The Book of Five Rings 
The Classic Masterpiece by Miyamoto Musashi

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About Miyamoto Musashi

THE WATER BOOK

The spirit of the Ni Ten Ichi school of strategy is based on Water, and this Water Book explains methods of victory as the long-sword form of the Niten Ichi school. Language does not suffice to explain the Way in detail, but it can be grasped intuitively. Study this book; read a word then ponder on it. If you interpret the meaning loosely you will mistake the Way.

The principles of strategy are written down here in terms of single combat, but you must think broadly, so that you attain an understanding for ten-thousand-a-side battles.

Strategy is different from other things in that if you mistake the Way even a little you will become bewildered and fall into bad ways.

You will not reach the Way of strategy by merely reading this book. Absorb the things written in this book. Do not just read, memorize or imitate, but make sure that you realize the principle from within your own heart. Study hard to absorb these things into your body.

Spiritual Bearing in Strategy

In strategy your spiritual bearing must not be any different from normal. In normal times, and in times of combat, try to be no different: Keep your mind broad and straight; do not stretch it taut; do not allow it to grow in the least lax; do not make it lean to one side but hold it at the center; keep it quietly fluid, doing your best to maintain it in a fluid state even while it is fluid.

When you are quiet, your mind shouldn't be quiet; when you are moving fast, your mind shouldn't at all be moving fast. Even when your mind is calm do not let your body relax, and when your body is relaxed do not let your mind slacken. Do not let your spirit be influenced by your body, nor your body be influenced by your spirit. Your mind should lack nothing while having no excess. An elevated spirit is weak and a low spirit is weak. Superficially you may have your mind appear weak, but you must keep it strong inwardly, lest people can tell what you really are. Do not let the enemy see your spirit.

If you have a small body, you must know whatever there is to know about having a large body; if you have a large body, you must know all about having a small body. Whatever your size, you must keep your mind straight and not be misled by knowing only your own body. With your spirit open and unconstricted, look at things from a high point of view. You must cultivate your wisdom and spirit. Polish your wisdom: learn public justice, learn to distinguish between right and wrong, study the Ways of different arts one by one to experience what is sought in each. When you cannot be deceived by anyone you will have acquired judgment in strategy.

The wisdom of strategy is different from other things. On the battlefield, even when you are hard-pressed, you should ceaselessly research the principles of strategy so that you can develop a steady spirit.

Physical Bearing in Strategy

In holding your body, your face shouldn't be downcast or upturned, tilted or twisted. Do not allow your eyes to be distracted easily. Do not knit your brow, but keep the space between your eyebrows wrinkled, lest your eyes roll. Taking care not to blink, narrow your eyes a little. With your face relaxed, keep your nose straight with a feeling of slightly flaring your nostrils, your lower jaw a little forward. As for your head, keep the muscles in back straight, your nape tight. Treat your body from shoulders down as one. Hold both shoulders down, your spine erect. Do not stick your buttocks out. Put strength into your legs from knees to toes. Thrust your belly out lest you bend at the hips. There is something called "wedging-in": you put the weight of your belly on the scabbard of your short sword lest your belt slacken.

On the whole, in strategy it is most important that you regard your normal bearing as the same as your bearing at a time of fighting, and your bearing at a time of fighting as the same as your normal bearing. You must research this well.

The Gaze in Strategy

You eye things in a sweeping, broad fashion. As for the two manners of seeing things, kan [observing] and ken [seeing], the eye for kan is strong, the eye for ken weak; seeing distant things as if they are close at hand and seeing close things as if they are distant is special to the art of fighting. Knowing your opponent’s sword and yet not in the least seeing it [not being distracted by insignificant movements] is important in the art of fighting. You must study this. The gaze is the same for single combat and for large-scale strategy.

It is necessary in strategy to be able to look to both sides without moving the eyeballs. You cannot master this ability quickly. Learn what is written here; use this gaze in everyday life and do not vary it whatever happens.

Holding the Long Sword

Grip the long sword lightly with your thumb and forefinger, with the middle finger neither tight nor slack, and with the last two fingers tight. It is bad to leave slack in your hands.

