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Resources I discovered Miyamoto Musashi more than thirty years ago and, as a Karate practitioner, I was not only impressed by his life and exploits, but I also learn alot in terms of combat because of his incredible book, the Gorin No Sho - my Karate definitely benefited from it. Early life Young Musashi had his first duel at 13 years old. Details about the early life of the legendary samurai Miyamoto Musashi are difficult to verify as all that Musashi left behind were writings related to the Kenjutsu sword-fighting technique and strategy.
That period was a time of turmoil as the country as different Warlords were fighting for supremacy over the Japanese territory. Miyamoto Musashi was born into a samurai family in Miyamoto village, Harima province. Musashi took his name from his birthplace, Miyamoto village. Munisai taught Kenjutsu and juttejutsu to Musashi at a young age, as was the tradition in samurai families, and the young Musashi showed an early talent for Kenjutsu.
When his father, Munisai, divorced Toshiko, Musashi was sent to live with his uncle Dorin, a monk from the Shoreian temple. While staying with the monk, he was taught Zen Buddhism and basic skills, such as reading and writing. His opponent was a samurai from the Tajima Province, a man named Arima Kibei. Their relationship was tumultuous and Munisai showed no love for the young Musashi.
It is unknown what exactly happened, but when Musashi was around 9 or 10, his father either died or abandoned the boy. Some historians say that Shinmen Munisai was killed during a duel with a swordsman named Ganryu Yoshitaka. Seconds after the beginning of the fight, Musashi thew Arima on the ground and hit him with his bokuto a wooden sword, also known as a bokken. Arima Kibei died vomiting blood. Duelling years Musashi fought and defeated many skilled swordsmen. Three years later, Musashi fought against the army of Ieyasu Tokugawa who, the Shogun Tokugawa Era also known as the Edo period , which would last for years.
After the battle, Miyamoto Musashi wandered across Japan perfecting his Kenjutsu skills, having many duels, and meeting many masters of the sword. After disappearing from the records for a while, Musashi arrived in Kyoto around the age of 21 or Upon arriving in Kyoto, he began a famous series of duels with the famous Yoshioka Clan. The swordsmen of the Yoshioka Clan had been instructors for the powerful Ashikaga Family for four generations.
Seijuro eagerly accepted the duel, and both men decided to fight outside of Rendaiji Temple in Northern Kyoto on March 8, As a part of his strategy, Miyamoto Musashi arrived late on the day of the fight.
Seijuro was greatly irritated and lost his temper with Musashi, judging his behavior to be unacceptable. As they had previously agreed, the duel was to be fought with a bokuto wooden sword , and a single blow would declare the winner.
They faced off and took the on-guard position. Musashi won the duel. Duel 2 - Yoshioka Denshichiro The duel was to be held at Sanjusangendo, a Buddhist temple in the Higashiyama District of Kyoto, which was famous for its thousand statues of Kannon, the Shinto goddess of mercy and compassion.
As with his last duel, Miyamoto Musashi once again arrived late to fight Denshichiro. This time, it was a duel to the death. Musashi was armed with a bokuto and Denshichiro had a staff reinforced with steel rings.
Musashi was mentally, technically, and physically stronger than his skilled opponent. Seconds after the beginning of the duel, Musashi hit Denshichiro with his wooden sword, killing him instantly with a single blow to the head. The Yoshioka Clan had become desperate with the death of Denshichiro Yoshioka, who was now the second head of the family to be defeated by Miyamoto Musashi. The head of the clan was now the year old Yoshioka Matashichiro, who, like his predecessors, also challenged Musashi to a duel.
At this point, the Yoshioka clan was ready to do anything to gain back their honor and reputation. They had to take Musashi down. It was unusual for nighttime duels to be requested, so Musashi got suspicious. He arrived at the rendezvous point well before the time of the fight and waited in hiding for his enemy to come.
The boy arrived dressed in full armor with a party of well-armed retainers, archers, riflemen and swordsmen who were all determined to kill Musashi. They all hid nearby, and set a trap for Musashi, with Matashichiro acting as bait.
Musashi watched the action as he waited patiently, concealed in the bushes. When the moment was right, he left his hiding place, drew his sword, and ran towards the boy, cutting off his head. Many historians agree that Musashi discovered the superiority of wielding two swords during this battle. The use of two swords simultaneously was totally foreign to the conventions of Kenjutsu, as samurai traditionally only fought with the long sword Katana held in two hands. There, he had a series of non-lethal contests with the monks, who were renowned for being masters of the spear.
He stayed at the temple for a few months, studying and exchanging fighting techniques with the monks. Musashi also enjoyed talking about Zen for hours on end with the head monk. Even today, the monks of Hozoin still train in their renowned traditional spear technique. Shishido Baiken While on his way to Edo in the autumn of , Miyamoto Musashi had a duel with Shishido Baiken, a master of the kusarigama - a sickle with a chain and a weight attached to one end.
