Miyamoto Musashi

From Academic Kids

Miyamoto Musashi (宮本 武蔵 Miyamoto Musashi) (c.1584 - June 13, 1645) was a famous Japanese swordsman.



Much of Miyamoto Musashi's past is shrouded in mystery, legends and fiction. His place and date of birth are in doubt but three places lay claim to this. Apparently he was born into a samurai family in the village of Miyamoto in the province of Mimasaka. His full name was Shinmen Musashi no Kami Fujiwara no Genshin. This means, "Member of Shinmen family, the family name Musashi, clan Fujiwara, adulthood name Genshin". His childhood name is either Takezō or Bennosuke. The name Musashi is taken from Musashibō Benkei, the warrior monk who served Minamoto no Yoshitsune and known as the great warrior who used 9 weapons.

Reputedly Musashi's mother died in childbirth and either his stepmother Toshiko raised him — even after his father Shinmen Munisai divorced her — or his mother's brother, a priest, raised him. He met his father occasionally and they may have sparred together. By the time Musashi was nine, his father was either dead or had totally abandoned the boy. When he took his new name for adulthood, Musashi selected the name of his birthplace, Miyamoto.

It is said that Musashi contracted eczema in his infancy, which influenced his appearance. Another story claims that he never took a bath, because he did not want to be surprised unarmed. These details are likely later embellishments.

Even in his time stories spread like cowboy comics. Pictures of him show no signs of ailments. Also he would be unlikely to be received as guest by such famous houses as Honda, Ogasawara and Hosokawa if this were the case (Scott Wilson 2004).

According to the introduction of his The Book of Five Rings, where he states some autobiographical details, he had his first successful duel by the age of thirteen. His first opponent was an accomplished samurai, Arima Kihei from Kashima, who fought using Shintō-ryu style.

According to tradition he fought in the Battle of Sekigahara in the troops loyal to Toyotomi Hideyori as a mercenary. He does not mention this in The Book of Five Rings. Though he had some success in this battle, the Toyotomi side lost and he had barely survived escaping this battle.

Missing image
Ichijoji Sagarimatsu, Location of Battle between Musashi and Yoshioka Family

After the war was over he left for Edo. According to his adopted son Iori, in 1604 Musashi fought a victorious duel against master swordsman Yoshioka Seijuro using only a bokken, a wooden sword. Reputedly he had a grudge against Yoshioka family for how they had treated his father. This duel was not supposed to take the loser's life and thus Musashi left without taking Yoshioka's life. It is said that Seijuro never held a sword afterward as his pride had been shattered. After he had defeated the father, he killed both boys in duels — though the latter one was more of an ambush. Yoshioka family records however claim that Musashi had been hit in the head by Seijuro and lost. In the subsequent battle, Musashi fled the scene. Most duel records from these times praised their wins but rarely mentioned their losses so it is impossible to know what exactly happened. Yet the fact that they had written records at all is an indication that they were survivors of duels.

Books even conflict as to what weapons were used. (See Scott Wilson 2004 - Tokitsu 2004)

From 1605 to 1612 he traveled extensively all over Japan in Musha-Shugyo, a warrior pilgrimage during which he honed his skills with duels. He was said to have used bokuto in actual duels. Most of duels from these times did not try to take opponent's life and unless both agreed, wooden swords were used. He is also said to have fought over 60 duels and was never defeated. Japanese historians seem to believe that he could not have won all of them alone, without some assistance from his students.

In April 14, 1612 he had his most famous duel with Sasaki Kojiro who was using a nodachi, a long two-handed sword. Musashi came late and unkempt — possibly to unnerve his opponent — and killed him with a bokken that he had made from an oar to be longer than the nodachi. Musashi switched to wood after this fight believing it to be superior in reliability to steel. He briefly established a fencing school that same year.

In 1614 - 1615 he reputedly joined the troops of Tokugawa Ieyasu when he had besieged Osaka Castle of the Toyotomi family. Other accounts claim he actually served in the defending side, but many historians disagree with them. In 1615 he entered the service of Ogasawara Tadanao in Harima province as a construction supervisor. During his service he adopted a boy called Iori and originated the Enmei Ryu school of kenjutsu.

In 1627 he began to travel again. In 1634 he settled in Kokura with his stepson Iori. Later they apparently entered the service of daimyo Ogasawara Tadazane when he fought in the Shimabara Rebellion. Iori served with excellence in putting down this rebellion and would gradually rise to the rank of karo, a position equal to a minister. Musashi, however was injured by a thrown rock while scouting in the front line.

Six years later Musashi moved to service of Hosokawa Tadatoshi, daimyo of Kumamoto Castle to train and paint. In 1643 he retired to a cave named Reigandō as a hermit to write The Book of Five Rings. He finished it a couple of weeks before his death around June 13, 1645.

After his death, various legends began to appear. Most talk about his feats in kenjutsu and other martial arts. Others tell that he killed giant lizards in Echizen. He gained the stature of Kensei, a "sword saint" and various tales connect him with other contemporary martial artists.

