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Book of Five Rings: Stephen Kaufman
on 4 September 2011
Miyamoto Musashi (1584-1645) is considered today, to be a swordmaster saint in Japan and is worshipped as a god in his own right. In his lifetime, however, he spent much of his life in a cave, meditated and formulated his own style of natural swordmenship, utilising two swords used at the sametime - a short sword and a long sword. Today, one may witness this style of fighting in the art of Kendo, and other more traditional styles. Ironically, at the time of his life, Miyamoto was considered an oddity who did not train in any recognised style of Japanese martial art. Nevertheless, it is believed that he killed around sixty in individual contests throughout his life, including notable masters.
The paperback (1994) edition contains 106 pages and consists of a Preface, an Introduction and and five distinct chapters:
About the Translation.
The Book of Earth.
The Book of Water.
The Book of Fire.
The Book of Wind.
The Book of No-Thing.
The author - Stephen F Kaufman has a background in Japanese karate, but founded his own style in the USA called Dojo No Hebi - or 'School of the Snake' - this style is unknown in Japan, and doubts about its linguistic correctness exist. Furthermore, the author refers to himself as 'Hanshi', or 'grandmaster', and claims a 10th Dan. In an interview, the author expressed the view that a 10th Dan is the highest rank possible in Japanese martial arts, when infact, the 'mudan' or 'no grade' is the highest and seldom bestowed honour available. Kaufman claims that this book is a 'translation' of Miyamoto Mushashi's Book of Five Rings (Go Rin No Sho), when in interviews he has admitted that it is not a translation, but rather his re-interpretation of already extant English translations.
In this regard, Kaufman's 'interpretation' is academically unreliable and deviates from the original medieval Japanese to a considerable degree. The contradiction continues with the title which claims that this book is 'The Martial Artist's' Book of Five Rings, whilst Kaufman clearly states in his Introduction that this book is infact for 'Martialists', rather than 'Martial Artists'. The discerning reader will find the author's website to be a cross between a new age businessman and a person with an uncertain experience of martial arts. The blatant commercialisation is obvious - with the equation of the boardroom with the battlefield. This book is surreal and is not a true representation of Miyamoto Musashi's sublime work on philosophical swordmanship.