This week, I’ve decided to focus my attentions on someone whom I’ve read about since I was a young child: Miyamoto Musashi. Most people aren’t familiar with the name, though he was well-known in feudal Japan as the greatest swordsman to have ever been. People are more familiar with the book he wrote before the end of his life: The Book of Five Rings.
Musashi is thought to have been born in Japan in the late 1500’s by the name “Bennosuke” to a farmer. The history is a bit difficult to trace, but there is some debate as to exactly where and in what Province Musashi was born. Musashi was raised by his uncle after the death of his father, and was taught Buddhism, reading and writing (which was not a common thing in that era).
Musashi’s name was changed to “Takezo” later in life and he began to study the sword, either from his father or under his uncle, fighting and winning his first duel at the age of thirteen. Musashi was said to have fought (and won) 61 duels and battles, leading to the creation of a legend in his own right. He developed and refined his own style of two-sword combat called Niten Ichi-ryu, making use of both a katana and a wakizashi in combat.
Although best known as a swordsman, Musashi was a philosopher, artist, painter and calligrapher. I could go on about the different skills he developed and mastered throughout the course of his life, but suffice it to say that Musashi was a firm believer in studying one thing in order to master another. For example, if you study only the sword you will grow to be ignorant and unaware of anything else. In order to truly master a skill, you need to branch out and have some variety.
Miyamoto Musashi is a source of inspiration for me, because he walked his own path. Although receiving instruction at some point in his young age, he went on to develop and master his own style, suited to his own needs. A variation of his style of swordsmanship is still studied today. He’s written various works and created multiple pieces of art, and can be cited as a source of popular quotes (feel free to Google “Musashi quotes”).
To be honest, I could share quotes and passages from some of his works, but that would scarcely do him justice. If you want to learn all you can about Miyamoto Musashi, my best suggestion would be to get tour hands on a copy of his book, The Book Of Five Rings. The version translated and written by Hanshi Stephen Kaufman is the most popular version (and the most complete one). It’s a fascinating read, and the material can apply to many aspects of life, not just combat. ☯