When you take up a sword, you must do it with the intent of cutting the enemy. As you cut an enemy you must not change your grip, and your hands must not flinch. When you dash the enemy's sword aside, or ward it off, or force it down, you may only change your thumb and forefinger a little. Above all, you must grip the sword with the intent of cutting the enemy.

The grip for combat and for sword-testing is the same, you always grip the sword as if you want to kill a man.

Generally speaking, stiffness is to be avoided, in both sword and hands. Stiffness leads to death. A living hand is flexible. [Another possible reference to Lao Tzu] You must bear this in mind.

Footwork

With the tips of your toes somewhat floating, tread firmly with your heels. Whether you move fast or slow, with large or small steps, your feet should always move naturally as in normal walking. Avoid jumping steps, floating steps and stomping.

An important concept in my school is called complementary ("Yin-Yang") stepping: this means that you do not move one foot alone. You should always move your feet in complementary steps, left-right and right-left when cutting, withdrawing, or warding off a cut. You should not move on one foot alone.

The Five Attitudes

The five attitudes are: Upper, Middle, Lower, Right Side, and Left Side. Although attitude has these five divisions, the one purpose of all of them is to cut the enemy. There are none but these five attitudes.

[Kamae (attitude), from the verb kamaeru: to build, set up, adopt a stance, posture or defensive attitude]

Whatever attitude you are in, do not be conscious of adopting the attitude; think only of cutting.

Your attitude should be large or small according to the situation. Upper, Lower and Middle attitudes are decisive. Left Side and Right Side attitudes are fluid. Left and Right attitudes should be used if there is an obstruction overhead or to one side. The decision to use Left or Right depends on the place.

To understand the essence of the Way, you must thoroughly understand the middle attitude. The middle attitude is the heart of attitudes. If we look at strategy on a broad scale, the middle attitude is the seat of the commander, with the other four attitudes following the commander. You must appreciate this.

The Way of the Long Sword

If we know the Way of the long sword well, we can easily wield the sword we usually carry, even with two fingers.

If you try to wield the long sword unnaturally fast, you are mistaken. To wield the long sword well you must wield it calmly. If you try to wield it quickly, like a folding fan or a short sword, you will deviate from the Way by using what is called "knife whittling". The long sword is hard to wield this way, and you cannot cut down a man efficiently with a long sword in this manner.

When you have cut downwards with the long sword, lift it straight back up along a natural path; when you have cut sideways, return the sword naturally along a sideways path. Always return the sword in a reasonable way. Extend the elbows broadly in a comfortable way, and wield the sword powerfully. This is the Way of the long sword.

If you learn to use the five approaches of my strategy, you will be able to wield a sword well. You must train constantly.

The Five Approaches

1. The first approach is the Middle attitude. Confront the enemy with the point of your sword against his face. When he attacks, dash his sword to the right and "ride" it. Or, when the enemy attacks, deflect the point of his sword by hitting downwards, keep your long sword where it is, and as the enemy renews his attack cut his arms from below. This is the first method.

The five approaches are this kind of thing. You must train repeatedly using a long sword in order to learn them. When you master my Way of the long sword, you will be able to control any attack the enemy makes. I assure you, there are no attitudes other than the five attitudes of the long sword of Ni To.

2. In the second approach with the long sword, from the Upper attitude cut the enemy just as he attacks. If the enemy evades the cut, keep your sword where it is and, scooping up from below, cut him as he renews the attack. It is possible to repeat the cut from here.

In this method there are various changes in timing and spirit. You will be able to understand this by training in the Niten Ichi school. You will always win with the five long sword methods. You must train repetitively.

3. In the third approach, adopt the Lower attitude, anticipating scooping up. When the enemy attacks, hit his hands from below. As you do so he may try to hit your sword down. If this is the case, cut his upper arm(s) horizontally with a feeling of "crossing". This means that from the lower attitudes you hit the enemy at the instant that he attacks.

You will encounter this method often, both as a beginner and in later strategy. You must train holding a long sword.

4. In this fourth approach, adopt the Left Side attitude. As the enemy attacks hit his hands from below. If as you hit his hands he attempts to dash down your sword, with the feeling of hitting his hands, parry the path of his long sword and cut across from above your shoulder.

This is the Way of the long sword. Through this method you win by parrying the line of the enemy's attack. You must research this.

