宮本武蔵

The original "kensei," or "sword-saint." He was eight years old when he fought and killed an adult opponent, a master in the chain-and-hook school of martial arts, by knocking him down and beating him about the head with a stick. He avoided taking baths whenever possible, for fear that his adversaries would try to take advantage of him while he was unarmed and vulnerable. His concerns were justified when an enemy set fire to his bath house and besieged Musashi with hired fighters; regardless, Musashi defeated them all.

He is credited with having said, "If I have defeated one man, I have defeated 100; if I have defeated ten men, I have defeated 1000." He meant to defeat one man represented a hundred others of similar style, who would likewise be defeated if they encountered and opposed him. He also created the eight-point stance, a fencing position which left no side of him unguarded and unprepared for an attack.

After a long and illustrious martial career, Musashi retreated into the mountains to perfect his calligraphy, jade-carving, and poetry. It was during this final retreat that he wrote the Go Rin No Sho, or Book of Five Rings.

Miyamoto Musashi's full name was, Ben no Suke Shinmen Genshin no Fujiwara no Kami Miyamoto Musashi Masana no Kensei.

Born in Miyamoto village in 1584, and has as much legend as well as fact written about him. It is rumoured that he when he was 13 he killed a samurai known as Arima Kigei by throwing him, and hitting him with a stick. Musashi favoured the wooden katana, or bokken, over the more traditional katana.

His father, Munisai died when Musashi was only seven years old, and so he was adopted by his uncle, a buddhist priest. It is not known whether or not it was his uncle that ushered him into Kendo or if it was his own choice, however, he was soon to enlist in Toyotomi Hideyoshi's army, at around his 16th birthday.

Toyotomi Hideyoshi was one of Japan's most famous Shoguns who managed to create some form of national unity. He died in 1600 (around the time Musashi joined up) and was replaced by Mitsunari Ishida, who was drawn into a terrible battle by Tokugawa where his army was almost completely destroyed. Musashi managed to escape.

Musashi went on to taunt the Yoshioka family in Kyoto. He fought Seijiro Yoshioka first, in his usual blunt manner, resulting in Seijiro cutting off his own topknot in shame. He stayed in Kyoto, serving as an annoying reminder to the Yoshiokas. Soon enough, Denshichiro Yoshioka challenged Musashi, this battle ended very abruptly with the skull of Denshichiro being crushed. Finally, the family sent a young boy, Hanshichiro Yoshioka, to challenge him. Hanshichiro was not yet in his teens, and was escorted by a large group of armed men, intent on killing Musashi. Musashi, leaped into the centre of them, killing the boy, and cutting a path in the men, before escaping.

Musashi wandered throughout Japan, becoming a legend in his own time, defeating opponent upon opponent regardless of what weapon they were using.

He was also a master strategist, leading an army to destroy Christian daimyos of Shimawara in 1638.

He wrote The Book of Five Rings less than a month before his death in 1645.

Information sources: The Book of Five Rings, By Miyamoto Musashi, and some other, smaller sources.

Miyamoto Musashi was also somewhat of an aescetic. He was prided himself in the fact that he never touched a woman, combed his hair, or bathed. His writing style was also affected. A Book of Five Rings is unusual for its time in that it was written in katakana rather than kanji, and contained very few religious references compared to similar books of its time.

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