A Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi

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A Book of Five Rings (or Go Rin No Sho) was written by the samurai legend, Miyamoto Musashi, in 1645. I read this text several years ago and while the central theme is ‘strategy’, the lessons that left a lasting impression concerned ‘true understanding’ and the importance of practice; of practising one’s arts, one’s discipline, one’s techniques. Practising until third nature becomes second nature, becomes first nature. In this age, when knowledge is plentiful and experience lacking, I believe there is much to be learned from Musashi’s wisdom:

The Kendo student practises furiously, thousands of cuts morning and night, learning fierce techniques of horrible war, until eventually sword becomes “no sword”, intention becomes “no intention”, a spontaneous knowledge of every situation. The first elementary teaching becomes the highest knowledge, and the master still continues to practise this simple training, his everyday prayer.

Study this book; read a word then ponder on it.  If you interpret the meaning loosely you will mistake the Way.

If you merely read this book you will not reach the Way of strategy.  Absorb the things written in this book.  Do not just read, memorise or imitate, but so that you realise the principle from within your own heart, study hard to absorb these things in to your body.

“To know the times” means to know the enemy’s disposition in battle.  Is it flourishing or waning? By observing the spirit of the enemy’s men and getting the best position, you can work out the enemy’s disposition and move your men accordingly.  You can win through the principle of strategy, fighting from a position of advantage.

…the way to understand is through experience.

You must bear this in mind.

Practise this well.

You must research this well.

You must appreciate this.

You must train constantly.

You must consider all this carefully.

Study this well.

You must train hard to understand it.

With detailed practice you should be able to understand it.

If you train well enough you will be able to strike accordingly.

You must train repetitively.

Learn this well.

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