5. In the fifth approach, the sword is in the Right Side attitude. In accordance with the enemy's attack, cross your long sword from below at the side to the Upper attitude. Then cut straight from above.

This method is essential for knowing the Way of the long sword well. If you can use this method, you can freely wield a heavy long sword.

I cannot describe in detail how to use these five approaches. You must become well acquainted with my "in harmony with the long sword" Way, learn large-scale timing, understand the enemy's long sword, and become used to the five approaches from the outset. You will always win by using these five methods, with various timing considerations discerning the enemy's spirit. You must consider all this carefully.

Attitude No-Attitude

"Attitude No-Attitude" means that you should not intentionally take specific long sword attitudes. Though the attitudes are differentiated into five types, they are all meant only to cut the enemy.

Even though you can't help holding your sword in one of the five ways of holding the long sword, you must hold the sword in such a way that it is easy to cut the enemy well, in accordance with the situation, the place, and the move of the enemy. You may start from the Upper attitude, but if you lower your sword a bit you adopt the Middle attitude, and from the Middle attitude you can raise the sword a little in your technique and adopt the Upper attitude. From the lower attitude you can raise the sword and adopt the Middle attitudes as the occasion demands. According to the situation, if you turn your sword from either the Left Side or Right Side attitude towards the center, the Middle or the Lower attitude results.

This is why I say you are taking an attitude without taking an attitude. The principle of this is called "Existing Attitude - Nonexisting Attitude".

In any event, once you take a sword in your hands, you must be prepared to cut apart the enemy, whatever the means. Whenever you parry, hit, catch, strike or block the enemy's attacking sword, you must know the opportunities to cut the enemy in the same movement. It is essential to attain this. If you think only of catching, blocking, striking or tying up the enemy, you will not be able to actually kill him. More than anything, you must be thinking of carrying your every movement through to the kill. You must thoroughly research this.

Attitude in strategy on a larger scale is called "Battle Array". Such attitudes are all aimed at winning the battle. Fixed formation is bad. Study this well.

To Hit the Enemy In One Timing

"In One Timing" means, when you have closed with the enemy, to hit him as quickly and directly as possible, without moving your body or settling your spirit, while you see that he is still undecided. The timing of hitting before the enemy decides to withdraw, break or hit, is this "In One Timing".

You must train to achieve this timing, to be able to hit in the timing of an instant.

The Body Timing of Two

When you attack and the enemy quickly retreats, as you see him tense you must feint a cut. Then, as he relaxes, follow up and hit him. This is the "Body Timing of Two".

It is very difficult to attain this by merely reading this book, but you will soon understand with a little instruction.

No Design, No Conception

[Munen musou, when word and actions are spontaneously the same, is the ultimate state of consciousness in Buddhism. Musou is equivalent to the Sanskrit animitta]

In this method, when the enemy attacks and you also decide to attack, your body and mind turn into a single striking movement and your hands strike out of the Void naturally, swiftly and strongly. This is the "No Design, No Conception" cut.

This is the most important method of hitting. It is often used. You must train hard to understand it.

The Flowing Water Cut

The "Flowing Water Cut" is used when you are struggling blade to blade with the enemy. When he breaks and quickly withdraws trying to spring with his long sword, expand your body and spirit and cut him as slowly as possible with your long sword, following your body like stagnant water. You can cut with certainty if you learn this. You must discern the enemy's grade.

Continuous Cut

When you attack and the enemy also attacks and your swords spring together, in one action cut his head, hands and legs. When you cut several places with one sweep of the long sword, it is the "Continuous Cut". You must practice this cut; it is often used. With detailed practice you should be able to understand it.

The Fire and Stones Cut

The Fires and Stones Cut means that when the enemy's long sword and your long sword clash together you cut as strongly as possible without raising the sword even a little. This means cutting quickly with the hands, body and legs - all three cutting strongly. If you train well enough you will be able to strike strongly.

The Red Leaves Cut

The Red Leaves Cut [allusion to falling, dying leaves] means knocking down the enemy's long sword. The spirit should be getting control of his sword. When the enemy is in a long sword attitude in front of you and intent on cutting, hitting and parrying, you strongly hit the enemy's long sword with the Fire and Stones Cut, perhaps in the spirit of the "No Design, No Conception" Cut. If you then beat down the point of his sword with a sticky feeling, he will necessarily drop the sword. If you practice this cut it becomes easy to make the enemy drop his sword. You must train repetitively.

