This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Book of Five Rings" by Miyamoto Musashi. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.
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Are you looking for The Book of Five Rings quotes? How do Miyamoto Musashi’s sword-fighting philosophies relate to the modern day?
In The Book of Five Rings, one of Japan’s most famous Samurai warriors, Miyamoto Musashi (1584-1645), shares his principles for any aspiring warrior wishing to know the true Way of Japanese swordsmanship. Although his book was published in the 17th-century, many of his lessons are still applicable today.
Here are some of the best quotes from The Book of Five Rings with explanations.
Miyamoto Musashi Quotes
Two years before his death, the famous Samurai Miyamoto Musashi retired from dueling and retreated to a cave to write and reflect upon the true Way of the warrior. The resulting book, The Book of Five Rings, contains the key principles of Musashi’s approach, covering a range of topics such as the importance of constant practice, achieving mental and physical equilibrium, and how to defeat any enemy, large or small, in combat. Throughout the work, Musashi emphasizes that the key to a warrior’s success is strategy and discipline, not brute strength or innate talent.
Here are some of the top The Book of Five Rings quotes.
“It is difficult to understand the universe if you only study one planet”
Musashi argues that it’s never enough just to thoroughly know your own strategies during combat: To outwit your competitor and strengthen your own position, you must first thoroughly understand what their strategy is. You must observe your competitor’s strengths and weaknesses and their circumstances, and try to anticipate their next move.
“It is not difficult to wield a sword in one hand; the Way to learn this is to train with two long swords, one in each hand. It will seem difficult at first, but everything is difficult at first.”
After he introduces the key elements of the Way in the Ground Book, Musashi next details his strategies for developing an optimal mental and physical state as a warrior. In the Water Book, he explains how the warrior can train himself both mentally and physically. Musashi names this book the “Water” book because he believes that the ideal warrior needs to be like water. Water can change its form (liquid, mist, ice), and can also adapt to any container it is poured into when it is a liquid. Like water, the ideal warrior must also be adaptable according to circumstances and flexible enough to apply different weapons or techniques. This is called Niten Ichi-ryū, Miyamoto Musashi’s famous two-sword style.
“There is nothing outside of yourself that can ever enable you to get better, stronger, richer, quicker, or smarter. Everything is within. Everything exists. Seek nothing outside of yourself.”
Although Musashi mentions having his own school for aspiring Samurai and writes The Book of Five Rings to explain the Way to others, he nevertheless believes that it is up to each individual to take charge of his own learning. He uses the metaphor of the needle and thread to explain his reasoning: The teacher is the needle, but it is the student, as the thread, who must find a way through the needle in developing and applying his knowledge. In other words, the teacher can facilitate learning, but it is the student’s responsibility to put what he learns into practice.
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Here's what you'll find in our full The Book of Five Rings summary :
- Insights from the famous Samurai Miyamoto Musashi about the Way of the Warrior
- How to apply Musashi’s teachings to your personal and professional lives
- Why success is not based on brute strength or innate talent