Tag Archives: swordsmanship

the book of five rings



No blog of this sort would be complete without mentioning  The Book of Five Rings .

Miyamoto Musashi (c. 1584-June 13, 1645), also known as Shinmen Takezō, Miyamoto Bennosuke, or by his Buddhist name Niten Dōraku, was a Japanese swordsman famed for his duels and fighting style. He was the founder of the Hyōhō Niten Ichi-ryū or Niten-ryū style of swordsmanship and the author of The Book of Five Rings, a book on strategy, tactics, and philosophy that is still studied today. 

The Book of Five Rings is separated into five sub-books. The five “books” mirror the belief that there are five physical elements. Earth, Fire, Water, Wind and Void as believed by Buddhism, Shinto, and other Eastern religions. The Five books are descriptions of methods and techniques which are taught to the student via these elements.

  • The Book of Earth is an introduction. It discusses martial arts, leadership, and training through the metaphor of carpentry and the building of a house.
  • The Book of Water describes Musashi’s style, Ni-ten ichi-ryu. It describes basic techniques and fundamental principles.
  • The Book of Fire refers to engaging in battle. It discusses matters such as different types of timing, terrain and battle strategy.
  • The Book of Wind discusses what Musashi considers to be the failings of various contemporary schools of swordfighting.
  • The Book of the Void is a short epilogue, describing Musashi’s thoughts on consciousness and the correct mindset.

Musashi establishes a utilitarian theme throughout the book. He repeatedly states that technical flourishes are excessive and that worrying about such things conflicts with the principle that all technique is simply a method of cutting down one’s opponent. He also makes the point that the concepts expressed in the book are important for combat on any scale, whether a one-on-one duel or a full-scale battle. Descriptions of principles are often followed by admonitions to “investigate this thoroughly” through practice, rather than try to learn by merely reading.


The Samurai of feudal Japan revered the sword, known as the Katana, to an almost religious state. Swords were highly prized and took a long time to forge. The Samurai used to test a new sword to determine its cutting and handling abilities. It was known as “Tameshigiri” (“Test Cutting”). In more brutal days it was done on condemned prisoners or corpses. It evolved into rolled mats of bamboo soaked in water until they had the approximate density of human flesh. As you can see here these swords are SHARP!