An extraordinary tactician and swordsman had a late-life crisis and retired into monkhood. Over time, he allowed a scribe to record advice from his experience. Though meant to be extremely-selectively passed-on, it ultimately found itself in the hands of enough to survive to today. It is a book on the martial use of the sword, the way of swords, and the Way.
My edition of this book has an unfortunately-shiny fabric-hardcover, with glossy full-colour pages with photographs which give it an impression of high quality. It even has an integrated ribbon bookmark.
- Translated by David K. Groff
- 五輪書 (Go Rin No Sho) in the Japanese language.
- Miyamoto Musashi
- 2012-05-01 (third edition)
- ISBN-10 178028120X
- ISBN-13 978-1-78028-120-9
Some years ago, I also read A Book of Five Rings: The Classic Guide to Strategy, translated by Victor Harris (1982)
I would normally scribble in the margins of my books, but I had too much to say and this book is both glossy (hard to write in) and precious. So here goes: Insight outside of the constraints of the specialization of the translator. Insight very few people can offer...
These notes are rough, as they were written on paper as I read (slowly). I'd have to re-read (again, slowly) to fully understand the text and my notes, and re-write/clarify them. You didn't think I'd make it easy, did you?
#1 Go Rin no Sho
- Bushu Denraiki => Heiho Sonshi Denki
Budoken => Nitenlei
- Two books on Musashi
- Later books, based on the above
Takuan Soho - classic texts: Fudochishin Myoroku
Thirty-five Articles on Strategy -- Musashi
Hyoho Sanju-go Ka Jo => get the others appended.
To understand the five tings, understand its recipient
Musashi's final documents - Dokkodo "The Path Walked Alone"
did Tsukahara Bokuden write anything?
* Yagu Muneori's Hyoho Kadensho
"swordsman" is probably better as "strategist"
no singlar-plural distinction "ware"
51 - The Way of Technical Skill is perhaps better transliterated as technition, artisan expert. "great skill" => expert in knowledge and action in a particular Way.
57 - swordsmanship alone => difficult? With attaining high expertise, it opens the door to the Way just as any other way would.
57 - top - no, the Five Advantages is a reference to Wuxing (the five elements) and situational advantage. Each element has advantage over another. Each situation tempts for a specific response. This section "Varying the Tactics" calls for understanding favorability.
58 - If having one thing, to understand very many, then swordsmanship to understand the Way.
59 - jiu bian conveys the innumerable variations of all situations.
60 - Practice without passion will not path to the Way.
61 - "Two swords" could be a reference to the two kinds of sword - tachi and katana, being understood the same (e.g. having one thing, understand very many)
62 - Versatility
69 - "indoors", as in not (in / by through ) combat
61/73 - "rhythm" in "Emptiness"
75 - unpredictable rhythms in emptiness
80.3 - "word by word", as in this scroll? (Water)
96.1 / 13 - No, he is literally talking about sword-positioning. See endnote 12 regarding the flip.
96.2 / 14 - No, he just means the Way... In general, regarding this.
97.1 - "Parry" should not have been transliterated thus. Instead, using understanding as with 97.2 would be past. Yes, his repetition is intentional. Parrying a downward-stroking katana is ludicrous.
Seeing this another way, notice how he says "parry" and thereafter "cut upwards". This is how it can be known that parry is not the right word.
102.4 water/16 - The author means both.
"Extremely difficult to grasp", and so the translator's didn't.
103.2 water/17 - The author has been tlaking about how positions don't really exist, about how there is a natural movement of the sword, a flow/beat to combat and acting outside of that. This is better-described like mental-unencumbered action without will. This is what experience and masterful practice evapourate into. Once again, he means both/either/neither.
"Do not describe", unwavering, without intent, unflinching, unreacting, committed.
106.3 water/19 - 108.2 - Clearly describes strike/hit
108.3 water/21 - No: Tagging has withdrawl, touching presses and slides, striking has intent, direction, control
113.4 - He speaks of two-swords.
115.1 water/28 - No: Most people are right-handed, as the author is. Training a left-hand punch speaks to need to train the three parries. It is hard.. it needs training.
115.2 water/29 - Why did the translator editorialize? 115.3 conveys that.
116.2 - I can't visualize that.
117.2 - typo: "yours sword"
117.3 water/31 - "immediately" is a poor translation. This is worthy of a phrase, as is obvious by the translator's note.
120.1 water/33 - No: It is indeed a reference to wilfully stringing up all opponents, not merely giving them a river, but hooking them all and pulling the line. It is not their fight, but the single fighter's forced-positioning.
120.2 - The author spoke of immediacy (118.3) and cutting at advances (119.1)
122.2 water/34 - The whole entry/paragraph may be a sidenote. However, 123.1 suggests this was intentional.
123.2 - I thought "he" didn't write this...
123.3 water/37 - Or he could mean "Why" in its greatest meaning.
125.2 water/39,40 - Neither of these things needed to be transliterated. Or ought to have been.
124.1 - If this book was oral, then could the statement "in this writing" be from the scribe?
125.2 water/39 - Then why say "appear"? This has a different meaning.
125.2 water/40 - Again, this should not have been transliterated.
140.1 - Typo: "intentionsof"
147.2 fire/10 - Both those meanings are the same.
148.2 fire/11 - No, this means "form", or similar. It is a reference to forcing a reaction from one's feint, to thereby discern the enemy again.
150.1 fire/13 - "Beat" was already described/discussed earlier.