A Book of Five Rings

Musashi, Miyamoto

Few works of literature speak almost equally to the businessman, the philosopher, and the practitioner of the martial arts. Musashi's great classic, until now unknown in the West except by reputation, is one which speaks to all three. Famous for over 300 years, A Book of Five Rings is likely the most perceptive guide to strategy ever written. Born in 1584, Miyamoto was destined to become one of Japan's most renowned warriors. He was a Samurai and, by the age of 30, had fought and won more than 60 contests by killing all of his opponents. Satisfied that he was invincible, he then turned to formulating his philosophy of "The Way of the Sword." He wrote A Book of Five Rings (Go Rin No Hso) while living in a cave in the mountains of Kyushu a few weeks before his death in 1645. Influenced by Shinto, Confucianism and Zen, the philosophy can be applied to many areas of life other than Kendo. For example, many entrepreneurial Japanese businessmen use it today as a guide for business practice, running sales campaigns like military operations with the same energy that motivated Musashi. Musashi is known to the Japanese as Kensie or "sword-saint." Though the facts of his life might suggest to American readers that he was a cruel and merciless man, in fact, Musashi relentlessly pursued an honest ideal, and its truth emerges from A Book of Five Rings. It is not a thesis on battle strategy; it is, in Musashi's words, "a guide for men who want to learn strategy" and, as a guide always leads, so its contents seem always just beyond the student's immediate understanding.

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