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Thread: Book of Five Rings trans Stephen F. Kaufman

  1. #1
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    Book of Five Rings trans Stephen F. Kaufman

    Anybody on the forum read this book? I've studied it extensively (about 8-9), and its had a profound effect on how I look at martial arts. Yet I find very few people ever read it or heard of the swordsman Miyamoto Musashi.
    I first picked it up when I was 13/14yrs old and I have to say it has molded my views such that I have very little to relate to when talking to other martial artist. It appears that most take martial arts as a "hobby", "recreation", or for "sport". This isn't intended as a dis for those who take their art seriously just stateing my observation.
    The only other person who has read it and took it to heart was an old friend from HS, and we are getting back together for training. It appears that he is haveing the same problem with finding others that take martial arts more seriously.

    The book itself has no visual demostrations of how to use a sword, or how to implement strategy. Even the author/translator states himself that he does not agree with his view because of current times. I find it rather pratical if used in context (for warriors).
    Since the book itself is a dicussion of war, tactics, and weapons. I will reframe from open conversation since I want to discuss modern weapons (especially swords in todays modern world), tactics, and current mental attitudes as well, but I invite anybody for a PM. Feel free to post opinions as long as they stay within forum rules.
    "Considerate la vostra semenza:
    fatti non foste a viver come bruti,
    ma per seguir virtute e canoscenza."
    Inferno Canto XXVI, Verse 118-120 by Dante Alighieri

  2. This is a profound and important work in the history of swordsmanship, but it can be problematic to take it out of context. Try reading Kenji Tokitsu's biography of Musashi, which includes translations of Musashi's lesser-known other books. And do a Youtube search for "Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu"- you'll find a number of videos of Musashi's school, which still survives to this day. In my experience, people often get a very different picture of Musashi's style if they rely solely on reading "Five Rings"- in reality, it's a lot like other Japanese sword arts.
    "Am fear a thug buaidh air fhein, thug e buaidh air namhaid."

  3. #3
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    I figured that his technique wouldn't vary much from other schools seeing that man hasn't evolved much (biologically). Like Bruce Lee said "unless man have three arm and four legs martial art is the same." A strike is a strike, punch a punch, parry a parry, and a block a block. Even in todays world a flank is still a flank.
    I have read a biography on Musashi from the author stated above (Stephen F. Kaufman) and he was a very exceptional man to say the least. I have not read his other books but have read others such as Hagakuri, The Life Giveing Sword, Iai, The Art of War, and many others on the subject of martial arts (military arts).
    It is my impression that the book was written to help develope proper attitude for warriors in training, and is open to interpretation. However it is my impression that many don't take swordsmanship the way ancients did in their practice. Few people nowdays would think of using a sword in modern combat because of modern technological improvements in weaponry.
    Even in this forum a sword is considered a nostalgic piece used for educating others in the ways of past societies and tactics, or for entertainment in plays and movie productions.
    Even todays modern militaries have abandoned its use and the only branch (that I know of) that still has it in their charter of arms is the Marine Corps, and its used to signify rank for Officers. The sword being issued is mostly decorative.
    Those who say it outdated technology and have no purpose in todays world (in my opinion, and no disrespect) have little understanding of its function and purpose. If one does not understand the tools of their trade then how can they accomplish their intended goal? Just like you don't put a spearman with the line of archers, so to, you don't use a 5" knife to fell a large tree. You use an axe for the task at hand.
    Weapons are the tools of trade for warriors. Just like paint is for an artist or hammers, files, ect. for a blacksmith. Has the passage of time been so cruel as to lose the true meaning of what a warrior is?
    "Considerate la vostra semenza:
    fatti non foste a viver come bruti,
    ma per seguir virtute e canoscenza."
    Inferno Canto XXVI, Verse 118-120 by Dante Alighieri

  4. This is what I mean about understanding the context. Musashi didn't write his book for the education of warriors in general but for the education of a very specific warrior who was his direct disciple. He never intended the book to be read by a wider audience, and specifically instructed his disciple to burn it when he was done reading it. The desciple memorized it, burned it, then wrote it down again from memory. So although it is true that there is some room for interpretation of his words, the interpretation was supposed to happen within the context of his own personal instruction which the student had already received. When Musashi said "think that this was written especially for you," he meant that literally because it was. (Although he did give very similar documents to other disciples as well.)

