The Book of Five Rings

Today is victory over yourself of yesterday; tomorrow is your victory over lesser men.Musashi Miyamoto

This read came from no direct recommendation; rather it had been floating in the back of my mind for at least a couple of decades, ever since I got interested in kung-fu and The Art of War. I think most of the men my age who developed Asian fetishes were at least peripherally aware of the legendary swordsman. His book, perhaps less so.

As far as “manuals every tactician should have in their bookcase” go, this one was not exactly rich with nuggets of wisdom. It was like trying to pick scraps of flesh from a chicken drumstick that had already been given the once-over by a hungry alley cat.

The book is more of a primer on sword fighting, particularly Miyamoto’s signature longsword + short sword dual-wield style, and he abstracts the lessons he learned from going undefeated in sixty-one duels to warfare. However, most chapters end with, “I cannot explain this well in words, you must incessantly drill the lesson to fully understand.” Unfortunately, it seems that an aspirant would have to survive at least a few life-or-death clashes to really pick up what Musashi was laying down.

Fortunately, the book is slim and easily read in a handful of sessions, though I think that a student of tactics would be better served by reading the Art of War or Bruce Lee’s Tao of Jeet Kune Do.


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