Wednesday, 22 January 2014

A Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi (translated by Victor Harris)


The cover image above (as it did in the version I've read) states that this is "The classic, bestselling samurai guide to strategy - at home and at work." And in parts you could find that with a bit of loose interpretation, that is exactly what it is. If you mine for it. I didn't have the patience, if I'm honest, to read it this way. I did try, simply by re-reading most sentences twice and taking breaks between reads. It weighs in at 112 pages, notes and all, so reading it slowly wasn't a massive chore. And there was a young kid inside me who enjoyed the idea of applying the wisdom of a samurai guy to modern living, I'm not quite too ashamed to admit.

But...

And I cringe a little to say it...

I'd have gotten as much from an internet search of "Miyamoto Musashi" and checking out some of the cool memes out there that attribute quotes to him.

I'll hang on to my copy as I found some interesting nuggets in Victor Harris's introduction and notes. Maybe future versions of the book (I bought this edition second hand) gear Musashi's recordings more towards a martial arts instruction, which I think the translator and (according to his short bio) President of the European Kendo Federation would probably have been good at if given the opportunity to pose for images or provide illustrations. Without the context of samurai sword fighting (or Kendo, as it is practiced in a day and age where it's not acceptable to behead a person on the street) a lot of the text is pretty abstract and meaningless. On the other hand, knowing that these teachings were first written in 1645 is awe-inspiring.

I should point out that although I have an interest in martial arts, I have never been to a Kendo class. Could be that this book would be a perfect tool for a deeper understanding of the art.

And if all I take from it is the instruction to "do nothing which is of no use," then I'm probably going to improve my professional and personal life. But I'd have to give my Xbox to the kids. Not sure I'm ready to take that leap into real adulthood yet.

4 comments:

seana graham said...

When I worked in the bookstore, this book was always kept in the business section, which is pretty funny. I think businessmen like to think of themselves as warriors. Well, it would liven things up a little, anyway.

Gerard Brennan said...

Sorry, Seana, just seeing this now. The new gmail layout is redirecting my blogger notifications.

That's a telling insight, isn't it?

Little boys and big businessmen, loving the samurai. I like it.

gb

seana graham said...

Little boys and big businessmen--amounts to much the same thing, really.

crimeebooksfree said...

Well anyone who reads any of these books and takes any notice is a bit soft. Do your job, take credit when things go well, blame someone else when they don't and before you know it you're the boss - siiiimplesssss as the meerkat says.