    The books you've listed are all interesting or significant in one way or another, but there's a lot more out there to read. Since you're interested in Musashi, start with the Tokitsu biography- it will tell you a lot, and the translation is much better than Kaufman's.

    Most people here take their training more seriously than you may realize. For one thing, many of them have read every book you mentioned on this topic plus a few hundred more. Once you've really read widely and deeply on the subject of swordsmanship and martial culture, I think you'll see some of those books in a very different light.
    "Am fear a thug buaidh air fhein, thug e buaidh air namhaid."

  5. #5
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    I find your perception of it a bit odd; it is one of the most well known books of it's genre even being a bit of a fad in the business world and as such mentioned and reviewed in mainstream publications; eg: Time Magazine: "On Wall Street, when Musashi talks, people listen."

    So only millions of Americans are aware of it....I'm not a martial artist and I own a copy and have read it.

    Thomas
    Last edited by Thomas Powers; 01-24-2011 at 03:12 PM.

  6. #6
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    I live in a small city with a poor education system in place, and talking to the average grunt (even with combat experiance) doesn't have understanding neccesary to have an intellectual conversation. It makes it even harder when they don't understand when to properly use a weapon.
    I've read plenty of books and even my ballistics, anatomy, Machiavelli, ect, and I'm always looking for more. I know there are others that take their art seriously the question is how many? Reading the book On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society by Dave Grossman taught me that 3% of males are predisposed to agression, and 1/3 can accept a military lifestyle. They can carry out the act of killing with very little emotional consequence.
    Question is how many actually take martial arts as actual martial arts? I'm not saying I'm the best that would be arrogant. The possibility of defeat is always constant.
    The forms you practice is intended to destroy the opponent is it not? And a martial artist one has to consider all aspects of his art no? In todays modern world how many have taken swordsmanship and considered todays battlefield? All weapons are warriors weapons. Maybe people have considered these things but I have not meet them.
    If your studying to be a swordsman wouldn't you want to test your skills in actual combat? Why else would you practice such an art if you did not intend to destroy the enemy in combat?
    I will consider the book you have refrenced, but first I must attend to current studies which will be building a 1911 and proper load devolopment.
    I would like to talk to a swordsman that has considered these things is all, modern weapons, tactics, and especially psychological studies as of recent. A swordsmans studies weapons, war, and people do they not?
    "Considerate la vostra semenza:
    fatti non foste a viver come bruti,
    ma per seguir virtute e canoscenza."
    Inferno Canto XXVI, Verse 118-120 by Dante Alighieri

  7. The sword is no longer a weapon of war because in modern warfare it has no use that would not be better served by another weapon. To daydream about using the sword in combat in the modern world is just a fantasy, and not a healthy one.

    Even Musashi, after his duel with Sasaki Kojiro, stopped killing his opponents. Why do you think that is? Could it have something to do with the fact that killing people "with few emotional consequences" is not such a great way to live?

    Have you ever seen a major injury from a bladed weapon up close? Something tells me you have not. Believe me when I tell you that you don't really want to.
    "Am fear a thug buaidh air fhein, thug e buaidh air namhaid."

  8. #8
    ...
    Last edited by k.moralee; 01-25-2011 at 11:23 AM.

  9. #9
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    Your small city is about 10 times *larger* than the one I live in; yet I can find people to discus the most esoteric subjects with. The problem is in the finding of them.

    Have you thought about having a martial arts book club where you read and discuss a work on a regular basis? Setting up a series of questions---the "whys" often create the widest discussions---beforehand. Perhaps a good book to start would be Zen Flesh Zen Bones, especially the story of the gates of heaven and hell...

    The issue is to meet the right people. Have you talked with the local Veterans groups to see if anyone who has been in combat may want to discuss it with you?
    Are there any WMA groups around? Are you exploring going into the military?

