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Miyamoto Musashi

Wandering Warrior

Miyamoto Musashi was a 16th-century Japanese ronin.  A ronin was a samurai warrior without a feudal lord to serve.  Since the whole reason for samurais was to protect and serve their leader, it was an unusual state of mind.  Musashi was a samurai of immense skill, fearless in battle, and single-minded.  It’s his single-mindedness that really struck me when I first introduced to him in Eiji Yoshikawa’s novel, Musashi (Harper & Row, 1981).

Born in 1584 in the village Miyamoto, Musashi pursued kendo, the art of swordsmanship in which you lived and died by the sword.  By age 13, he killed his first opponent.  At 15, he gave away all of his possessions to his sister and embarked on a solitary journey to become the ultimate warrior.  At age 28, he defeated the legendary Sasaki Kojiro with a wooden bokken carved from an oar on his boat ride to the duel.  See the Inagaki’s Samurai Trilogy for a great film about Musashi.

At the height of his prowess, he gave up fighting to reflect on Strategy.  That is, the grand strategy in life.  The result is his highly-readable book, The Book of Five Rings.  His strategy can be summed up in his nine succinct rules of thumb:

  1. Do not think dishonestly.
  2. TheWay is in training.
  3. Become acquainted with every art.
  4. Know the Ways of all professions.
  5. Distinguish between gain and loss in worldly matters.
  6. Develop intuitive judgement and understanding for everything.
  7. Perceive those things which cannot be seen.
  8. Pay attention even to trifles.
  9. Do nothing which is of no use.

He counsels that “there is timing in everything.”

How can a person be a wandering warrior and single-minded at the same time?  One only has to look at Musashi to get some valuable lessons.

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