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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:

Preface.
About the Translation.
Introduction.
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.
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on 31 May 2010
As a martial arts person myself I have read just about every translation of this book and I can honestly say this is the one to follow if you are on a martial arts journey. This copy is translated by a high level martial artist who has immersed his life in the material and his obvious love of the work shines through. He also captures eloquently the direct and aggressive tone of such a larger than life character as Miyamoto Musashi.

I have shown this book to high calibre martial artists of varying styles such as Kyokushin Karate and Boxing and all agree that the strategies are impressive. There is a certain mind set of "win at all costs" that emerges from the book that not everyone will agree with but which is still a fascinating insight to another time and place where a man's survival literally depended on his fighting ability. For that mind set alone this book belongs on the shelf of every person interested in self defense, although there is so much more to this book.

Almost every paragraph ends with "you must train in this constantly" or "you must research this well" and this only helps to focus your intention on the level of commitment needed to achieve success. This book is always inspirational to read and as the great author himself points out you will learn something new from it every time you approach it.
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on 13 November 2002
The original of this book was written by Miyamoto Musashi, the greatest swordsman ever to walk the earth, right up there with Tsukahara Bokuden and Yagyu Munenori. Miyamoto Musashi was not only a master at the noble art of Ken-jutsu (Art of the Sword and predecessor of Kendo) but also an artist, philosopher and calligraphist. The embodiment of the perfect Samurai.
Unfortunately, his most famous book Gorin-no-sho (Book of the Five Rings) can be interpreted in a variety of ways and it takes a swordsman (not a Karateka like the author, whatever the grade he holds) to understand it as it was meant to be. The author has, in this book interpreted it from the point of view of martial arts in general while it was intended solely for Ken-jutsuka (practitioners of Ken-jutsu). It is because of the similarities between swordsmanship and daily life that even non martial artists (mostly managers) consult it but this can sometimes lead them to misunderstand the advice contained.
I do not claim to be an expert on Miyamoto Musashi but, prior to reading this book, I had read several translations of it, written by authors well versed in the sword arts of Japan and the meaning, to me as a Kendoka, was clearer by far than the interpretation given in this book.
All in all, I felt it was a big let-down.
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on 1 July 2007
True - there are many and varied translations of this famous account and in my humble opinion the best of them are by:- "Thomas Cleary, Victor Harris, Boye Lafayette De Mente & William Scott Wilson".

If you are really serious about learning, studying, absorbing and applying the all important lessons in life that this treatise can offer you, then you ought to just buy all of these different versions and compare them.

I believe this translation by Stephen Kaufman is up there with the best. It doesn't differ much from the other accounts but I think that this version is easier to read and therefore understand than the others making it more interesting.

May I point the negative reviewer below to the top of page 17 quote ".....consider the unarmed warrior as being even closer to the ideal because no weapon other than "empty hands" [karate] is used"

I believe Stephen is more than qualified to interpret the book the way he does with such passion because he not only translated it but has been practicing "the way" for over 40 years.

This translation has to be seriously considered as one of the best!!

It's not just for Swordsmen!!

The Book of Five Rings (Go Rin No Sho) is a GREAT book, if you take time to properly absorb and understand ALL of its teachings. It's not a very long book and so would be easy to read a few times over so that you get a proper flavour of the important message being presented.

A better and easier to digest version (IMHO) of this small book is "Samurai Strategies: 42 Martial Secrets" by by Boye De Lafayette Mente, who very cleverly summarises this book into 42 easy to digest and understand and apply chapters.

The ideas in this book are NOT dangerous to anyone in the least, IF you balance and apply ALL of the lessons within it - that's the idea that the great undefeated warrior Musashi was trying to put across. The life saving principles he expounds here are designed to help us all have a better, easier and more fulfilled life, Martial Artist or not. His strategies can be applied and used by anyone.

"A knife is dangerous for anyone - you just have to learn how to use is safely & intelligently"

We are all so lucky & truly blessed that, nearly 400 years ago, someone called Lord Hosokawa had the foresight to ask the ageing Musashi to write down his secrets of success. Musashi himself was not only extremely talented but must have been a very intelligent man for his time to write such a treatise.

The comment (else ware) about this book not being for beginners is misleading I think, it isn't that hard to understand and extrapolate the true meaning and intentions that Musashi was trying to put across.

Don't be put off by ANY of the negative criticisms (in other reviews), it's only because they've missed the point or just quickly scanned & glossed over the book.

Although we are not entirely certain of Musashi's religious bent, Musashi bases his book [loosely] on the Zen Buddhist philosophies of the Five Elements - Earth, Water, Fire, Wind & Emptiness. One of his close associates was Takuan Soho, author of "The Unfettered Mind".
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on 1 July 2007
The Book of Five Rings (Go Rin No Sho) is a GREAT book, if you take time to properly absorb and understand ALL of its teachings. It's not a very long book and so would be easy to read a few times over so that you get a proper flavour of the important message being presented.

A better and easier to digest version (IMHO) of this small book is "Samurai Strategies: 42 Martial Secrets" by by Boye De Lafayette Mente, who very cleverly summarises this book into 42 easy to digest and understand and apply chapters.