    Are you wanting to prove things to others or only to yourself?

    BTW the research on warfare has shown that killing an enemy is often less "beneficial" than merely wounding them. A focus on death is not the way to victory!
    Thomas Powers
    CoFounder of the Intergalactic Union of Bladesmiths
    "when you forge upon a star"---you better have your union card handy!

  10. #10
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    Yes I have talk to combat veterans and they are very helpful in discussion about modern firearms, and their usage. When soldiers where going into the trenches in Vetnam they found that using the standerd inssue 1911 in .45acp created to loud of a noise signiture, and often caused deafness. Many were forced to use only knives and a flash light when entering these trenches. Some that were lucky opted for smaller calibers like 38special revolvers. This is a real life situation that limits the use firearms.
    An other situation is your firearms runs out of ammo and your still being engaged by the enemy so what do you do while the distance on you? The possibility of retreat may not always be existant.
    Liveing a life killing others with little emotional consequence may not be the best way to life, but it is a reality for many people today. Why do you think samurai practiced art, music, poetry, pottery, and other fine arts in times of peace. This is something we neglect teaching our soldiers today which is to be able to function in normal sociaty after experienceing combat.
    A tracker named Tom Brown used to teach American soldiers how to infiltrate, track, and kill with nothing more than a knife being used. All without leaving a trace behind of their presence. This man however never served in the military or experienced combat. Yet his techniques were taught to some of the best soldiers the military had to offer.
    An other factor to consider in you dealing with men is encountering a man who is criminaly minded. As defined in the book Understanding the Criminal Mind by Stanton Samenow. He describes them as a group of people who commit criminal acts not for money, power, revenge, or anything logical in our terms, but commits these acts for the simple pleasure of doing something wrong.
    I'm going to share an incident that happened to a friend of mine last year. One day he decides to go quading in the brush behind the local Walmart here on 32street (foothills). He sees a van parked out there and man dropping something in the dirt. He is spotted and he enters his vehicle and drives off at high speeds. He goes in for a look and finds a young girl (12-14yrs) and she is badly beaten. Body is swollen black and blue. Teeth are missing and her breathing is rasping while she lays there unconsciouses.
    Before he has time to call 911 a vehicle similar to the one that just comes around, and a man exites his motormobil asking "Is she ok? I will take her to hospital you don't have to call the cops." He responds "If I'm not calling police then I need you driver license number, name, and license plate."
    The man reaches into his pocket and pulls out a semiautomatic pistol (model caliber not recognised), and is now faceing a loaded gun. The unkown male takes the girl puts her in the vehicle and drives away. Till this day he doesn't know what happened to her. He experienced this despite not being LEO, Military, or even a security officer.
    Here in Arizona we have something called castle laws which permites a citizen to use deadly force to protect yourself, or an other in a life threatening situation. If he had been armed (knife, sword, gun, or whatever is at hand) with proper training she may be in good health today. Would this not be a situation where the ability to kill may have been commited for a greater perceived good? If one were to die in this situation would it not be considered a noble death?
    In Bushido (developed in times of peace: Meji I think) teaches virtues of compassion, politness, a sense of justice, and fortitude. Yet these virtues are useless unless one has the courage to carry out such acts.
    Do I have something to prove? I don't think so. This is merelya conversation where ideas are being shared in which they may/may not be accepted by others participating or reading the presented texts. Have I seen wounds by a knife? Yes. Have I experienced knife wounds? Yes. Have I seen cuts and serrations on others? Yes. Have I used a firearms to take life? Yes, I'm a hunter and when your going after a mountain lion (weight can get as high as 150lbs and they may reach lengths of up to 8ft long) you might question your place in the food chain. Have I used a weapon to take an other man's life? No, and don't plane on it unless I have good cause to do so.
    IMHO I think people should understand certain realities, and especially so for martial artist. Truth is men follow their own justified path whether it is truely a Justified path remains to be seen by the individual in question.
    The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri as translated by Allen Mandelbaum states "He who judges the world Love Justice". But it also states that it is love that brings about man's salvation or his damnation so one is to attend to the greater works of love first.
    An example of love being to used to bring about ruin can be found in Canto XVII, Verses 112-123 book of Purgatorio reads as follows
    "Thus, if I have distinguished properly,
    ill love must mean to wish one's neighbor ill;
    and this love's born in three ways in your clay.
    There's he who, through abasement of another,
    hopes for supremacy; he only longs
    to see his neighbor's excellence cast down.
    Then there is one who, when he is outdone,
    fears his own loss of fame, power, honor, favor;
    his sadness loves misfortune for his neighbor.
    And there is he who, over injury
    received, resentful, for revenge grows greedy
    and, angrily, seeks out another's harm."
    It is of my opinion that a martial artist should hold certain virtues to heart, and keep certain realities in mind. There a great a many evil men in the world whos actions effects many people in a negative way. Take for example De Beers Diamonds who holds 70% of the worlds diamond reserve. Yet this very common item is then held vaults and trinkled out in a attemp to maximise profites. Although they themselves don't commite acts of genocide they create a enviroment where such conditions thrive.
    Am I saying go out and become a vigilante? No, but something must be done improve our fellow man. But it is hard to make progress when current laws, ties to power, prevent such progress from being made. Think why were the merchant class placed at the bottem of the Hierarchy in feudal Japan? This class produces nothing but profite from others hard work. Yet who hold majority of todays power?
    Cut the head off a snake and the body dies, and it has been a long arguement of why not kill one man to prevent many other lives from being lost. The question remains what is to be done with ones skill as a warrior? If you choose to do nothing with your skill then just keep in mind that the only thing needed for evil to truimph is for good men to stand idly by.
    If you want to cast your doubts then so be it. You are entitled to your opinion just as I, but I do have good reason for haveing them.
    "Considerate la vostra semenza:
    fatti non foste a viver come bruti,
    ma per seguir virtute e canoscenza."
    Inferno Canto XXVI, Verse 118-120 by Dante Alighieri

