They say a pen is mightier than a sword. It has been proved time and again. I say a man who can use a pen as skillfully as a sword is invincible. Well, this person was truly invincible, never defeated in battle and a gifted writer. Ladies and gentlemen, presenting, the warrior who’s also a writer or a warrior who’s an author, Miyamoto Musashi.
Also known as Miyamoto Bennosuke, Miyamoto was a swordsman who was undefeated in sixty duels and was an expert in double bladed swordsmanship. He founded Niten-Ryu style of swordsmanship. Musashi, in his final years wrote The Book Of Five Rings, a work on strategies, tactics and philosophy which is still being studied today.
Moving on to his early life, not much is known about the province he was born in but he himself has stated in his book that he was born in Harima Province. An early biography of his tells us that he was born in the year 1584. His father was Munisai and Miyamoto’s childhood name was Bennosuke (cute name!). Musashi was the son of Munisai’s first wife, Yoshiko, whom he divored soon after Musashi was born. Yoshiko left Musashi with his father and decamped for her father’s house. Omasa, Munisai’s second wife then became Musashi’s mother. Musashi, when seven years old,was raised by his uncle Dornibo in Shoreian Temple where he was educated in Budhism and taught reading and writing. Munisai trained him in sword and their family art of Jutte. An eczema Musashi contracted during his infancy adversely affected his appearance.
It is said that he may have studied at the Yoshioka-ryu school, which was also said to be the school Musashi defeated single-handedly during his later years, although this is very uncertain. He did have formal training either by his father until he was 7 years old or from his uncle beginning at the age of 7. Ultimately the name was taken from his own original kanji characters, which can be read as Takezo or as Musashi, as stated in Eiji Yoshikawa’s book Musashi. By the age of 15, he began travelling and duelling from the Tajima Province.In 1600, a war broke out between the Toyotomi and Tokugawa clans. Musashi apparently fought on the side of the Toyotomi’s “Army of the West”, as the Shinmen clan (to whom his family owed allegiance) had allied with them. Specifically, he participated in the attempt to take Fushimi castle by assault in July 1600, in the defense of the besieged Gifu Castle in August of the same year, and finally in the Battle of Sekigahara. Some doubt has been cast on this final battle, as the Hyoho senshi denki has Musashi saying he is “no lord’s vassal” and refusing to fight with his father (in Lord Ukita’s battalion) in the battle. Omitting the Battle of Sekigahara from the list of Musashi’s battles would seem to contradict the The Book of Five Rings’s statement that Musashi fought in six battles, however. Regardless, as the Toyotomi side lost, it has been suggested that Musashi fled as well and spent some time training on Mount Hiko. Miyamoto disappeares from the records for a while after this battleThe next mention of him has him arriving in Kyoto at the age of 20, where he began a series of duels against the Yoshioka School.
This goes on and on as his life was full of duels and travels.He died in 1645 due to cancer, still undefeated in combat. So, we should check out his books now. His works include:
- The book of five rings
- Go Rin No Sho
- Hyoho Sanjugo Kajo
The last three of which were based on combat strategies.
I have trained in the way of strategy since my youth, and at the age of thirteen I fought a duel for the first time. My opponent was called Arima Kihei, a sword adept of the Shinto ryū, and I defeated him. At the age of sixteen I defeated a powerful adept by the name of Akiyama, who came from Tajima Province. At the age of twenty-one I went up to Kyōtō and fought duels with several adepts of the sword from famous schools, but I never lost.