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The Book of the Five Rings
by Miyamoto Musashi

Central Theme: All things are dependent on other things.

Show examples of 7 of these concepts used in business.

  1. Do not harbor sinister designs (Think correctly from a righteous viewpoint). One should not be biased in favor of one thing over another. It is bad for a commander or the rank-and-file to have likes and dislikes.
  2. Diligently pursue your path and studies (One must train persistently throughout their whole life). Even if the warrior has no natural ability for the sword or the pen, he is expected to do his share to the best of his ability. In order to follow the path of enlightenment, keep in mind that the essence is to build an indominable spirit and an iron will, to believe that you cannot fail in doing anything.
  3. Cultivate a wide range of interests in the arts (Do not limit your learning, but devote yourself to everything). The way of no extremes is the better way. What is sought is harmony among all things. Knowing a variety of paths is very useful. Broaden your knowledge.
  4. Be knowledgable in a variety of occupations (Learn the thinking of people in other occupations). Being adept at anything gives one the opportunity to take what one knows and apply it to other things. Don't just learn, but apply.
  5. Be discreet regarding one's commercial dealings (Know the advantages and disadvantages of everything). Use the right weapon for the situation, using the right technique based on your opponent and the situation, and even utilizing the right person for a specific task
  6. Develop a discerning eye in all matters (Build intuitive judgement and and understand true value). The rhythm with which things progress and the rhythm with which things deteriorate should be understood and differentiated. Victory is achieved by ascertaining the rhythm of each opponent, by attacking with a rhythm not anticipated by the opponent, and by the use of knowledge of the rhythm of the abstract. The spirit to be able to win, no matter what the weapon, is the correct teaching.
  7. Understand what cannot be seen by the eye (Strive to develop a mind that can control one's body)
  8. NOTE: The first seven principles show a life style of interpersonal relationship: associate with many people, learn about their lives, understand their thinking, and have a good relationship with them.

  9. Pay attention to even small things (keep small matters in mind at all times so as to avoid unexpected failure. Do not imitate or mimic others. One should have a weapon appropriate to one's size and comfort.
  10. Do not engage in useless activities (Don't argue about useless things. Concentrate on your own duties)[25]

There are five aspects to the way to enlightenment:
  1. Chi (earth): One must know from large matters to small matters, from shallow matters to deep matters.
  2. Mizu (water): The commander is to make major decisions from small bits of information. To know one is to know ten thousand. Water alters its shape according to the shape of its container, be it square or round, and it can be a drop or an ocean.
  3. Hi (fire): Because of day in and day out practice, success will result when situations change suddenly and every moment is precious. Fires can be large or small and change suddenly and drastically.
  4. Kaze (wind): Unless one knows well about others, it is not possible to know oneself.
  5. Ku (emptiness): When you are truly free, an incredible strength surges from within, you react naturally; you become aware of the rhythm of the situation; you face your opponent directly; and take the initiative in attacking.[16]

The Five Books

The Ground Book

This book is an explanation of the way of thinking, or the philosophy. If one does only sword technique, it is not possible to know the true path to enlightenment. All things are dependent on other things. It is that which must be know from large matters to small matters, from the shallow matters to the deep matters. When you attain the enlightenment of strategy there will not be one thing you cannot see. You must study hard.

One should be versed in many weaponry skills. Within battle you should not overly use one weapon, as it is as bad as using the weapon badly, probably because it would be easy for an enemy to find a weakness in your style after countless uses of the same weapon.

Timing is the core principle in strategy. The idea of timing is that you must be able to adapt your strategy to timing with your skill, in that you must know when to attack and when not to attack.

"In all skills and abilities there is timing.... There is timing in the whole life of the warrior, in his thriving and declining, in his harmony and discord. Similarly, there is timing in the Way of the merchant, in the rise and fall of capital. All things entail rising and falling timing. You must be able to discern this. In strategy there are various timing considerations. From the outset you must know the applicable timing and the inapplicable timing, and from among the large and small things and the fast and slow timings find the relevant timing, first seeing the distance timing and the background timing. This is the main thing in strategy. It is especially important to know the background timing, otherwise your strategy will become uncertain."

The Water Book

The water book concerns factors such as spirituality, religion and your outlook on life. The meaning of "Water" is that you should absorb the ideas explained to you. The book describes style. It describes some basic technique and fundamental principles.

The spiritual bearing concerns your temperament while in the midst of, or in formulation of a battle. Spirituality refers to principles of calmness, tranquility and spiritual balance;

Spiritual balance, refers to a perfectly balanced spirit which also is a perfectly balanced physical presence, and neither creates weakness nor reveals it to your enemy. You must know how to adjust your spiritual balance according to what is around you, and to perceive the balance of those around you, and take advantage accordingly. Again, as your spirit should be balanced, so too should your various techniques be honed to a perfectly balanced demeanour. Adopt a stance with the head erect, neither hanging down, nor looking up, nor twisted.

