|Musashi. Woodblock print by Utagawa Kuniyoshi|
Musashi was born in the Harima Province. The exact date of his birth is not known, but according to various sources, it was between 1580 and 1584. His father, Shinmen Munisai, was also a master of the sword and an accomplished martial artist.
From the age Musashi was 7, he went to live and be raised by his uncle, Dorinbo. There, he learned to how to read and write, as well as the basic precepts of Buddhism. He had his first sword duel at the age of 13. Here's what Musashi wrote about it:
"I have trained in the way of strategy since my youth, and at the age of thirteen I fought a duel for the first time. My opponent was called Arima Kihei, a sword adept of the Shinto ryū, and I defeated him. At the age of sixteen I defeated a powerful adept by the name of Akiyama, who came from Tajima Province. At the age of twenty-one I went up to Kyōtō and fought duels with several adepts of the sword from famous schools, but I never los."
—Miyamoto Musashi, Go Rin No Sho (The Book of Five Rings)
|Drawing by Musashi|
|Modern sculpture of Musashi and Sasaki Kojiro duel|
Around 1642 Musashi's health became to decline, and he was known to have suffered attacks of neuralgia. In 1643 he became a hermit in a cave to write The Book of Five Rings. He died in that cave in June of 1645. In his lifetime, he claimed to have fought in sixty duels and haven't been defeated in any.
Musashi's legacy is immense. First of all, he established a school of kenjutsu (sword fighting) called Ni-Ten Ichi Ryu or nitoichi. This school is a two-sword technique, where two swords are used at the same time, a large katana and a small wakizashi.
Secondly, he left a classic work of martial arts that extends its teachings to many other aspects of life and business - The Book of Five Rings (Gorin no shô).
|One of the translations of The Book Of Five Rings|
“Do nothing that is of no use”
“There is nothing outside of yourself that can ever enable you to get better, stronger, richer, quicker, or smarter. Everything is within. Everything exists. Seek nothing outside of yourself.”
“In battle, if you you make your opponent flinch, you have already won.”
“You must understand that there is more than one path to the top of the mountain”
“Perceive that which cannot be seen with the eye.”
“You can only fight the way you practice”
“Today is victory over yourself of yesterday; tomorrow is your victory over lesser men.”
“The true science of martial arts means practicing them in such a way that they will be useful at any time, and to teach them in such a way that they will be useful in all things.”
“It is difficult to realize the true Way just through sword-fencing. Know the smallest things and the biggest things, the shallowest things and the deepest things.”
“To know ten thousand things, know one well”
|A modern interpretation of Musashi's image by Takehiko Inoue|