The Body in Place of the Long Sword

Also "the long sword in place of the body". Usually we move the body and the sword at the same time to cut the enemy. However, according to the enemy's cutting method, you can dash against him with your body first, and afterwards cut with the sword. If his body is immovable, you can cut first with the long sword, but generally you hit first with the body and then cut with the long sword. You must research this well and practice hitting with your body.

Cut and Slash

To cut and to slash are two different things. Cutting, whatever form of cutting it is, is decisive, with a resolute spirit. Slashing is nothing more than touching the enemy. Even if you slash strongly, and even if the enemy dies instantly, it is still slashing. When you cut, your spirit is resolved. You must appreciate this. If you first slash the enemy's hands or legs, you must then cut strongly. Slashing is in spirit the same as touching. When you realize this, they become indistinguishable. Learn this well.

Chinese Monkey's Body

The Chinese Monkey's Body [short-armed monkey] is the spirit of not stretching out your arms. The spirit is to get in quickly, without in the least extending your arms, before the enemy cuts. If you are intent upon not stretching out your arms you are effectively far away, the spirit is to go in with your whole body. When you come to within arm's reach it becomes easy to move your body in. You must research this well.

Glue and Lacquer Emulsion Body

The spirit of "Glue and Lacquer Emulsion Body" is to stick to the enemy and not separate from him. When you approach the enemy, stick firmly with your head, body and legs. People tend to advance their head and legs quickly, but their body lags behind. You should stick firmly so that there is not the slightest gap between the enemy's body and your body. You must consider this carefully.

To Strive for Height

By "to strive for height" is meant, when you close with the enemy, to strive with him for superior height without cringing. Stretch your legs, stretch your hips, and stretch your neck face to face with him. When you think you have won, and you are the higher, thrust in strongly. You must learn this.

To Apply Stickiness

When the enemy attacks and you also attack with the long sword, you should go in with a sticky feeling and fix your long sword against the enemy's as you receive his cut. The spirit of stickiness is not hitting very strongly, but hitting so that the long swords do not separate easily. It is best to approach as calmly as possible when hitting the enemy's long sword with stickiness. The difference between "Stickiness" and "Entanglement" is that stickiness is firm and entanglement is weak. You must appreciate this.

The Body Strike

The Body Strike means to approach the enemy through a gap in his guard. The spirit is to strike him with your body. Turn your face a little aside and strike the enemy's breast with your left shoulder thrust out. Approach with the spirit of bouncing the enemy away, striking as strongly as possible in time with your breathing. If you achieve this method of closing with the enemy, you will be able to knock him ten or twenty feet away. It is possible to strike the enemy until he is dead. Train well.

Three Ways to Parry His Attack

There are three methods to parry a cut:

First, by dashing the enemy's long sword to your right, as if thrusting at his eyes, when he makes an attack.

Or, to parry by thrusting the enemy's long sword towards his right eye with the feeling of snipping his neck.

Or, when you have a short "long sword", without worrying about parrying the enemy's long sword, to close with him quickly, thrusting at his face with your left hand.

These are the three methods of parrying. You must bear in mind that you can always clench your left hand and thrust at the enemy's face with your fist. For this it is necessary to train well.

To Stab at the Face

To stab at the face means, when you are in confrontation with the enemy, that your spirit is intent of stabbing at his face, following the line of the blades with the point of your long sword. If you are intent on stabbing at his face, his face and body will become readable. When the enemy becomes as if readable, there are various opportunities for winning. You must concentrate on this. When fighting and the enemy's body becomes as if readable, you can win quickly, so you ought not to forget to stab at the face. You must pursue the value of this technique through training.

To Stab at the Heart

To stab at the heart means, when fighting and there are obstructions above, or to the sides, and whenever it is difficult to cut, to thrust at the enemy. You must stab the enemy's breast without letting the point of your long sword waver, showing the enemy the ridge of the blade square-on, and with the spirit of deflecting his long sword. The spirit of this principle is often useful when we become tired or for some reason our long sword will not cut. You must understand the application of this method.

