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The Book of Five Rings [Paperback]

Miyamoto Musashi
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 22 1994 Shambhala Pocket Classics
Here is one of the most insightful texts on the subtle arts of confrontation and victory to emerge from Asian culture. Written not only for martial artists but for leaders in all professions, the book analyzes the process of struggle and mastery over conflict that underlies every level of human interaction.

The Book of Five Rings —which has become a well-known classic among American business people, studied for its insights into the Japanese approach to business strategy—was composed in 1643 by the famed duelist and undefeated samurai Miyamoto Musashi. Unlike previous editions of The Book of Five Rings, Thomas Cleary's is an accessible translation, free of jargon, with an introduction that presents the spiritual background of the warrior tradition. Along with Musashi's text, Cleary translates another important Japanese classic on leadership and strategy: The Book of Family Traditions on the Art of War by Yagyu Munenori, which highlights the ethical and spiritual insights of Taoism and Zen as they apply to the way of the warrior.

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From Library Journal

Written by legendary Japanese swordsman Musashi, this 17th-century exposition of sword-fighting strategy and Zen philosophy has been embraced by many contemporary readers, especially business school students, as a manual on how to succeed in life. There are many English translations, but every one, including this one, suffers from inadequate cultural, literary, and philosophical commentary. Musashi's work should be studied, not simply read, and Cleary's translation lacks commentary; it also makes the prose seems flat and the philosophy simplistic. Yet what makes this new translation worthwhile is the second text, buried deep in the back like an appendix: Yagyu Munenori's The Book of Family Traditions on the Art of War. This text, also an exposition on sword fighting and Zen philosophy, is difficult to find in an English translation, and its availability is welcome. Recommended for academic libraries generally.
- Glenn Masuchika, Chaminade Univ. Lib., Honolulu
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


"Today's business people will find Thomas Cleary's new translation of The Book of Five Rings—Miyamoto Musashi's 350-year-old martial arts classic—compelling and tantalizingly relevant. Perseverance, insight, self-understanding, inward calm even in the midst of chaos, the importance of swift but unhurried action: Musashi's teachings read like lessons from the latest business management gurus. Who couldn't succeed in business by applying Musashi's insights on conflict and strategy!"—Jeffrey Seglin, Editor, Inc. magazine

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Two great texts in one slim volume March 5 2010
By Thomas Douglas TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This volumes contains very readable translations of The Books of Five Rings by arch Samurai Miyamoto Musashi and The Book of Family Traditions on the Art of War by Yagyu Munenori.

At 192 pages it is a slim book, but it should not be read in one, or even several sittings. This is a book to digest slowly - read a page or two then leave it for a couple of days.

The lessons of the samurai are nothing new - be more determined than your enemy; be better prepared than your enemy; and so on - but there is little new in most management texts and, as with comedy, it is the way you tell it that makes the difference.

The Books of Five Rings has a simple homespun wisdom and talks gently but carries powerful messages. A Buddhist simplicity the focuses the power of the inner self.

It is, by the nature of its author, about confrontation. Not to be used on your kids, but more for competitive business, or sports, or our own personal battles, against weight gain for instance.

Musashi tells us that to be a successful warrior means adopting the correct state of mind, and this book, with its simple rough-hewn lessons, shows us that there can be a victorious warrior within everyone.

This is not a life-changing book, but it is one that will sharpen your edge, and one that you will keep and re-read for a couple of decades, rather than read once and pass on to friends.