Musashi struck a deadly blow first, and as Baiken fell on the floor. Muso Gonnosuke Later that year, Muso Gonnosuke, a famous and arrogant swordsman, challenged Musashi to a duel.
Strongly affected by his defeat, Gonnosuke withdrew to a Shinto shrine where he contemplated his defeat. He trained hard and developed new techniques that he hoped would eventually allow him to defeat Musashi. Musashi and Gonnosuke dueled again sometime later. Even though Gonnosuke used his newly developed techniques, the outcome of the duel was the same: Musashi won again.
Shortly after, Musashi was about to encounter his greatest and most skilled opponent, Sasaki Kojiro. The two greatest swordsmen agreed to fight, and the duel took place on April 13, , on Ganryu Island, located off the coast of the Bizen Province.
The duel was set for early the next morning. On the day of the fight, Sasaki Kojiro and the officials serving as witnesses waited for Musashi for hours. Nothing was further from the truth. During the short trip, he sculpted a wooden sword which he used for the duel against Sasaki Kojiro. When the boat finally arrived, Sasaki and the officials were standing on the beach waiting for Musashi. Extremely irritated and blinded by rage, Sasaki Kojiro drew his Katana and threw away his scabbard.
One mistake, and it would all be over. Before running back to his boat, Musashi bowed to his downed opponent and the officials, realizing with sadness that one of the greatest swordsman ever had just died. It was at this point that Musashi attained satori or spiritual awakening. From this moment on he renounced ever doing lethal duels.
During the following months, Musashi Miyamoto briefly established a Kenjutsu school, but no historical records indicate where in Japan it was located. In and , a war erupted between the Toyotomi and Tokugawa families, this time with Tokugawa Ieyasu as the Shogun. Tokugawa Ieyasu saw the Toyotomi family as a threat to his rule.
Miyamoto Musashi took part in warfare and siege one last time when he participated in both the winter and summer battles in Osaka.
Later the same year, Musashi entered the service of Ogasawara Tadanao of Harima Province as a construction supervisor. Musashi helped in the construction of Akashi Castle and helped organize the layout of the town of Himeji. During his stay, he taught martial arts, particularly Kenjutsu and shuriken throwing, and he perfected his Enmei-ryu Kenjutsu style. During this period of service, he also adopted a son named Mikinosuke. Musashi accepted the fight and left the choice of the weapon either a real sword or a wooden sword to his opponent.
Meanwhile, Musashi wielded his bokuto. Seconds after they had faced off, Miyake Gunbei was defeated. With the help of Hayashi, Musashi applied to become a Kenjutsu teacher for the Shogun, but his application was refused as the Shogun already had two teachers.
Musashi started to travel again, leaving the capital in the direction of Yamagata City, where he adopted his second son, Miyamoto Iori. In Miyamoto Musashi received a visit from Miyamoto Mikinosuke, his firs of three adopted sons. Mikinosuke informed him that his lord has died and that, following the tradition called junshi, he would commit seppuku ritual suicide , following his master in death.
After saying goodbye to his adoptive father with tears, he returned to Edo to follow his duty. For a short while in , Miyamoto Musashi and his second and closest addopted son Miyamoto Iori went to live in Ogura, and later entered the service of Lord Ogasawara Tadazane. At the end of the year, he and Iori began to travel again. It is unknown where exactly they went and for how long they travelled.
They settled down in Kokura in to train and paint, staying in one of the houses of Hosokawa Tadatoshi, the Lord of Kumamoto Castle. In Lord Ogasawara organized a non-lethal duel between Miyamoto Musashi and a yari spear specialist named Takada Matabei. As expected, Musashi won. In Musashi fought during the Christian Rebellion of Shimabara, one of the very few turbulent events that occurred during the peaceful Edo period under the Tokugawa Shogunate.
However, Musashi was injured early in the battle by a rock that fell on his leg. His son, Miyamoto Iori, served with distinction in putting down the Christian Rebellion and was named "Advisor to the Lord", a highly praised position.
In , Musashi officially became the retainer of Hosokawa Tadatoshi, Lord of Kumamoto, and received seventeen loyal retainers at his service and Chiba Castle as his residence. In , Musashi suffered attacks of neuralgia, a painful disorder of the nerves.
He finished it in the second month of and gave it to his closest student. On the twelfth day of the fifth month, he finished writing Dokkodo, or "The Way of Walking Alone", a book on self-discipline, which was intended as a guide to future generations. He died in Reigando cave on around the nineteenth day of the fifth month, possibly on June 13, Many translations of the "Gorin No Sho" have been made over the years, and it enjoys an audience considerably broader than just those interested in martial arts.
Musashi’s 21 Precepts for life | Wisdom from The Greatest swordsman to Ever Live
Dokkōdō – The Way of Walking Alone