Monday, January 11, 2010

Book of 5 Rings

One of my all time favorite reads is the Book of Five Rings by the legendary samurai Miyamoto Musash the Kensei, or sword saint of Japan. This is one of those classics I return to at least every other if not every year. While some have read it for the sake of a business strategy guide that is not how it was intended.

This blood and honor
the way of the warrior
my reverence found

That's my haiku-ya like it? Anyway, after killing more than sixty men Musahsi reflected on his life and sought to understand the way of the warrior, what he seemed to know on instinct. The Book of Five Rings is his 5 "Way"s-Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Void. Each represents a step in growth of both the warrior and the individual to be a better person-while admittedly using fighting terminology-but such was the way of life at the time.

I don't think any other book outside of scripture has affected my personal faith, philosophy and world outlook as much as the Book of Five Rings. Elements from it abound within Heroes of the Fallen. Like "To only study the sword will make you narrow minded and will keep you from growing outward." I apply this to my writing and life in general.
Here's another, "Everything has its value even if it is not apparent to you."
And "The ultimate aim of the martial arts is not having to use them."

In my various martial art instructions I am often amused at the various tales of so and so once beat Musahsi doing this or that. I call BS on all of those stories not for the sake that they aren't possible just for the sake that there are so many of them and not a single one of them I have come across is truly documented.

It's kind of like trying to give weight to some system or other by saying this almost beat Musashi. Why don't I believe any of those stories yet again? Because Musahsi wrote 5 Rings when he was sixty-he had already defeated all comers.

Pics-the awesome Toshiro Mifune-in the Samurai Trilogy (as Mushasi) at the top and the most excellent Yojimbo at the bottom.

Yojimbo has just killed two men and cut the arm off a third.
Yojimbo "Cooper. Two coffins... No, maybe three."

Clint Eastwood borrowed this line for Sergio Leone's spaghetti western remake Fistful of Dollars.


Charles Gramlich said...

Now you've made me want to read it. I probably should have long ago.

KarenG said...

It just cracks me up how completely different we are in our search for reading material! Yet I know I'm going to love Heroes when I read it. Can't wait!

David J. West said...

Thanks, Charles I am inclined to think you would like it.

Yeah Karen there is a difference in source material and inspiration but I think its the heart and soul that will resonate with people.

Voidwalker said...

I have sooooo been meaning to pickup that book for um, let's see, since I was about 15. I think I had just forgotten about it, but thanks for reminding me!!

Samurai's are amazing! I'm a huge fan of the Shogun Series which I saw when I was a young boy.

David J. West said...

Yeah Mifune was great in that too-just not quite as ornery and fun. You gotta see Yojimbo.

Erin West said...

Sanjuro tops out as one of my favorites.

I started reading the Book of 5 Rings late last year. I have to say it's awfully repetitive, but I do appreciate Musashi's push to discover the deeper meaning of martial arts. Sword technique is only part of the equation. You're only getting somewhere if you can master yourself (mastering emotions, passions, etc, etc.)

David J. West said...

Yeah but he even says he is goingto be reptitive to further ingrain it into you.

And yeah Sanjuro is most excellent.