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Luis R. View Post
    Yes I have talk to combat veterans and they are very helpful in discussion about modern firearms, and their usage. When soldiers where going into the trenches in Vetnam they found that using the standerd inssue 1911 in .45acp created to loud of a noise signiture, and often caused deafness. Many were forced to use only knives and a flash light when entering these trenches. Some that were lucky opted for smaller calibers like 38special revolvers. This is a real life situation that limits the use firearms.
    An other situation is your firearms runs out of ammo and your still being engaged by the enemy so what do you do while the distance on you? The possibility of retreat may not always be existant.
    Liveing a life killing others with little emotional consequence may not be the best way to life, but it is a reality for many people today. Why do you think samurai practiced art, music, poetry, pottery, and other fine arts in times of peace. This is something we neglect teaching our soldiers today which is to be able to function in normal sociaty after experienceing combat.
    A tracker named Tom Brown used to teach American soldiers how to infiltrate, track, and kill with nothing more than a knife being used. All without leaving a trace behind of their presence. This man however never served in the military or experienced combat. Yet his techniques were taught to some of the best soldiers the military had to offer.
    An other factor to consider in you dealing with men is encountering a man who is criminaly minded. As defined in the book Understanding the Criminal Mind by Stanton Samenow. He describes them as a group of people who commit criminal acts not for money, power, revenge, or anything logical in our terms, but commits these acts for the simple pleasure of doing something wrong.
    I'm going to share an incident that happened to a friend of mine last year. One day he decides to go quading in the brush behind the local Walmart here on 32street (foothills). He sees a van parked out there and man dropping something in the dirt. He is spotted and he enters his vehicle and drives off at high speeds. He goes in for a look and finds a young girl (12-14yrs) and she is badly beaten. Body is swollen black and blue. Teeth are missing and her breathing is rasping while she lays there unconsciouses.
    Before he has time to call 911 a vehicle similar to the one that just comes around, and a man exites his motormobil asking "Is she ok? I will take her to hospital you don't have to call the cops." He responds "If I'm not calling police then I need you driver license number, name, and license plate."
    The man reaches into his pocket and pulls out a semiautomatic pistol (model caliber not recognised), and is now faceing a loaded gun. The unkown male takes the girl puts her in the vehicle and drives away. Till this day he doesn't know what happened to her. He experienced this despite not being LEO, Military, or even a security officer.
    Here in Arizona we have something called castle laws which permites a citizen to use deadly force to protect yourself, or an other in a life threatening situation. If he had been armed (knife, sword, gun, or whatever is at hand) with proper training she may be in good health today. Would this not be a situation where the ability to kill may have been commited for a greater perceived good? If one were to die in this situation would it not be considered a noble death?
    In Bushido (developed in times of peace: Meji I think) teaches virtues of compassion, politness, a sense of justice, and fortitude. Yet these virtues are useless unless one has the courage to carry out such acts.
