“The Book Of Five Rings” – Book Review

book of five rings

Today is victory over yourself of yesterday. Tomorrow is your victory over lesser men.

-Miyamoto Musashi

The Book of Five Rings is an interesting text on strategy written by Japanese swordsman Miyamoto Musashi.

The book describes *the way* which is broken down into five separate components:

  • Earth (timing)
  • Water (balance/flexibility)
  • Fire (methods)
  • Wind (knowledge of self & opponent)
  • Void (the unseen/human nature).

While Mushashi focuses specifically on military strategy, his overall philosophy serves as a useful guideline for other areas of life. It’s best to look past the specifics in order to absorb its broader message.

Every single day is a battle of sorts, and without proper knowledge you will never see victory.

Earth (Timing):

The way of strategy is the way of nature – working with the forces at play will let your strikes have maximum efficiency.

From one thing, you can know ten thousand things.

As one warrior, you can easily defeat ten times as many opponents with the right techniques. When you attain THE WAY OF STRATEGY, there won’t be a single thing you can’t see.

Training must be a part of your everyday life, with your spirit remaining consistent throughout. If you stray from your course regularly, divergence will lead to your downfall.

Becoming versed in *the way* will have you realize everything entails rising and falling *timing*. Knowing when to strike demands an intuitive feel for the things under the surface.

If you don’t look at things on a big scale, it will be hard for you to master strategy.

Water (Balance/Flexibility):

Life’s about *balance*.

An elevated spirit is weak and a low spirit is weak. You must adapt your form to your situation. There’s no separation between life and war, therefore your everyday stance must be your fighting stance.

Attitude applies even when there’s no enemy.

Both single combat and large-scale strategy are made up of the same elements. You have to be able to see both sides at once.

The warrior recognizes the overall *process* at work.

He walks the thousand mile road one step at a time.

Danger, hardship, and surprise all cause you to lose balance.

The spirit of the warrior is achieved by coming to terms with the nature of the universe.

Fire (Methods):

When you attain the way, what remains in your path to greatness is your ability to implement your knowledge.

Taking the lead allows you to dictate the terms to your enemy – ultimately having them play with the cards you’ve dealt. This makes it much easier to win.

Always use natural advantages.

Focus more on countering your enemy’s strengths so his weaknesses shine through.

When you know *the way*, your path becomes illuminated.

Taking action must always take place at the most advantageous junction possible, saving you from strife and wasted resources.

Avoid all useless actions – they will corrupt your rhythm, contributing to an untimely death.

Without the correct principle, the fight cannot be won. Win through the wisdom of strategy. -M.M.

Wind (Knowledge Of Self & Opponent):

It’s hard to know yourself if you don’t know others. When you recognize your enemy’s intentions, there will be many opportunities for victory.

A group is much easier to predict than an individual. At the same time, a single individual says a lot about the group he belongs to.

If you find yourself on even terms with your enemy, you must take an alternative route.

Never play into your enemy’s frame. Attacking quickly and thoughtlessly without knowing the enemy’s spirit will make your own rhythm deranged.

Throwing out bait will let you take note of your enemy’s reaction.  You must observe the changing circumstances and seek to use them to your utmost advantage.

Complete and total victory requires you to conquer your enemies both in body and in spirit.

Void (The Unseen/Human Nature):

We see many unseen things on a conscious level.

There are always larger forces at play that take place below the surface. Fixating on details should never cause you to neglect things of importance. Compare the micro to the macro.

When you come to understand *the way*, you see immediate circumstances don’t always matter.

Trod firmly – avoid jumpiness, avoid indecision, and avoid playing into the enemy’s frame.

The number one priority is victory above all else.

There’s no room for deviation from the way of the warrior.

Closing Thoughts

*The way* is comprised of many elements of game such as frame control, high-value posture, selective honesty, adaptive form, and understanding of the big picture.

You must always strive to work with nature in the most optimal way possible.

Utilizing natural forces gives you a significant advantage because most of the heavy lifting is already done for you.

The person who uses power most effectively will emerge victorious.

P.S. Read The Book of Five Rings.


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