The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi, translated by William Scott Wilson, 5/5
It is absolutely stunning how relevant this book remains to today’s students of combat sports, though it was written almost 400 years ago for Japanese swordsmen. I recognize so many of the techniques and concepts that Musashi describes from my own kickboxing, Brazilian jiu-jitsu and MMA sparring experiences. In fact, I believe such review and recognition is likely where this work’s main interest and value lies–I certainly don’t feel able to learn subtle martial arts concepts from a book (certainly not from a picture-less book!), but it is fascinating to see what I have learned from my coaches and through experience reflected on the page. Perhaps this is why the ever-practical Musashi ends each lesson with a comment like “You should make efforts in this,” or “You should practice this well.”
Why I read it: I came across Musashi’s “21 Rules of Life” online, read a bit about him and remembered that though I had given my brother a beautifully illustrated copy of The Book of Five Rings many years ago, I had never actually gotten around to reading it myself.
There is a distinctly self-published feel to this book which doesn’t really inspire confidence (call me snobby, but I think the cover text shouldn’t be more colorful than the pictures inside). However, it does provide a very basic overview of equipment and skills necessary for the responsible concealed carrier. I don’t know much about the topic, so I can’t put my finger on what exactly the book is missing, but it felt light on information–there is a disappointing lack of legal guidelines and very little advice about tactics. Also, you do have to get past the author’s gun geekery and a bit of self-importance that reminds me of some of the more embarrassing scenes from Mall Cop. Kenik swears he’s not paranoid (never a hopeful sign), but he does seem borderline. For example, he actually recommends writing “detailed notes of all relevant class lectures, videos, books and magazine articles” and mailing them to yourself so “the envelope can be opened in court to prove what knowledge you possessed at a given date” (14). Hmmmm… Or you could maybe not do that and be ok too?
Why I read it: it was a birthday present (buying a gun has been on my to-do list for years).