A Book of Five Rings
Thoughts by: Dan Preston,
Arthur Goju Ryu Karate Dojo
“you should not have any special fondness for any particular weapon” M.M.
Musashi uses the comparison of carpentry to martial arts, in not just mastering your craft and
tools but in also teaching. A master carpenter would teach his students the proper steps to
assemble a house as a I would teach a student. Teaching them one thing at a time in an
effective manner. “It is impossible to reverse the direction of a large group of people all at once,
while the small scale is hard to know because in the case of an individual there is just one will
involved and changes can be made quickly.” While Musashi was talking about a battlefield I feel
this is applicable to teaching a class as well. I find it much easier teaching and correcting an
individual than a group. A group of children are much harder to control than a single child.
As a carpenter would keep various useful implements in their tool box. We keep the knowledge of different striking techniques in our mind. A carpenter would sort through the wood and decide what they would be used for when building a house. We would decide what technique is best for the moment in a fight. Each technique has a purpose in mind just like a carpenter has tools. You would not use a hammer to smooth out a piece of wood, one might not try to kick one's opponent in the face in an actual fight. There is just a better tool for the job.
“In strategy your spiritual bearing must not be any different from normal. Both in fighting and in
everyday life you should be determined though calm” M.M.
In the water scroll the first thing talked about is your state of mind. Whether it be walking down
the street or sparing, your state of mind should be the same, it should be relaxed. You should
be aiming to be able to react to situations without needing to think and perceive things without
having to focus on it. This of course needs a trained and disciplined mind, “The mind is not
dragged by the body, the body is not dragged by the mind”. You need a strong body to
accompany the strong mind.
Musashi states a certain way your face to look, If you have a Serene expression on your face
through a fight it will very difficult for others see into your mind. It also sounds a lot like what
you should be doing for katas as well. “Lower the shoulders, keep the spine straight, and do not
let the buttocks stick out.” those three things are consistent through all the katas.
“”The true Way of sword fencing is the craft of defeating the enemy in a fight, and nothing other
than this.” M.M.
Throughout the Fire Scroll, It discusses different ways to approach and know your enemy. All
in an effort to attain victory. Musashi discusses the lay of the physical situation, how you want
to keep the sun to your back, have the higher ground and get your opponents into obstacles.
Like when you are sparing multiple opponents, you want to line them up so you are only having
to focus on one opponent at a time.
I believe that a Kiai would cause both an upset and a threat, as Musashi calls them. Causing a
burst of energy in the technique and frightening an untrained opponent, and make yourself
seem larger than you are. As the opponent re-adjusts you would want to continue the assault to
In my eye’s crushing is a very useful tool for myself, not necessarily because my opponent
would be weaker than me skills wise. But because of my physical build, it’s a lot easier to rush
and quickly overwhelm and defeat my opposition. But of course there will always be people
bigger than myself, and like the mountain and sea changing. A change in tactics would be
needed if I can’t do it the first time.
“there is no such thing as the ultimate guard. It is only a matter of understanding it’s effective
qualities in your heart and mind” M.M.
The Wind Scroll starts by covering specific schools of swordsmanship and how they are flawed.
Those flaws being that they prefer one thing over another. You want to be well trained in all
aspects and do not want to be biased towards a style or technique over another. All techniques
should be carefully examined and thoroughly practiced.
While discussing where your eyes should be, Musashi talks about two ways of perception
Observing and seeing. The observing eye is more superior, being able to see the state of the
fight. When facing multiple opponents you don’t necessarily have to see them to observe them
with your mind’s eye. Your eyes should focus on the hearts and minds of the people involved.
Which to me, means it doesn’t matter where you set your eyes as long as your observing your
opponents and the situation with them.
“Of course, emptiness does not exist. Knowing of non-existence while knowing of existence is
Emptiness is not a state of unknowing, but a state of no obscurity. Only when you have learned
everything have you achieved true emptiness, because you will know everything. There is
nothing left to learn. For example doing a kata you have practiced a thousand times shows this. You move without needing to think, but you move exactly the way you intended to. I believe that is a brief moment of emptiness. True emptiness is impossible to truly achieve, but yet is something to always strive for... not just in martial arts but in even day to day life.
In conclusion, to follow the true path of martial arts, one is to be unbiased, calm in mind and
body, thoroughly trained, and have excessively examined his techniques, as well -- without a
doubt in their victory.