To Scold

"Scold" means that, when the enemy tries to counter-cut as you attack; you counter-cut again, coming up from below as if thrusting at him. Both strikes should follow in rapid succession, scolding the enemy. Thrust upwards, "Tut!", then cut "TUT!" This move can be used time and time again in a duel. The way to scold is to raise your sword as if to thrust the enemy, then to slash simultaneously. You should study this rhythm through repetitive practice.

The Smacking Parry

By "smacking parry" is meant that when you clash swords with the enemy, you meet his attacking cut on your long sword with a tee-dum, tee-dum rhythm, smacking his sword and cutting him. The spirit of the smacking parry is not parrying, or smacking strongly, but smacking the enemy's long sword in accordance with his attacking cut, primarily intent on quickly cutting him. If you understand the timing of smacking, however hard your long swords clash together, your sword point will not be knocked back even a little. You must research sufficiently to realize this.

Facing Many Enemies

Facing Many Enemies applies when you must fight alone against many enemies. Draw both the long and short swords, and spread them wide to the left and right in a horizontal attitude.

Even though they come from all four directions, your aim is to chase the enemies to one place. Observe their attacking order, and advance quickly to meet him who attack first. Sweep your eyes around broadly to remain aware of the overall situation, carefully examining the stances of the enemies and their attacking order, and cut left and right simultaneously in different directions, swinging both swords without mutual interference. It is not good to pause after cutting to different directions. You must quickly re-assume your original attitudes to both sides. Cut the next enemies down as they advance, crushing them in the direction from which they attack. Do your best to drive the enemy together, as if tying a line of fishes, and when they are seen to be piled up and entangled, cut them down strongly without giving them room to move.

If you frontally attack a crowd, you can hardly make progress. On the other hand, if you intend to cut one at the time each one that will advance first, you will be in a waiting attitude and not make progress. Respond to your enemies' rhythm, know their weakness and take advantage of it. Then you win.

If you practice with your friends often until you learn to force the whole group into a single file, you can deal as easily with one enemy as with ten or twenty. It requires thorough practice and examination.

The Advantage in Dueling

You can learn how to win a duel with the long sword through strategy, but it cannot be clearly explained in writing. You must practice diligently in order to understand how to win.

The true Way of strategy is revealed in the long sword. This is transmitted orally.

One Cut

You can win with certainty with the spirit of a single cut. It is difficult to attain this if you do not learn strategy well. If you practice this well, strategy will come from your heart and you will be able to win at will. You must train diligently.

Direct Penetration

The spirit of Direct Penetration is handed down in the true Way of the Ni To Ichi School.

Teach your body strategy. You must practice well. This is transmitted orally.

Epilogue

Recorded in the above book is an outline of my school of sword-fighting.

To learn how to win with the long sword in strategy, first learn the five approaches and the five attitudes, then absorb the Way of the long sword naturally in your body. You must sharpen the spirit to understand rhythm, handle the long sword naturally, and move your body with total freedom in harmony with your spirit. Whether beating one man or two, you will then know what is good or bad in strategy.

Study the contents of this book, practice one item at a time, and through fighting with enemies you will gradually come to know the principle of the Way of Strategy.

Deliberately, with a patient spirit, absorb the virtue of all this, from time to time raising your hand in combat. Maintain this spirit whenever you cross swords with and enemy.

Even a thousand-mile road is walked one step at a time. It is the duty of a warrior to study this art without hurry and practice it over the years. Try to defeat today what you were yesterday, defeat lesser men tomorrow, and stronger men the day after.

Train according to this book, not allowing your heart to be swayed along a side-track. Even if you defeat an enemy, if you do so in a way contrary to what you have learned, you are not following the true Way. If you grasp this principle, you will be able to defeat fifty or sixty men single-handedly. When that happens, you will have reached enlightenment in the way of strategy through swordsmanship, for large battles as well as individual combat. I call practice for a thousand days tan [hardening], practice for ten thousand days ren [practice. Musashi here divides the word tanren or drill. One thousand days refers to three years and ten thousand to thirty. Musashi's intention is explaining that one must continue to seek the way].

 

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