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on 26 May 2013
I had this book once before, lent it, and never got it back. bought for kindle, it is interesting, for all its a tactical book, it also serves as a useful reminder about life in general (once you get into the format)
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on 19 August 2013
It all depends how you look at it.. it's not only about the sword fight training.. it's a philosophy of every day life situations.
Simple but effective ways of approaching any obstacles (enemies)…
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on 13 May 2013
Probably the best coaching manual ever devised. My handbook for sport and life. Not an 'easy read' for 'a quick fix', so if you just play games look for the 'elastoplast type' of book, THIS IS A BOOK FOR SERIOUS PEOPLE.
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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 about this book not being for 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.

I do believe William Scott Wilson's translation has to be one of the best of the various ones available. Although there are cheaper copies of this particular translation available, so look around for Willam's name. However, this hardback version uses a very pleasing typescript that is easy one the eye.

Don't be put off by ANY of the negative criticisms below, 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
Unlike the dozens of other translations of The Book of Five Rings, this one also contains The Life-Giving Sword: Secret Teachings from the House of Shogun by Yagyu Munenori (A contemporary of Musashi). How's that for value for money?!

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. Thomas Cleary is a prolific writer and well qualified to produce such a translation.

A better and easier to digest version (IMHO) of this small book is Samurai Strategies: 42 Martial Secrets from Musashi's Book of Five Rings 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: Writings of the Zen Master to the Sword Master.
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on 5 November 2001
This is by far the best english translation of Musashi and has more of a feel for the man through the book than any other translation. If you are used to having thought of this book through previous translations your eyes will be opened. Size is important! it fits into a shirt or coat pocket for those quiet moments when insight is elusive.
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William Scott Wilson's translation of Miyamoto Musashi's 17th-century classic work of personal philosophy is in every way excellent, and captures the spirit as well as the meaning of the text to perfection. This small (not quite pocket-size but close) hardcover edition is also a very pleasing artefact and a quality piece of work.

Musashi's work focuses on practicing the `martial arts' - particularly swordsmanship - not from the perspective of learning technique but from internal spiritual development; the ascendancy of `mind' to which all technique must ultimately become subservient.

The `five rings' are in fact five chapters themed:

1. Earth (the South)

2. Water (the East)

3. Fire (the West)

4. Wind (the North)

5. Emptiness (the Center: all action and response is most effective when preceded by emptiness - i.e. no internal noise, no preconceptions; "this must be learned")

Each themed chapter incorporates short paragraphs explaining a specific aspect of how to win a contest or fight. For example, in the `Fire' ring, on `Imposing Fear:'

"...the heart of fear is in the unexpected...you do not frighten your opponents with what is right before their eyes. People may be frightened by voices...or by making the small seem large...something coming suddenly from the side also induces fear. You can frighten an opponent with your body, with your sword or with your voice. It is essential to do this suddenly, when your opponent is not expecting it. Take advantage of his fear and gain the victory immediately."

Musashi was allegedly self-taught, and learned everything through his own experience, introspection and native intelligence. The `Book of Five Rings' is not meant to be some kind of bible, but continuously exhorts the reader to "investigate this thoroughly" and do his own work, taking Musashi's guidelines as a starting point to guard against fatal errors.

The power of Musashi's work is in its conciseness and its completeness. He is reported to have written this text in his final two years, around age 60, to summarise and condense the essence of a lifetime of success in the martial arts. It was considered vital in that age for a respected Samurai to be not just an accomplished fighter but a poet, artist, ceramicist and philosopher; learned and accomplished in many things. The book contains some of Musashi's best-known sketches and artworks, including one of his self-portraits and the very famous, powerfully minimalist 'Shrike on a withered branch'.

Overall, if you want a good translation of this timeless classic, this edition can be unconditionally recommended as a fine choice.
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on 12 November 2008
Based on my readings, Musashi's motive in writing his Book of Five Rings had been to correct misrepresentations of his views on swordsmanship by his contemporaries. Having become a legend in his own time, Musashi's reputation was being exploited by ambitious rivals claiming to have adopted the master's martial techniques and philosophies. Thus Book of Five Rings was intended by its author to establish his point of view for correcting misconceptions.

Those in America who've been advocating since 1974 to study Book of Five Rings to gain some business advantage over Japanese businessmen are barking up the wrong tree. Musashi's writings are poetic and thought provoking. Indeed, one can even learn something new and ancient about strategy from the master. It is, however, doubtful that Musashi's words can make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. So then those in the 1970s who had originally marketed the book as "the alternative to the Harvard MBA" were barking up the wrong tree.

In addition to the charming and useful writings, the original (1974 English translation) Book of Five Rings includes photos of the master swordsman's quite beautiful art work, now residing in Japan in a museum dedicated to Musashi works.
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on 12 January 1998
Well, this is one of the greatest books ever written on strategy. But a great deal of it is highly technical and not easily understood by people without extensive background in the Japanese martial arts - I lived in Japan for 3 years, have studied over 10 year and make no claims to understand it. I used to ask my Sensei about it and he would just laugh - it was deliberately written to be obscure. I think you ought read it, enjoy it, know that most business managers (Japan or America) do not understand it and all the hype about it as a business text is BS.
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This tantalisingly brief book gives half of the teaching of an almost legendary Samurai duellist. Where is the other half? Lost. As the author reminds us again and again, the five scrolls are there to support the oral, technical teaching which he gave his students.
This is at once admirable and frustrating. As a fencing coach, I know that only a part of my work is to explain attitudes, tactics and techniques. The greater part is to teach, train and coach the individual student, building on what they find comes naturally and developing what they find difficult. At the same time, the original School of Two Swords, as he styles it, is long in the past and although we can capture the modern tradition, we cannot learn from the master.
The Book of Five Rings is about much more than swordplay, though. We are led again and again from a principle derived in individual combat to large scale military strategy. Likewise, each of the five spheres is aimed at developing the correct attitude, with technique merely being secondary.
The underlying theme of this book is 'winning by all means possible'. This, and the other principles of the Way of Two Swords, have many applications to other ways of engaging an opponent in today's environment.
Nonetheless, I finished this book with one regret - 'if only I could have met him'.
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