    Do I have something to prove? I don't think so. This is merelya conversation where ideas are being shared in which they may/may not be accepted by others participating or reading the presented texts. Have I seen wounds by a knife? Yes. Have I experienced knife wounds? Yes. Have I seen cuts and serrations on others? Yes. Have I used a firearms to take life? Yes, I'm a hunter and when your going after a mountain lion (weight can get as high as 150lbs and they may reach lengths of up to 8ft long) you might question your place in the food chain. Have I used a weapon to take an other man's life? No, and don't plane on it unless I have good cause to do so.
    IMHO I think people should understand certain realities, and especially so for martial artist. Truth is men follow their own justified path whether it is truely a Justified path remains to be seen by the individual in question.
    The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri as translated by Allen Mandelbaum states "He who judges the world Love Justice". But it also states that it is love that brings about man's salvation or his damnation so one is to attend to the greater works of love first.
    An example of love being to used to bring about ruin can be found in Canto XVII, Verses 112-123 book of Purgatorio reads as follows
    "Thus, if I have distinguished properly,
    ill love must mean to wish one's neighbor ill;
    and this love's born in three ways in your clay.
    There's he who, through abasement of another,
    hopes for supremacy; he only longs
    to see his neighbor's excellence cast down.
    Then there is one who, when he is outdone,
    fears his own loss of fame, power, honor, favor;
    his sadness loves misfortune for his neighbor.
    And there is he who, over injury
    received, resentful, for revenge grows greedy
    and, angrily, seeks out another's harm."
    It is of my opinion that a martial artist should hold certain virtues to heart, and keep certain realities in mind. There a great a many evil men in the world whos actions effects many people in a negative way. Take for example De Beers Diamonds who holds 70% of the worlds diamond reserve. Yet this very common item is then held vaults and trinkled out in a attemp to maximise profites. Although they themselves don't commite acts of genocide they create a enviroment where such conditions thrive.
    Am I saying go out and become a vigilante? No, but something must be done improve our fellow man. But it is hard to make progress when current laws, ties to power, prevent such progress from being made. Think why were the merchant class placed at the bottem of the Hierarchy in feudal Japan? This class produces nothing but profite from others hard work. Yet who hold majority of todays power?
    Cut the head off a snake and the body dies, and it has been a long arguement of why not kill one man to prevent many other lives from being lost. The question remains what is to be done with ones skill as a warrior? If you choose to do nothing with your skill then just keep in mind that the only thing needed for evil to truimph is for good men to stand idly by.
    If you want to cast your doubts then so be it. You are entitled to your opinion just as I, but I do have good reason for haveing them.
    Luis,

    In your book report and in your initial post you include in closing

    Since the book itself is a dicussion of war, tactics, and weapons. I will reframe from open conversation since I want to discuss modern weapons (especially swords in todays modern world), tactics, and current mental attitudes as well, but I invite anybody for a PM. Feel free to post opinions as long as they stay within forum rules.
    Please do refrain from discussion regarding swords in modern society as weapons. You are offering nothing but loss of liberty as more and more legislation takes more and more freedom as we know it.

    Stick to the book, not analogous possibilities for utilizing Musashi's thoughts as much more than simple philosophies.

    Thanks in advance.

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