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Thread: Musashi was a thug

  1. #1
    stratcat Guest

    Question Musashi was a thug

    First of all: No offense intended! This IS a serious question.

    From my understanding, Miyamoto Musashi is seen as a sort folk hero in the Japanese Martial Arts, particularly amongst sword guys (sword wielders?), because of his great skill in the use of the Ken.

    However, it is also my understanding that he was a low ranking samurai with little education, and less manners; was somewhat uncouth, shabbily ill dressed, rarely bathed and was generally ill kempt; was fairly boastful and cheated (I mean really, running up to Sasaki Kojiro and smacking him with a boat oar on the head is hardly an honorable way to defeat your opponent, is it?); despite the fact that he was unbeaten in head to head combat, his army got its collective butt kicked in the ONE army scale battle he was involved; was beaten by a guy with a Jo, not a fellow kenshin; became a ronin, not because his master was killed, but because he couldn't afford to pay his retainers (basically he was fired due to "Corporate Downsizing", feudal japanese- style), and had little use for personal Honor.

    Sure, he was great in his Art, achieving an enlightenment that few reach, but wasn't he really just a sort of bully, or thug, that was good at what he did? There are other guys that were just as great at their Art, but aren't given the same sort of respect or recognition- what about Munenori Yagyu (who wrote some important treatises on swordfighting, just as good as the Five rings and certainly more learned)? or Sasaki Kojiro, or even Muso Gonnosuke himself?

    Is it just because corporate america embraced the Five Rings as gospel and decided to market Musashi, or what? Or how about guys from Kyudo, supposedly they acheve much the same sort of enlightenment Musashi did- why aren't people running out to study Kyudo?

    Is Musashi worthy of his recognition, and should we emulate him?

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    Default that's some might tasty bait

    I hope you have a good rod and reel, cause if anyone bites it'll be quite a fight.

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    Default Got the goods?

    Guess we gotta make the distinction between a man's skill and a man's ethics. IMO, there's no one who should be emulated (with the exception of the divine/religious figure of your choice), only used for gleaning information that we can adapt and apply to further our own knowledge and skill. We will just naturally admire a person who, in addition to having skill, also has character.

    I doubt very much that Musashi himself gave a rat's patoot whether anyone admired him; he was a relentlessly self-driven man who was focused only on his own development and perfection in his craft. I get the feeling that he was driven by things he didn't understand himself. According to the writings, in the later part of his life he kept himself in isolation and contemplation. Perhaps because he was trying to come to grips with and control his drives.

    Some people make the error of confusing a man's talent with his character, and thus seek to emulate the entire package. I (and many others) believe that it is possible to respect another's knowledge and skill, and to aim our sights higher toward the degree of skill and accomplishment of another, while remaining true ourselves.

    We learn a lot from those who walked before us. But we have to keep our feet planted on the Earth and recognize that respecting their skills doesn't mean that we also should emulate their character.

    Hey Tony "aikigecko" - what makes you think this is a flame topic? It sounded like a good thinkin' one to me.
    Cady Goldfield

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    Talking same'mo same 'mo

    Ok, i view this opinion as an artist painter, if any of you knows Daly's Biography you'll understand such a guy like musashi or De'Ga or even Leonardo da'vinci. all those men had ther own little crazy world wich never assimilate to the morality of their time and that's is one aspect of art or any art wich makes you bright outside from your normal society, wich in this case musashi had that karisma. As an artist in swordmanship rules do not consern him, but his own, and that's the only way he could achved such great high skill assimilating others style to make his own against the other schools.

    in a moral society definition you will be an esentric, in a artist point of you you are free of any attachement.

    You become a MASTER.

    ISN'T WHAT LIFE IS ALL ABOUT?

    MASTERING LIFE TO TRASCEND YOUR EVER LASTING SPIRIT INTO A NEW LIGHT?
    Pablo Rosado.
    Dojo drop-out
    practicing with my shadow nowdays



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    Default

    SORRY FOR MY MISPELLING HERE'S A FIXED ONE:

    Ok, i view this opinion as an artist painter, if any of you knows Daly's Biography you'll understand such a guy like musashi or De'Ga or even Leonardo da'vinci. all those men had ther own little crazy world wich never assimilate to the morality of their time and that's is one aspect of art or any art wich makes you bright outside from your normal society, wich in this case musashi had that karisma. As an artist in swordmanship rules do not consern him, but his own, and that's the only way he could achved such great high skill assimilating others style to make his own against the other schools.

    in a moral society definition, you will be an escentric, in a artist point of VIEW you are free of any attachement.

    You become a MASTER.

    ISN'T WHAT LIFE IS ALL ABOUT?

    MASTERING LIFE TO TRASCEND YOUR EVER LASTING SPIRIT INTO A NEW LIGHT?
    Pablo Rosado.
    Dojo drop-out
    practicing with my shadow nowdays



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    Cool Thug...Not really...Determined.