A person must be able to perceive that which is all around him, without moving their eyeballs noticeably. This is one of the most important parts of strategy, see things which are close to you, such as the technique of an enemy, or far away, such as arriving troops, or enemies.

In the world there is nothing more submissive and weak than water. Yet for attacking that which is hard and strong nothing can surpass it. (Your attitude should be large or small according to the situation.)

Practice with each "attitude" so that you do not become over-familiar with one, which is worse than bad technique.

The Fire Book

The fire book refers to fighting methods. It goes into a broader scope in terms of hints assessing situations and specific situational instructions. The book refers to the heat of battle, and discusses matters such as different types of timing.

Location is crucial. You must be in a place where Man-made objects do not obstruct your view, as well as facing or standing in a position where the sun or moon is at your back and does not affect your vision. You must look down on the enemy, and take up your attitude on slightly higher places.

Ensure that the enemy is at a disadvantage ; Forcing yourself on the bad-side of a trooper; Force enemies into footholds, swamps, ditches, and other difficult terrain which forces the enemy to be unsure and uncertain of his situation.

You must judge the situation. This does not mean that you always attack first; but if the enemy attacks first you can lead him around. In strategy, you have effectively won when you forestall the enemy. Attacking is the most obvious method of forestalling an enemy, in that a head on collision forces both parties to a standstill. Waiting for the Initiative means to feign weakness as to open a weak spot, or Achilles' heel in the opposing force, and then regrouping to exploit such a hole by attacking deep within the enemy's party. Although there are other methods, they are mostly situational methods relating to the crossing of rough terrain, and battling within rough terrain. Quashing an enemy's attack before it starts by using a form of charging and then attacking under the veil of gunpowder smoke.

The idea of timing is the most important part of attacking next to the skill of participants. Look at the various physical factors which affect an enemy during battle, such as determining if the strength is waning or rising within a group of troopers. An enemy's formation can fall if they lose rhythm. Drummers drum a tune for their other fellow soldiers to march to, should the rhythm be lost, leading to "collapse when their rhythm becomes deranged."

The Wind Book

An important part of understanding your own way is to understand the way of your opponent as precisely as possible. The book discusses the failings of various contemporary schools of swordfighting.

Most forms are derivative of other martial arts. Their similarities and differences evolved through situational factors, such as indoor or outdoor duelling, the style adapting to the school. Without basic understanding of these alternate techniques, you will not be able to learn the correct way, probably for reasons of finding the wrongs in other techniques, and righting them within yourself.

Other schools do not teach the "broader" meaning of strategy, that above sword-fencing; "Some of the world's strategists are concerned only with sword-fencing, and limit their training to flourishing the long sword and carriage of the body. " Other schools do not conform to the ideals, such as Over-reliance, or over-familiarity with a weapon, as well as to do with footwork, sight, and other methods described in previous disciplines.

The Void Book

The void book expressly deals with "That which cannot be seen";

"By knowing things that exist, you can know that which does not exist."

The void, is the true meaning of the strategy of enlightenment; it seems very esoteric in nature, in that he seems to note that you must learn to perceive that which you cannot understand or comprehend. He notes that in this Void, what can be comprehended are things which we do and see, such as the way of the warrior, martial arts and Ni Ten Ichi Ryu. At the same time, in the Void, things we do not do or see (which he calls Spirit), are part of the information which we perceive on a conscious level, but with which we have no physical relationship. These things can be understood in terms that in the West would be associated with spirituality and religion.

"In the void is virtue, and no evil. Wisdom has existence, principle has existence, the Way has existence, spirit is nothingness." The book describes, in more esoteric terms, thoughts on consciousness and the correct mindset.


The Way I Go By Myself
  1. I never act contrary to traditional morality.
  2. I have no partiality for anyone or anything.
  3. I never try to snatch a moment of ease.
  4. I think little of myself but much of the public.
  5. I am entirely free of acquisitiveness throughout my life.
  6. I never regret what I have done.
  7. I never envy others for their good luck, or on account of my ill luck.
  8. I never grieve at parting from anyone or anything at whatever time.
  9. I never reproach either myself or others; never complain about myself or others.
  10. I never dream of falling in love with a woman.
  11. Likes and dislikes, I have none.
  12. Whatever my dwelling house may be, I take no objection to it.
  13. I never desire dainty food for myself.
  14. I never have antique objects or curios in my posession.
  15. I never perform purification or observe abstinence to protect myself against evils.
  16. I have no taste for implements of any kind, excepting swords and other arms.
  17. I would never grudge my life in the cause of righteousness.
  18. I never wish to have any estate that would make my old age comfortable.
  19. I worship Gods and Buddhas, but never think of depending on them.
  20. I would sooner lay down my life than disgrace my good name.
  21. Never for a moment does my heart and soul stray from the way of swordsmanship.