Below is a brief Book Of Five Rings Summary written by the legendary swordsman, Miyamoto Musashi.

The Book of Five Rings Summary

The Earth Scroll

  • · Martial arts are the warriors way of life.
  • · The martial way of life practiced by warriors is based on excelling others in anything and everything.
  • · The exact science of martial arts means practising, and the in such a way that they will be useful at any time and teaching them in such a way that they will be helpful in all things.
  • · Efficiency and smooth progress, prudence in all matters, The body, does not drag the mind real courage, understanding different levels of morale, instilling confidence and the mind does not pull the body what can and cannot be reasonably expected.
  • · An essential habit is to have sharp tools and keep them well maintained. It is up to you to use them masterfully. Even when doing menial tasks.
  • · When you have developed practical knowledge of all the skills of the craft you can eventually you can become a master.
  • · The large scale is easy to see. The small-scale is hard to see. To be specific, it is impossible to reverse the direction of a large group of people all at once while the small scale is hard to know because in the case of an individual there is just one will involve and changes can be made quickly.
  • · Practice daily to attain familiarity, treating them as ordinary affairs, so the mind remains unchanged.
  • · Unless you understand others you can hardly accomplish your self-understanding.
  • · If you do not pursue an absolute path to its consummation in the mind then a little bit of crookedness in the spirit will later turn into a major war.
  • · No warrior should be willing to die with his swords at his side without having made use of all his tools.
  • · As human beings, it is essential for each of us to cultivate and polish our path.
  • · You should not have any special fondness for a particular skill or tool. Too much is the same as not enough. Pragmatic thinking.

On Rhythm in martial arts:

Miyamoto Musashi -  The Book of Five Rings Summary
Miyamoto Musashi – The Book of Five Rings
  • · Rhythm is something that exists in everything.
  • · In all arts and sciences rhythm is not to be ignored.
  • · There is an even rhythm in being empty.
  • · There are rhythms of rising to an office and stepping down, of fulfilment and disappointment or becoming rich and losing one’s fortune.
  • · Harmony and disharmony in rhythm occur in every walk of life.
  • · It is impossible to distinguish carefully between the rhythms of flourishing and the rhythms of decline in every single thing.
  • · The rhythms of the martial arts are varied.
  • · First know the right pace and understand the wrong rhythm. And discern the opponent’s rhythms from among the great and small and slow and fast rhythms.
  • · Know the rhythms of spatial relations and know the rhythms of reversals.
  • · These matters are specialities of material science.
  • · Unless you understand these rhythms of reversal your martial artistry will not be reliable.
  • · The way to win in battle is to know the rhythms of particular opponents and use beats that your opponents do not expect, providing formless rhythms from rhythms of wisdom.
  • · Be diligent, practice daily and night, the mind is naturally broadened.

Rules for learning the art.

  1. Think of what is right and genuine.
  2. Practice and cultivate the science.
  3. Become acquainted with the arts.
  4. Know the principles of the crafts.
  5. Understand the harm and benefit in everything.
  6. Learn to see everything accurately.
  7. Become aware of what is not obvious
  8. Be careful even in small matters.
  9. Do not do anything useless.
  • · The science of martial arts should be practised with such thoughts in mind.
  • · You can hardly become a master unless you see the immediate in a broad context.
  • · Keep martial arts in your mind and work diligently in a straight forward manner. Then you can win with your hands; your eyes can also defeat people by seeing with your eyes.
  • · Furthermore when you refine practice to the point where you attain freedom of your whole body then you can overcome people using your body. And since your mind is trained in this science you can also defeat people using your mind. When you reach this point how could you be defeated by others?
  • · In whatever field of endeavour knowledge of how to avoid losing to others, how to help oneself and hoe to enhance standard honour is part of military science.

The Water Scroll

  • · The science of martial arts is not just a matter of reading these writings. Taking what is written here personally, do not think you are reading or learning and do not make up any imitations. Identify with them continually and work on them carefully. The field is king!

The State of Mind in Martial Arts

  • · The state of mind should remain as normal. Let there be no change at all – with the mind open and direct, neither tense nor lax, concentrating the mind so that there is no imbalance, calmly relax your thoughts and savour this moment of ease thoroughly so that relaxation does not stop its relaxation for even an instant.
  • · Even when still your mind is not still, even when hurried your mind is not hurried. The mind is not dragged by the body, the body is not pulled by the mind.
  • Pay attention to the mind, not the body.
  • · Let there be neither insufficiency nor excess in your mind.
  • · Even if superficially weak hearted be inwardly strong hearted and do not let others see into your mind.
  • · It is essential for those who are physically small to know what it is like to be large and for those who are physically large to know what it is like to be small. It is essential to keep you mind free of subjective bias.
  • · Let your inner mind be unclouded and open, placing your intellect on a broad plane.
  • · It is essential to polish the brain and mind diligently.
  • · Once you have sharpened your understanding to the point where you can tell whatever is good or bad. When you are experienced in various fields and are incapable of being fooled at all by people of the world, then your mind will become imbued with the knowledge of the art of war. It is imperative to master the principles of the art of war and learn to be unworried even in the heat of battle.

