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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
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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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on 30 July 2004
this book is not about technique, it is his opinions on how the go beond the technique,, its about THE WAY in martial arts (but not just martial arts), its about how to gain the phycological and physical edge USING YOUR OWN TALENT AND EXPERIENCE!!!!!!!!, its about developing as a person, its about the phycological edge you should gain in any confontation, he tells you WHAT instruments you use (eyes, posture ect) to gain the these edges on your apponent,, but not HOW to use them because HIS ideas will not apply to everyone as everyone does a diffent art and even people from the same art fight diffently and are all of on a different path, he stresses everyone should learn their own way. this book gives musashi's opinions on other martial arts and how techniques are learnt that are useless in real battle or confrontation, this is only an opinion of musashi and opinions cannot be rated. It only hapens to be written in the context of martial arts because musashi was a martial artist, but nowadays musicians, business men along with martial artists use this tital. this book is for anyone.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on 16 September 2003
This is a fantastic book. You are recieving a lesson in "the way" from a man who has spent his entire life trying to follow and discover the way. He is not just talking about these things in an abstract mannor he has lived through countless battles and proven his beliefs time and time again. Read this book, then read it again and carry on reading it and taking something new from it each time. The lessons which can be learned are endless.
Listen to the words of a truly great swordsman offering his final lessons to his students for after he is gone.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 1 October 2011
Arrived very quickly and in good condition, a very good translation of this authers writings and I have seen others that are no where near as good and the price is very good. If your really looking for a well written book then you will not go wrong with this publication.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 10 January 2014
It is a very good thought provoking book and there are quite a few good thoughts or reflections to consider, even though it isn't a book to pick up when You're stressed, You have to be in the right frame of mind to see the general idea.
Worth picking if You're trying to make sense of the world
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 21 November 2012
This book is very philosophical, in a practical way. It gives you an invaluable abstract idea of realist approach to challenges.

It's not detailed, it's not in depth but still I love it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 3 February 2013
great condition, arrived in time, very inciteful book. worth more than i paid. well recommended to anyone, merchant, scholar, poet, warrior or student of the arts

many thanks
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on 11 October 2014
A life Changing Read and a book full of philosophy you can apply to everyday life. I was surprised how quick of a read this book was but that adds to the complex masterpiece of the Book of Five Rings. I had to Read the book twice to getter better understanding of Musashi`s way of life and philosophy. This book has great depth and I don't regret paying the hefty price for it, I bought the book originally hoping there would be sword techniques revealed inside. There was none but what I gained from this book was way more valuable... a sharp Mind and a different outlook on life.
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on 10 March 2014
Due to what some other reviewers have said, I should point out that this is NOT an instruction manual on martial arts, it's not full of pretty pictures for you to copy moves from and become a literary kung fu black belt. It's a guide to the mindset that one needs to develop in order to succeed as a complete martialist.
Some people may find it a bit 'deep', but it is really all about simplicity. Don't try to read too much into everything or you will end up making something simple far too complex.
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