Highly recommended. Five stars.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lacking Commentary June 1 2001
Many of these books are difficult to understand because they are meant to be used as study and reference guides along with a teacher. The Book of Five Rings (of which I've read 3 of the 5, and am just a few pages away from finishing) is a treatise describing Musashi Miyamoto's personal school of fighting - the school of two skies. He eschews other schools as too this or too that. They concentrate, he says, on technique rather than what swordfighting is all about - killing your opponent.
The text is dry, and the sections are short. They are intended (a) for swordfighters, and (b) to be meditated on. The principals in this book would take a swordfighter years to master. In fact, at one point he says one should study for about 3 years (he gives a specific number of weeks) and then practice for 30 or so more years.
How does this translate into my life? I'm not sure. I don't have enough of a background in swordfighting, the culture, etc. to know how these concepts apply to my life. If perhaps I had a guide, in the form of commentary, I could more easily integrate these concepts into my life. As is, however, this book isn't of much use to me, except as reference for the day when I do have commentary.
I reccomend, instead, Cleary's Classics of Strategy and Counsel. This trilogy of books includes the Art of War, Mastering the Art of War, The Lost Art of War, The Silver Sparrow Art of War, Thunder in the Sky, The Japanese Art of War, The Book of Five Rings, Ways of Warriors, Codes of Kings (which includes several works), The Art of Wealth, Living a Good Life, The Human Element, and Back to Beginnings.
In addition to the text, there is often commentary, and supplementary material that can put the text in context and aid the student on his or her journey. Amazon lists several of these as the same book...
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4.0 out of 5 stars Timeless April 17 2004
This book has a singleness of mind and directness that are hard to describe. It is about one thing only, and about forging oneself into the tool that can do that one thing.
The writing is earthy and practical. However blunt and direct it may seem, I get the impression that the translator softened its style. The second translation in this book, from about the same time, is more literary, more refined, and alludes to a much wider range of the educated person's reading. Next to Musashi, and embodying so much of what he disdained, it simply looks foppish.
I do technical work. Much of the process of design and debug has the feel of facing intelligent, determined opposition. For that reason, large parts of Musashi's advice seem true and fresh. He advises that a warrior to become master of all tools, not some just some favorite - today, he would call that the "golden hammer." In 'Letting Go Four Hands,' he advises a prompt change of attack when the first assault deadlocks. In 'Mountain and Sea Changing,' he advises against repeating an approach that has already failed against a given opponent. All those are things that work as well in the lab as on the battlefield.
The Five Rings should be in the library of any professional, artist, or technical worker. Cleary's translation is modern and readable. I would give it five stars, except that so many classics from China and Japan discuss not only tactics but strategy as well. It's not about any flaw in this book, but about the excellence of the other books that this one complements.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A sword-fighter's bible. Jan. 30 2000
I've read several books on sword techniques, methods, philosophies, etc... This book takes all that knowledge and adds an edge to it I haven't found anywhere else. It makes you think about your movements, and style of fighting... and answers the questions on things like why the samurai used a long and short sword instead of two long blades.
Musashi fought back when it meant living or dying, and never lost. He wrote the book years after he retired from fighting and tried to capture the very essense of how to win in any situation. This book does not have any pictures of techniques, but it makes you evaluate every technique.
It offers a great deal of knowledge for every day life and even if you never pick up a sword or raise your fists, this book can teach you how to win in life's battles by way of your mind. A great book, and I feel lucky to have it on my shelf... available when I need it.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars awesome: )
this book is in fact two books in one. awesome :)
Published 2 months ago by Christian Lévesque
4.0 out of 5 stars i was reading this book but i had to put ...
i was reading this book but i had to put it down ,i just need some time for myself to get in too it thank you
Published 3 months ago by joseph e calleja
5.0 out of 5 stars Book was recommended
My daughter recommended this book to her father so I ordered it for him and he thoroughly enjoyed it, he would recommend it to other people without hesitation, having said that he... Read more
Published 23 months ago by Bookwurm
2.0 out of 5 stars Vaguely interesting but kind of boring
The subject says it all. I found Sun Tzu's The Art Of War was filled with useful antecdotes and advice, but I found it difficult to concentrate on The Book Of Five Rings. Read more
Published on July 6 2006 by Ouizardus
5.0 out of 5 stars Bonus Material Not Found in Other Translations
This classic text deals with the delicate art of leadership, and was composed originally in 1643 by the famous samurai Miyamoto Musashi. Read more
Published on Feb. 29 2004 by Swing King
5.0 out of 5 stars the book of five rings
This is a great book. You must get this book to become extremly
disciplined. Only great samurai have the ability to master this code and still few suceeded, I for one have... Read more
Published on Feb. 18 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent little book for Martial artists
I bought this book as a martial artist and I feel that it's real
value is as a treatise for those interested in the fighting arts. Read more
Published on Nov. 19 2002 by MR J W KELLY
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent little book for Martial artists
I bought this book as a martial artist and I feel that it's real
value is as a treatise for those interested in the fighting arts. Read more
Published on Nov. 19 2002 by MR J W KELLY
1.0 out of 5 stars boring and full of nonsense
This book was full of ramblings of an old man and will make little sense to anyone reading.
Published on June 4 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling and relevant
Today's business people will find Thomas Cleary's new translation of THE BOOK OF FIVE RINGS -- Miyamoto Musashi's 350-year-old martial arts classic -- compelling and tantalizingly... Read more
Published on Nov. 17 2001 by Jeffrey L. Seglin
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