeper, we find suki, the interval of vulnerability, of indecisiveness, of rest, the briefest but most vital moment to strike. In succinct detail, Miyamoto records ideal postures, blows, and psychological tactics to put the enemy off guard and open the way for attack. Most important of all is Miyamoto's concept of rhythm, how all things are in harmony, and that by working with the rhythm of a situation we can turn it to our advantage with little effort. But like Zen, this requires one task above all else, putting the book down and going out to practice. --Brian Bruya
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.
I would place Musashi-san's Book of the Five Rings on par with classical teachers like Sun Tzu, Laozi. His book lacks detail compared to some of the classics, but that is one of its strengths. He spends approximately 1/6th of the short book on the movements and tactics for sword-fighting, which may be of varying value to readers - depending on their interest on the subject.
Sun Tzu's "The Art of War" places emphasis on large scale military operations; which lends itself to modern business (in the mind of the reader, and in many modern expositions on a domain-by-domain basis) - supply chains, market saturation, globalization, operational budgeting, etc., Musashi-san's "Way" is likewise applicable. Musashi-san focuses on large scale and small scale (individual) battle, offering useful comparisons and contrasts. For me, the individual focus was extremely insightful and personal. It may suit individuals who have situations of high responsibility or discretion (e.g., negotiations, debate, martial arts, software development), or cases where an individual does not have an abundance of resources or allies - and opportunity is gained through competition.
The book is highly quotable, and I found myself reading this short <100 page book over a month's time because every few pages gave me something to think about, research, mull over, and discuss. Almost paradoxically, his vagueness and insistence that the reader practice, research, and train builds toward a thesis - "By learning one thing, one should know 10000 (myriads)."
As a retired IT person and CIS college instructor - my lesson on any topic was not to memorize procedures or things easily looked up in technical references; but principles, how information flows, how to identify processes (and problems in them), to detect the presence of patterns, or put simply "How is this problem or system similar or different from others you've encountered. I wish I had known about this book sooner, as he does an excellent job demonstrating this approach to learning.
This Edition: Great translation of an excellent book in a small but well constructed hardback. The addition of various calligraphy and Musashi's The Way of Walking Alone are a welcomed treat that adds further depth to an already remarkable book.
This book: The Go Rin No Sho (a.k.a. The Book of Five Rings) is the definitive book on Samurai Philosophy by the archetype of The Wandering Samurai himself, Miyamoto Musashi. Throughout his remarkable life, Musashi developed a philosophy and a style all his own. As stated early in the text, his philosophy is not Budhism, nor Taoism nor any other existing philosophy. It is rather a hard won and practical philosophy, almost a code of conduct and a way of viewing the world that is not bound by esoteric nor abstract thinking. Instead, his writing is about a gradual awakening and clarity of thought that his many and varied experiences led him to. Despite being written by a rampant, unwashed and bewilderingly intelligent swordsman with an odd smattering of formal education, his ability to elucidate the intricacies of strategy and apply it to all aspects of life are staggering and surprisingly relevant even now. You do not have to be a fan of Japan, Samurai, the Edo period, eastern philosophy or any other genre you may want to file this book under in order to appreciate it. It is relatively short, easy to read, to the point and like the man himself, deadly accurate. Enjoy the genius that is The Book of Five Rings.
"A Book of Five Rings" should be in the personal library of every business strategist. This book is a unique gift to recent college graduates entering management consulting, digital strategy, law, and military occupations. Experienced business practitioners also find the book valuable to refresh thinking and patterns that have become stale. Almost each page of the book contains a phrase that can be used as the focal point for a weekly meditation practice, assessing the current state of a business or personal life, or creating a vision for a business or personal life.
The Book of Five Rings; by: Miyamoto Musashi for me is a wonderful guide with many strategies for me or anyone else to to deal with any type of conflict in one's life😃 However one needs to find the best translation from ancient Japanese that resonates with one's own heart because there are many translations. Personally I have tried several translations over the years & I have found the translation; by: William Scott Wilson has been perfect & right on for me😃 Also the unabridged book read on CD by Scott Brick is awsome because he has such; a: warm, soothing & very clear voice😃 Also one gets as an added bonus Miyamoto Musashi's Way of Walking Alone or Self-Reliance😃 Also I was really lost spiritually & I studied Miyamoto Musashi's Way of Walking Alone or Self- Reliance & his book of Five Rings (translated by William Scott Wilson & read by Scott Brick) to find my self & I did find my self after around a year of very serious study😃 Now I am doing the best I have ever done in my life😃 Thank you very much for helping me to find my self; spiritually: Miyamoto Musashi, William Scott Wilson, & Scott Brick😃 Sincerely a forever grateful disciple Elle' Yoshio Weissman😃
I started training in Tae Kwon Do 2 years ago, and since then, I've been trying to learn as much as I can about martial arts in genera (I've also dabbled with aikido, kendo and iaido.) The Book of Five Rings is pretty much at the top of most "essential reading for martial artists" lists. Overall, the translation seems to be well-done (I can't read Japanese, but everything here was clear, and when the translator felt that it was necessary, he pointed out possible interpretations of what he had written.) It didn't take terribly long to read, though it was a bit dry at times. A few passages really resonated with me, however, and some of the teachings presented by Musashi are still relevant not just in martial arts, but in modern everyday life.