Physical bearing in Martial Arts

  • · Your face should not be tilted.
  • · Do not wrinkle your forehead but make a furrow between your brow.
  • · Keep your eyes unmoving and try not to blink.
  • · Narrow your eyes slightly.
  • · The idea is to keep a serene expression on your face, nose straight, chin slightly forward.
  • · Focus strength in the nape.
  • · Generally speaking it is essential to make your ordinary bearing the bearing you use in martial arts and make the bearing you use in martial arts your normal bearing.

Focus of the eyes in Martial Arts

  • · The eyes are to focus in such a way as to maximise the range and breadth of vision.
  • · Observation and perception are two separate things, the observing eye is stronger, the perceiving eye is weaker.
  • · A speciality of martial arts is to see that which is far away closely and that which is nearby from a distance.
  • · In martial arts, it is important to be aware of the opponents swords yet not look at the enemy’s swords at all. This takes work!
  • · Find the state where your eye focus does not change no matter what happens.

Gripping the long sword

  • · Grip neither tightly or loosely.
  • · There should be no slackness in hand.
  • · Let there be no change in the grip even when slashing opponents.
  • · Your grip when cutting slashing opponents.
  • · Your grip when cutting to test something and your grip when slashing in combat should be no different.
  • · Fixating and binding are to be avoided. Fixation is the way to death; Fluidity is the way of life!

On Footwork

  • · Flighty steps, unsteady steps and stomping steps are to be avoided.
  • · Complimentary stepping is essential.
  • · Do not step with one foot alone.

Five kinds of guard

  • · Whatever guard you adopt do not think of it as being on guard. Think of it as the act of killing.
  • · What is important in this path is to realise that the consummate guard is the middle position.

The way of the long sword

  • · Even when wielding the sword with two fingers you know just how to do it and can swing it quickly.
  • · The idea is to swing the sword calmly so that it is easy to do.
  • · Perfect the use of the longsword, sensing the minds of opponents, using various rhythms gaining victory in any way.

Having a position without having a position

  • · Even though you may catch, hit or block, or tie up and obstruct these are all opportunities for cutting the opponent down.
  • · It is crucial to think of everything as an opportunity to kill.
  • · Fixation is dangerous.

Striking down an opponent in a single beat

  • · Finding a position where you can reach an enemy, realising when the opponent has not yet determined what to do, you strike directly as fast as possible, without moving or fixing your attention.

The rhythm of the second spring

  • · This is when you are about to hit and the opponent quickly pulls back or parries. You feint a blow and then strike the opponent as he relaxes after tensing.

Striking without thought and form

  • · When your opponent is going to strike, and you are also going to strike, your body is on the offensive and your mind is also on the offensive, your hands come spontaneously from space, striking with added speed and force.

The flowing water stroke

  • · When going toe to toe and an opponent tries to pull away quickly you become expansive in body and mind and swing your sword in an utterly relaxed manner as if there were some hesitation and strike with a large, powerful stroke.

Striking and hitting

  • · Striking is a stroke you employ and make a deliberate and certain strike. Even if you hit an opponent and he dies on the spot this is a hit. A strike is when you consciously and deliberately strike the blows you intended to hit. TO hit is to “feel out” for a powerful strike.

Stabbing the Face

  • · When you have the intention of stabbing your opponent in the face he will try to get both his face and his body out-of-the-way. When you can get your opponent to shrink away there are various advantages of which you can avail yourself to win.


  • · No matter how many opponents you beat, as long as you do anything in contravention of training then it cannot be a correct path. When this principle comes to mind, you should understand how to overcome even dozens of opponents all by yourself.

The Fire Scroll

  • · In the course of practising how to kill opponents, little sissy things never occurred to me. When on is in full combat gear one does not think of small things.
  • · After training and refining day and night with he determination to eventually consummate it, after having perfected it, one gaining an individual freedom, spontaneously attains wonders and is endowed with incredible powers of penetration.

The Physical Situation

  • · To look down on the enemy understand that you should always take the highest ground, indoors the seat of honour is the high ground.

Three pre-emption

  • · When you attack with your initiative “Striking from a state of suspension. Steel your mind to the utmost, accelerate your pace a bit and make a violent attack as soon as your opponent rears.
  • · Pre-empt an enemy making an attack on you, pre-emption from a state of waiting. When an opponent attacks and you aggressively meet his attack, the moment you sense a change in his rhythm you can win.
  • · When you and your opponent attack simultaneously, “Pre-emption” in a state of mutual confrontation. When an opponent attacks swiftly you attack calmly yet powerfully, tighten your being to absolute resolve, when your opponent slacks, over come him.

Holding down the Pillow

  • · When you manoeuvre opponents around freely by whatever means you may.
  • · When your opponent evinces any sign of intending to make a move you perceive it before he acts.
  • · Stop an opponent at the initial outset, not letting him follow through.
  • Let an opponent go ahead and do anything that is useless while preventing him from doing anything useful.
  • · Thwart your opponent’s very first impulse to try something thus foiling everything.

Crossing a Ford

  • · Sense the state of opponents, aware of your mastery, you cross the ford using appropriate principles, put the adversary in a weak position and get the jump yourself, then you will quickly prevail.

The Book of Five Rings Summary

Further Reading