The Book of Five Rings

Updated: Jan 2, 2019



The Go Rin no Sho of Miyamoto Musashi is arguably one of the greatest texts on classic Japanese swordsmanship, written by one of the greatest swordsman to have ever lived. It has been translated numerous times. It is widely read for general fighting strategy beyond kenjitsu, and its concepts are even applied to business strategy. I've just finished reading the translation with commentary by Kim Taylor. This is the first translation written by someone who trains in Niten Ichi ryu, the sword school of Musashi.

In the past, I have read Steve Kaufman's translation a few times. Written for martial artists, this translation is very good. The esoteric nature of the chapters always left me thinking. Having now read both versions, I prefer Taylor's. His book reads like a student manual. It is clear and concise.

I am a firm believer that if you want to learn a martial art, you need to step onto the dojo floor. Once you've earned some bruises and muscle memory, then expand your knowledge with books and video. I read Kaufman's version prior to training in Niten Ichi ryu. With my background in Karate and Kobudo, I appreciated Musashi's concepts, and tied them to what I knew. Now that I have a little understanding of Niten Ichi ryu, and especially reading Taylor's commentary, the arcane nature of some of Musashi's chapters are now completely demystified. Yes, there are certainly some sections where there is the opportunity for additional interpretations. It is easy to expand Musashi's concepts of fighting with a sword to fighting open-hand, and even negotiating business deals. By and large, Musashi's concepts are made crystal clear with Taylor's commentary. Especially when examples are referenced directly back to the kata of Niten Ichi ryu. If you are looking for Taylor's translation, you can find it here.

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