Musashi perfected the two-sword kenjutsu technique he called niten'ichi (二天一, "two heavens as one") or nitōichi (二刀一, "two swords as one"). In this technique, the swordsman uses both katana and wakizashi at the same time. It is said the two-handed movements of temple drummers inspired him.

In actual fact Nito Seiho bears no resemblance whatsoever with drumming. Jitte techniques taught by his father use a long sword in the right and jitte in the left. In his time a long sword in the left hand was referred to as gyaku nito. Musashi was also an expert in throwing weapons. He frequently threw his shortsword. In fact before the Meiji era multi faceted skills were a necessity. A Kongen Buddhist Sutra refers to the two heavens as the two guardians of Buddha (see Hayakutake-Watkin: [1] (http://www.hyoho.com)).

Musashi was a loner. He spent many years studying Buddhism and swordsmanship. He was an accomplished artist, sculptor, and calligrapher. Records also show that he had architectural skills. Also, he had a rather no-nonsense approach to fighting; with no additional frills or aesthetic considerations. This was probably due to his real-life combat experience.

Especially in his later life Musashi also followed the more artistic side of bushido. He made various Zen brush paintings and calligraphy and sculpted wood and metal. Even in the Book of Five Rings he emphasizes that samurai should understand other professions as well.

Excerpt from The Book of Five Rings

This is the way for men who wish to learn my strategy:

  1. Do not think dishonestly.
  2. The Way is in training.
  3. Become acquainted with every art.
  4. Know the Ways of all professions.
  5. Distinguish between gain and loss in worldly matters.
  6. Develop intuitive judgment and understanding for everything.
  7. Perceive those things which cannot be seen.
  8. Pay attention even to trifles.
  9. Do nothing which is of no use.

Writings of Miyamoto Musashi

  • Gorin No Sho The Book of Five Rings, (in reference to the Five Rings of Zen Buddhism)
  • The 19 Articles of Self-Discipline
  • The 35 Articles of Swordsmanship
  • Dokkodo, (The Path of Self-Reliance)

Miyamoto Musashi in fiction

There have been thirty six films made about Musashi.

Eiji Yoshikawa's famous novel Musashi — originally serialized in Asahi Shinbun prior to World War II — is more or less based on historical events with added fictitious characters. The comic book Vagabond (by Inoue Takehiko) is based on this novel. The movies Samurai I, II, and III are also based on the novel Musashi, and are regarded as Japan's Gone with the Wind. They star Toshiro Mifune, the long term collaborator of Akira Kurosawa, as Musashi.

The character Haohmaru, from SNK's Samurai Shodown video game series, is loosely based on Musashi. Likewise, Ukyo Tachibana, also from Samurai Shodown, is based on Sasaki Kojiro.

The Neo-Geo game Musashi Ganryuki (known outside Japan as Ganryu) was based on Musashi's fight with Sasaki Ganryu Kojiro.

The PlayStation game Brave Fencer Musashi and its Playstation 2 sequel Musashi: Samurai Legend are also loosely based on the legend of Musashi. While Musashi used two swords and had a rival named Kojiro in the first game, and an arch nemesis named Gandrake{also based on Kojiro}, the plot of both games involve Musashi and these two getting sent to an alternate world and bear no relation to the life of Miyamoto Musashi.

There is also a movie by director Ryuhei Kitamura called Aragami about a tired Musashi, whose skills are explained by his being an aragami, or deity of war, who wishes to be killed by a worthy warrior.

The comic book Usagi Yojimbo has as its central character a rabbit samurai who is inspired by Musashi.

Manga artist Go Nagai gave the name Musashi to one of the pilots on his giant robot mecha creation, Getter Robo. He always carried a sword, and in the manga and anime versions, he and his fellow pilots (who both have noble names, one named Ryoma after Sakamoto Ryoma, and the other Hayato, after the Hayato clan), use the giant robot Getter to fight against the evil Dinosaur empire (who used mechanized giant lizards).

The female half of Team Rocket in the Pokmon anime (Musashi) was named after Miyamoto (in English, she is known as Jessica, with her nickname being "Jessie"). Her partner in crime was ironically called Kojiro. The name of her mother, who only appeared in a CD drama, was Miyamoto.

He also appears in the first five episodes of the anime Shura No Toki, duelling against a martial artist where after a stalemate, supposedly stops fighting because he has achieved fighting against the perfect match to his skills. His adopted son appears in the next couple of episodes as well, but without any involvement from Musashi himself.

The two main male characters in the Japanese dorama "Bus Stop" are named Miyamae Musashi and Sasajima Kojiro, and in one episode, the main female character remarks that she is like the island where Musashi and Kojiro held their duel.

In the game Live a Live, Ode Iou resurrected Musashi and uses him to distract Oboromaru.

External links

Template:Wikiquotede:Musashi Miyamoto es:Musashi Miyamoto fr:Musashi Miyamoto it:Miyamoto Musashi ja:宮本武蔵 pt:Miyamoto Musashi fi:Miyamoto Musashi sv:Miyamoto Musashi zh:宮本武藏


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