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4.5 out of 5 stars
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4.5 out of 5 stars
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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 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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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 21 September 2006
I first borrowed this book from my Sensei about ten years ago and his copy was an old copy (hardback tenth printing 1970's) and it fascinated me. It is a philosophical book, written by Miyamoto Musashi, one of the most feared Samurai of his time. This undefeated warrior who killed his first man when he was just 12 years old shares his thoughts and feelings in great depth on the strategy of not only martial arts and kendo but on the strategy of life. The lessons in this book can be used not only in every day life but taken to a business perspecive. I would say of all the martial arts books I have came across this one has the most meaning for me. I would also recommend trying to get an older copy as there are slight variations in the newer texts and some paintings Musashi did are omited but start with a new one if its all you can get. This book is deep and not an easy read unless you have time and a real passion for the Martial arts but anyone who starts it will never forget it.

" If there is a way involving the spirit of not being defeated, to help oneself and gain honour, it is the way of strategy."
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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 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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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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on 24 January 2004
Having won over sixty duels, many with only a wooden practice sword, Musashi's credibilty and authority on the subject of mortal combat cannot be questioned. The Book of Five Rings outlines his lifelong attitude to competition of any kind, and I for one gobbled it up. As an aspiring martial artist with a particular affilation for the sword, Musashi has long been a hero of mine, and although from a Western perspective we could bring into question the morality of his life, we can undoubtedly benefit from the wisdom he gleaned from his experiences and learn from him. I also think it is important not to get carried away by the current trend to try and see classic eastern works as definitive articles on modern business strategy. This excellent edition also includes a treatise by the head of the Yagyu family (famous for their swordsmanship) which is well worth a read. Top marks all round.
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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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