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5 Quotes on Martial Arts Wisdom from Miyamoto Musashi

(Woodblock print by Utagawa Kuniyoshi)

The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi is an absolute must-read for martial artists. Musashi was a Japanese Swordsman, Ronin and all-around master of combat. He claims to have a record of at least (60-0) in duels from thirteen to twenty-nine years of age. After an incredible life of dueling and swordsmanship, he chose to shift his life and focus his efforts into reflective works on martial arts philosophy. While written in 1645, Musashi’s values and wisdom are as applicable now as they were then. These five quotes are just a few of the many that absolutely ring home for creating a great fighting mindset.

The Book of Five Rings

The Book of Five Rings

“The true science of martial arts means practicing them in such a way that they will be useful at any time, and to teach them in such a way that they will be useful in all things.”

The Book of Five Rings is short and to the point, much like many of Musashi’s words of wisdom. Only reinforce in practice what you will absolutely need to utilize in your martial arts discipline. Fancy trick moves are a lot of fun to practice, but often have limited applicability in real sports combat scenarios. When you are instructing up-and-comers into your sport, make a point of illustrating the values learned in practice and their applicability in all of life’s challenges

“When your opponent is hurrying recklessly, you must act contrarily and keep calm. You must not be influenced by the opponent.”

Panic and fear are some of our most ingrained gut reactions to any kind of pressure. Sharpening your mind to quickly visualize the best solution to your opponent’s onslaughts takes careful practice and repetition, but will be an invaluable asset to your game. Don’t try to match your opponent’s overwhelming pace, take advantage of their weaknesses in their fury. Most importantly, remember to breathe and breathe deep.

“You should not have a favourite weapon. To become over-familiar with one weapon is as much a fault as not knowing it sufficiently well.”

This lesson has special application to the world of MMA, but can be applied to any favorite technique. If you have a strong favoritism to a move, particular discipline or style, it can become a serious hindrance. Preparing and practicing multiple “weapons” means going into fights with options and versatility. If your opponent is able to isolate your game and prepare his strategy to your favored style, it will serve as a greater hindrance than compliment.

“A thousand days of training to develop, ten thousand days of training to polish. You must examine all this well.”

Practice, practice, and repeat. Martial arts takes a lifetime to master, and is an ever-developing world. Is your kimura perfect? Are you 100% sure of your left jab’s accuracy? Hone your technique down till it’s razor-sharp. After you’ve reached that point, practice it more. Always remain diligent and disciplined. Put in the reps. You can never learn it all, much less master it all.

“from one thing, know ten thousand things”

There are many paths to victory in combat sports. Don’t ever allow yourself to be in a position where you don’t know what to do. Train for the worst possible scenario and learn to recognize the options you always have at your disposal. As with the “favorite weapon” quote, having a very versatile game prepared for combat means you’ll never be in a position of panic. The more moves, techniques, and finishes you know, the more options you’ll have regardless of the situation.

Hopefully you won’t be faced with the prospect of dueling to the death anytime soon, but Miyamoto Musashi’s wisdom can bring a lot of growth to your martial arts mindset. These are just some of the great lessons of The Book of Five Rings, be sure to take advantage of all it has to offer.