Return to Kensei (person)

Kensei, or “Sword-Saint” is the honorific given to Miyamoto Musashi, Japan’s most ferocious and skilled samurai. Kensei defeated some 60 accomplished warriors by the time he was thirty, and stopped using his swords in favor of bokken or makeshift equivalents. There are stories of Kensei carving an oar into a sword during a boat ride to a contest, and of Kensei being approached for a duel while fashioning a bow which he used to defeat his opponent.
At the approximate age of 50 years, he diverted his energies to master the arts of painting, calligraphy, and carving. All remaining examples of his work are considered national treasures. His paintings are sometimes marked “Niten” which means “Two Heavens” and is thought to be in reference to his fighting stance of a sword in each hand, arms above his head.
In 1643, Kensei retired to a cave called “Reigendo”. It was there he wrote A Book of Five Rings (also known as “The Book of Five Rings”) which he addressed to his pupil just a few short weeks before his death in 1645.
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