The ideas in this book are NOT dangerous to anyone in the least, IF you balance and apply ALL of the lessons within it - that's the idea that the great undefeated warrior Musashi was trying to put across. The life saving principles he expounds here are designed to help us all have a better, easier and more fulfilled life, Martial Artist or not. His strategies can be applied and used by anyone.

"A knife is dangerous for anyone - you just have to learn how to use is safely & intelligently"

We are all so lucky & truly blessed that, nearly 400 years ago, someone called Lord Hosokawa had the foresight to ask the ageing Musashi to write down his secrets of success. Musashi himself was not only extremely talented but must have been a very intelligent man for his time to write such a treatise.

The comment (else ware) about this book not being for beginners is misleading I think, it isn't that hard to understand and extrapolate the true meaning and intentions that Musashi was trying to put across.

Don't be put off by ANY of the negative criticisms (in other reviews), it's only because they've missed the point or just quickly scanned & glossed over the book.

Although we are not entirely certain of Musashi's religious bent, Musashi bases his book [loosely] on the Zen Buddhist philosophies of the Five Elements - Earth, Water, Fire, Wind & Emptiness. One of his close associates was Takuan Soho, author of "The Unfettered Mind".
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on 24 December 2012
Unlike one of the other reviewers, I wouldn't advise any potential buyers to ignore ANY of the reviews - a stupid bit of advice (sounds like "don't listen to anyone else except me!"). Read all the reviews and form your own opinion.

What anyone who gives this a glossy review completely fails to acknowledge is this: IT IS A RIP OFF OF NUMEROUS OTHER ACTUAL TRANSLATIONS

While Kaufman states this within his rag of a publication, he tries to suggest that his own regurgitation of Musashi's writings are in some way useful because of a simple formula he applies - he copies other translations and simply throws in the odd "you can kick here" or "this applies to punching and kicking".

Anyone who considers anything Musashi wrote to be of value would avoid this book as a) there are far more accurate translations of the original by scholars who understand something of the nuances of the time that it was written in and have tried to preserve that and b) by Kaufman adding in his own version of the English reading he is simply adding things that Musashi DID NOT WRITE!

I know a few highly skilled and experienced martial artists who have trained longer that Kaufman but I still would not consider their own reinterpretation of Musashi's work to be of any value at all unless a) they had translated it directly from the original Japanese manuscript and b) they had carried out auxiliary research of the art, the history and alternative texts which might shed more light on a document which is difficult to interpret, even by experts.
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on 5 November 2014
Friend gratefull for it
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on 3 April 1998
Miyamoto Musashi was perhaps the greatest swordsman of all time. He was unequaled in the art of kendo (The Way of the Sword) during a time when kendo was a way of life in Japan. He was challenged to over 60 duels (many to the death), never to be defeated. At the age of 28 (in 1612), Musashi stopped ever using real swords in duels and defeated the samurai challengers with a wooden stick. He was invincible. To martial artists, he is known as "Kinsei" (The Sword Saint).
Instead of settling down and starting a school once his fame was replete, Musashi redoubled his study of "The Way" throughout the rest of his life. He continued to live his life learning from all things. He was a master artist, craftsman, teacher and as a captain on several battle fields. He scorned a life of comfort and possessions and spent the last two years of his life alone in a mountain cave in contemplation. It was here, right before he died at the age of 61, he wrote "Go Rin No Sho" (The Book of Five Rings).
Go Rin No Sho is a guide for the warrior to develop strategy. Musashi described the precepts of "the Way" in Kendo concepts. Kaufman is able to give the reader insight into times and culture that Musashi lived in and some understanding of kendo itself. But Go Rin No Sho is more than instruction of techniques, it is a guide to show a warrior how to master himself, his art and all things. Instead of being a philosophical treatise on war, Go Rin No Sho is (in Musashi's words) "is a spiritual guide for the man who wishes to learn the Way".
Musashi wrote "When you have attained the Way of strategy there will be not one thing that you cannot understand" and "You will see the Way in everything". The more one reads the book, the more one finds in its pages. It is Musashi's last will and testament, the key to the path he trod.
"What is big is easy to perceive: what is small is difficult to perceive." - Musashi
"Step by step walk the thousand-mile road." - Musashi
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on 25 March 1998
Miyamoto Musashi is a very contriversial figure in history to some he was a killer and to others a philosopher and hero. He himself claims to have killed over sixty men in fights and duels, but it is not stated in such a way so as not to make someone to believe he enjoyed it. In his day and age the ability to kill was a necessity as well as a responsibility. In this translation of his classic writings he explains the strategy behind killing the opponent while conveying to the reader the reality of how taking a life truly feels. His writings are done very tastefully and responsibly so as not to offend other people, yet he still manages to explain the topic in full detail. The point of the book is to tell everyone from the novice to the professional what it takes to kill another human being both physically as well as mentally.
A person whom reads this book will find it resembles Sun-Tzu's great book of strategy The Art of War in many ways, but the strategies in this book deal more with one on one combat rather than with the training and sucessfull use of armies in battle. It also resembles the Tao of Jeet Kune Do by the late Bruce Lee, but Master Musashi put less emphasis on the physical aspects of conflict and more on the strategical side of this issue.
This book speaks to both Martial Artists as well as to the common person on the street. It is an invaluable guide to strategy and philosophy for all who read it.
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