By Miyamoto Musashi
It was written in 1643 by Miyamoto Musashi, undefeated dueler, master less samurai, and independent teacher. He was professional men at arms born into a long tradition of martial culture that ultimately come to dominate the entire body of Japanese polity and society. His writing is relevant not only to members of the ruling military caste, but also to the leaders in other professions, as well as people in search of individual mastery in whatever their chosen path.
The rise and empowerment of the samurai class in Japan may be seen in the two terms used to refer to its members, samurai and bushi. The word samurai comes from the Japanese verb saburau, which means “to serve as an attendant”. The word bushi is Sino Japanese and means “armed gentry”. The word samurai was used by other social classes, while the warriors referred to themselves by the more dignified term bushi.
Musashi in this book decries empty showmanship and commercialization in martial arts, focusing attention on psychology and physics of lethal assault and decisive victory as the essence of warfare. His scientifically aggressive, thoroughly ruthless approach to military science, while not universal among Japanese martialists, represents a highly concentrated characterization of one particular type of samurai warrior.
Musashi abandoned an ordinary life to exemplify and hand on two essential elements of ancient martial and strategic traditions. The first one of these basic principles is keeping inwardly calm and clear even in the midst of violent chaos. The second one is not forgetting about the possibility of disorder in times of order.
According to him, “The true science of martial arts means practicing them in such a way that they will be useful at any time, and to teach them in such a way that they will be useful in all things.”
The book is divided in the form of four scrolls:
- The Earth Scroll
- The Water Scroll
- The Fire Scroll
- The Wind Scroll
These scrolls describe the different perspectives of practicing martial arts, which all are essential to be unified in a true warrior while using the art to achieve decisive victory.
The best thing about book is liberating martial arts from the war. The author describes the basic element of martial arts in a way that they are applicable to any art. This style of description is accomplished by describing the four scrolls by means of comparing the art of “Swordsmanship” and “Carpentry”.
The author says that to have an attitude proper to a real sword means to be deadly serious. “Shinken shobu” are the two words describing this attitude, which literally means a contest with real swords, means something done in deadly earnest. That is the true sense of martial arts.
So, by reading this book we can get stimulated to learn and apply any art in a deadly earnest way. The art could be computer programming, journalism, law, writing......................................