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May 3, 2009

Along with Hagakure and The Art of War, The Book of Five Rings by Musashi is a modern business classic.

Miyamoto Musashi was Japan’s greatest samurai, ever—and then became a great Zen Buddhist meditator, when he authored The Book of Five Rings, a classic book of strategy and sage advice.

I first fell in love with Miyamoto Musashi, a wild tiger of a wandering ronin (masterless samurai), when I saw The Samurai Trilogy. The following scene, starring my childhood idol Toshiro Mifune, depicts one of the most famous samurai duels in Japanese history. It involves a key principle of strategy: know the terrain you’ll be doing battle upon:

The Book of Five Rings is, like The Art of War, a remarkable resource for entrepreneurs and other leaders seeking an understanding of modern warfare—also known as business, or politics. Buy it new or used. From the Shambhala edition:

“Today’s business people will find Thomas Cleary’s new translation of The Book of Five Rings—Miyamoto Musashi’s 350-year-old martial arts classic—compelling and tantalizingly relevant. Perseverance, insight, self-understanding, inward calm even in the midst of chaos, the importance of swift but unhurried action: Musashi’s teachings read like lessons from the latest business management gurus. Who couldn’t succeed in business by applying Musashi’s insights on conflict and strategy!”—Jeffrey Seglin, Editor, Inc. magazine

The Book of Five Rings is one of the most insightful texts on the subtle arts of confrontation and victory to emerge from Asian culture. Written not only for martial artists but for anyone who wants to apply the timeless principles of this text to their life, the book analyzes the process of struggle and mastery over conflict that underlies every level of human interaction.

The Book of Five Rings was composed in 1643 by the famed duelist and undefeated samurai Miyamoto Musashi. Thomas Cleary’s translation is immediately accessible, with an introduction that presents the spiritual background of the warrior tradition. Along with Musashi?s text, Cleary translates here another important Japanese classic on leadership and strategy, The Book of Family Traditions on the Art of War by Yagyu Munenori, which highlights the ethical and spiritual insights of Taoism and Zen as they apply to the way of the warrior.

Bonus. Some fun videos

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