It’s pretty hard to talk about distant cultures, especially if we have to dig deep into history to find what really happened. Some stories just seem so unbelievable that we consider them as fairytales, but people as extraordinary as Musashi Miyamoto existed. And they still exist.
Musashi is a famous Japanese samurai, a brave and honest warrior, swordsman, writer, strategist and philosopher. The most interesting thing about him is that he is an undefeated swordsman. I will tell you a bit about his life, duels and wise words he said, and conjure up a bigger picture about his accomplishments.
His full name was Shinmen Musashi no Kami Fujiwara no Genshin, and his childhood name was either Bennosuke or Takezo. Anyway, he took his name from Miyamoto village, a place where he was born. He was born in a samurai family, so his father taught him about swordsmanship and other fighting techniques, but his uncle (who was a monk) taught him to read, write, and of course, a lot about Zen-Buddhism, which was critical for him to start writing.
Unfortunately, at that time, his father was very harsh towards him. No one knows what actually happened when Musashi was about 10, because he was sent to live in a temple with his uncle. His father maybe died in a duel, or due to sickness. Musashi didn’t stay there for long, though. At age 16, he set off on a journey to master his fighting skills. He participated in several war battles as well.
He was strong-willed. He was light-headed. He wasn’t in two minds about anything. Maybe a bit cruel, but that is an essential trait of every sword-wielder. During his pilgrimage, he was a wielder of two so-called bokken (wooden swords used for training) and didn’t care about his opponents’ weapon. He traveled a lot and mastered his skills trough dueling, adopting two kids that accompanied him for some time.
“I have trained in the way of strategy since my youth, and at the age of thirteen, I fought a duel for the first time. My opponent was called Arima Kihei, a sword adept of the Shinto ryū, and I defeated him. At the age of sixteen, I defeated a powerful adept by the name of Akiyama, who came from Tajima Province. At the age of twenty-one, I went up to Kyōtō and fought duels with several adepts of the sword from famous schools, but I never lost.” — Miyamoto Musashi
One of his most famous duels was against Sasaki Kojiro, “The Demon of the Western Provinces” and this was a quick duel. An interesting facts is that Musashi frequently was late to his duels. Some say that he did it on purpose, to enrage his opponents. Also, he applied for a position on various castles as a guard and advisor, but it failed, resulting in another traveling period in 1627.
For other samurai, he left a two-sword kenjutsu technique called niten’ichi (“two heavens as one”)
“Do nothing which is of no use.”
Musashi wrote a script called “Thirty-five Instructions on Strategy”; this work formed the basis for the later “The Book of Five Rings”. Then, as he got sick, he retired in a cave and wrote his biggest work, which he finished in 1645. Down below, you can see some of his incredible paintings and sculptures.
“Perceive that which cannot be seen with the eye.”
He stated that, as a warrior, you should understand other professions as well, and talked about strategy. He argues that strategy and virtue are something that can be earned by life experience. Apart from that, he separated religion and swordsmanship.
“There are many ways: Confucianism, Buddhism, the ways of elegance, rice-planting, or dance; these things are not to be found in the way of the warrior”
What can we learn from him?
Reading his book, you realize that his strategies can be implemented in real life. In modern life. Nothing has changed, and the way Musashi fought in battles is just pure life strategy. I truly recommend his book. You may think it’s outdated, but it’s not. He can teach you about the importance of self-discipline, in order to achieve the life you always wished for. I will try to prove my statements by adding more of his quotes:
“In fighting and in everyday life you should be determined though calm.”
“Think lightly of yourself and deeply of the world.”
“It may seem difficult at first but everything is difficult at first.”
“If you wish to control others you must first control yourself.”
“You must understand that there is more than one path to the top of the mountain.”
It’s wonderful that men this wise lived such a long time ago, and they can still teach us, if we seek knowledge from them. Learn from a true warrior, strategist, artist or philosopher: whatever suits you.