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Miyamoto Musashi: His Life and Writings Paperback – June 20, 2006

4.8 out of 5 stars 39 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Miyamoto Musashi is a close look at the legendary swordsman and his treatises on swordsmanship and strategy by a Japanese martial artist. Deeply informed, and with direct and extensive knowledge of martial arts, the book, to my knowledge, has no parallel in Japan—or elsewhere."—Hiroaki Sato, author of Legends of the Samurai --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Kenji Tokitsu was born in Japan and began studying martial arts when he was a child. He has taught karate in Paris since 1971. In 1984 he founded the Shaolin-mon school, where he teaches a synthesis of the original combat arts of Japan and China. In 2001 he established the Tokitsuryu Academy to teach and promote his method. For more information, visit www.tokitsu.com. Tokitsu also holds doctorates in sociology and in Japanese language and civilization. He is the author of numerous books.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Weatherhill (June 20, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0834805677
  • ISBN-13: 978-0834805675
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #778,344 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By magellan HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on September 16, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This is the most exhaustive and detailed study I've seen on Musashi yet. At 488 pages, with almost 150 pages of appendices, notes, a glossary, and an extensive bibliography, there is a wealth of material here on the legendary swordsman.

Although a translation from the Japanese and intended to be a thorough, well-researched, scholarly work on Musashi, I thought it was pretty readable, well-written, interesting, and not nearly as dry and forbidding as it could have been for an academic study. If you have some previous knowledge of Japanese history or martial arts you shouldn't have any trouble with it. But be forewarned that it does require a little more patience than the more popular accounts of his life and times.

There are chapters on Musashi's childhood and training, his duels and battles, his mature years, three chapters on his writings, and seven chapters covering Musashi's martial arts concepts and style of swordfighting, which includes chapters on training, budo, Musashi's school of swordsmanship today, and finally two chapters entitled "The Relationship Between Adversaries," and "One Life, One Art."

There are many aspects of Musashi's life and ideas that get discussed in the book, but I thought I'd write a bit about what I learned about his personal philosophy. Many of you are probably knowledgeable about the specifics of his fencing concepts from having read his Book of Five Rings, so I thought I'd mention something about that instead, since it was something I didn't know as much about myself until I read this book, being more familiar with his ideas about the True Way of the Sword from having read his The Book of Five Rings previously.
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Format: Hardcover
"Miyamoto Musashi: His Life and Writings" is an extensive book, to put it mildly. Written by Kenji Tokitsu, a noted martial artist, it takes a view of Musashi as only a martial artist can. In this sense, it adds something more that books by historians and scholars can sometimes miss.

The book itself covers various aspects of Musashi, including a section on his life, a translation of "Gorin No Sho", Musashi's major written work, and other writings that have come down to us from Musashi's pen.

This might sound strange, but reading Eiji Yoshikawa's novel Musashi: An Epic Novel of the Samurai Era would be a good starting point before hitting this book. The novel is really an image of Musashi in popular imagination in Japan, and Tokitsu makes some reference to it in the biographical section. In other aspects of Musashi, Tokitsu takes a very balanced view of the sources, (many of which conflict in major ways), and comes away with a very real Musashi with faults and issues. This stands in contrast to the almost frothing praise that other books have heaped on Musashi. Tokitsu quotes at length from a variety of primary sources, and also presents differing opinions to his own.

The translations of Musashi's writings are well executed, and easily read. There are some terms that are quite difficult to get the correct meaning in English, and Tokitsu has included very large appendices on that and other issues that come up. These appendices go a long way to clearing up some of the issues that the book raises.

Probably another strange suggestion, but you might want to read this book with two bookmarks: one for the book and one for the endnotes.
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Format: Paperback
This book is a scholarly and somewhat dry read with many footnotes and alternatives explored. Persevere with it because this is a fascinating unravelling of facts and myths about Miyamoto Musashi's remarkable life and inspirational writings.

Note this book includes a translation of the book of five rings that reads very well indeed, a remarkable feat considering the nature of the Japanese original.
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Format: Paperback
An amazing work on many levels: Tokitsu is a true scholar and provides a comprehensive summary of the works of Musashi, his disciples, the lineages that sprang from him, and all of those who have told his story and tried to emulate his martial path over the last five hundred years; he provides new translations of Musashi's "Book of Five Rings" as well as less well known works; he provides images and commentary on some of the vibrant and amazing artwork of Musashi; he situates Musashi contextually within the vast rich history of the samurai and ties them to the transformations of the Tokugawa era, the Meiji Restoration, and the upheavals of the twentieth century. And most interestingly, Tokitsu writes as an established martial artist who has competed and exerted himself in training in Karate and Kendo, and looks at Musashi's writings from a practical standpoint--how would what Musashi wrote of five hundred years ago work in the real world? When Musashi was facing his opponents in his 60 death matches before he was 30? In comparison to contemporary martial arts training and competition?

I would advise any martial artist or anyone who loves Japanese history to read this work.

And do NOT skip the footnotes. There are many treasures there.

Here is section so powerful I had to write it down today:

Musashi uses the expression cho tan seki ren several times in his work, which literally means "morning" (cho), "to build" (tan), "evening" (seki), "to train" (ren). This expression is often translated "I trained morning and night," but I have translated it "I have continued to train and to seek from morning till evening.
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