    Hi all,
    I have to agree basically with Cady here..Musashi certainly comes across as an incredibly determined individual and one who was very good at what he did.
    To call him a thug misses the point somewhat..He was a Samurai and was required to act in a certain way in order to get along..To place modern standards of behaviour on him and his beliefs is useless, and as Cady adds Musashi probably would not have given a "Rat's patoot" (!?) what opinions others really had of him.
    That, I think was a major part of his charisma...He does not seem to have simply 'accepted' rules that to him were old and obsolete..(Much like a certain B. Lee Sifu in the 60's) And he seems to be pressing forward views on the Bujutsu that are even today very,very relevent.
    His personal character I cannot know about...But then nor can anyone here..And it is not worth wasting time on. In his teachings he comes across as a driven, determined, and very good fighter that tried to introduce a new perspective to a society that was driven by 'rules' and 'the system' that he was not part of.
    Much like all 'Masters' of anything he broke from the norm and was regarded as perhaps eccentric, arrogant, ego-centric, "Ill kempt" and "Uncouth" by the society that he was a part of. Or not.
    Either way we don't know. And insulting anyone after their death with basically not much more than legends and stories of them being 'Thugs' or anything else is pretty disrespectful in Japanese culture...To say nothing of mine!
    Bottom line is he was a 'master' and a good enough one to be remembered 350 odd years after his death...More than me in all likelihood.
    Ben Sharples.
    智は知恵、仁は思いやり、勇は勇気と説いています。

  7. #7
    ben johanson Guest

    Default

    Sorry guys I just have to jump in here.

    I think you are all making the mistake of assuming that what we know of Musashi is 100% accurate and not at all tarnished by five hundred years of legend and folktales. For in Japan, Musashi is exactly that, a legend and a folk hero, so I think it is probably rather difficult to discern truth from fiction with regards to his character, morality, personal hygene, etc. If I'm not mistaken, Gorin no sho is the only extant document written by or about him, and that is not a whole lot to go on in determining what kind of person he actually was (and no, Yoshikawa's Musashi is not an historical text, but rather a work of fiction loosely based on fact). It is because of the above reasons that I think it unwise to look for a martial arts role model or hero in Musashi. If someone wanted to idolize the idealized version of the man with which we are all familiar, that would be their choice, but I think the best martial arts role model a person can have is his teacher. And if an instructor is not worthy of such admiration, he should not be teaching.

  8. #8
    stratcat Guest

    Talking Whoa!!

    Interesting replies! Now, it is not my contention to say that Mr. Musashi was indeed a thug or a bully; however, I AM asking those of us who are more learned in the subject than I to provide with some more complete and/or reliable information than what I've been able to gather. Certainly I don't mean to insult anybody here, or Musashi san's reputation based on what I've read in the Five Rings (Thomas Cleary's version) and what is generally available on the 'net. As it is, I'm not too trusting of the "Samurai Trilogy" with Toshiro Mifune as Musashi "gospel"or other comercially available products on Miyamoto Musashi (i.e. Musashi "Fiction").

    Like I've stated, I'm only asking if my "first impression" of Musashi is way off the mark or what.

    For example, after reading the Book of Five Rings, which I picked up out of pure curiosity, I was fairly startled by it's lack of... I don't know, call it "psychological insight". I won't deny it sums up brilliantly how to act in a non- ambiguous, proactive manner to defeat your enemy, be it 1 or 1000. However, at times it felt like I was reading a cookbook! Again, this is just me and I don' mean to offend anyone! If anything, the Five Rings is so well regarded that I feel like I'm missing something- what is it? Perhaps I was expecting to read the hows and whys Musashi trained the way he did, instead of reading about his end result. To put it another way, maybe I was expecting that he would describe his path, instead he detailed how to walk it. Does this make any sense?

    Case in point: I felt so much better reading the Munenori segment of the book, which delves a little bit deeper on the justification for the existance of the warrior, etc, etc. So was Musashi indeed saying that respect for your adversary and personal honor were luxuries irrelevant to the martial arts and what mattered was that you won (sort of a feudal japanese Machiavelli); or are we meant to understand something else- like such matters are to be found by each one alone and are only relevant in each owns personal context?

    If indeed we are meant to understand that morality and respect are irrelevant to the LEARNING of the martial arts (Bu-JUTSU, not Bu-DO), what about the warrior's responsibility to society as a whole, where does he learn it? Is it win at ANY COST what Musashi is saying or what?

    Just some things that Musashi san left me wondering...
    Last edited by stratcat; 14th January 2002 at 05:31.

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    Quote:
    [However, it is also my understanding that he was a low ranking samurai with little education, and less manners; was somewhat uncouth, shabbily ill dressed, rarely bathed and was generally ill kempt; was fairly boastful and cheated (I mean really, running up to Sasaki Kojiro and smacking him with a boat oar on the head is hardly an honorable way to defeat your opponent, is it?]

    I thought you could have perhaps like Musashi use your brain a bit before you started writing.

    I was not going to respond to this thread as it seemed to me to be a bit of an insult to his family, the Soke and members of the Niten Ichiryu. Then again I increasingly find the policy of not saying anything a waste of time as sometimes if you never respond, people just dont get the message.

    If you anything all of the concept of his Ryu you would know that it is "Seiho" It is based solely on using the offensive actions of an opponent to initiate a devastating attack. Therefore if there is no attack or aggression shown by an opponent there will be no conflict.

    The Miyamoto family namely the present 12th generation Miyamoto Iori who lives in Moji has records and facts going way back. He has recently published a book about the excellent character of his ancestor (in Japanese of course).
    Members of the Niten Ichiryu visit him occasionaly.

    Four times last year I stood in front of Musashi?s epitaph as a few words of respect were said before we practiced there.

    You will miss the point if you read Gorin no Sho just as much as if you have read a book on scuba diving but cant swim. There are parts of it that I fail to see of any interest to anyone who does not practice some form of kenjutsu.

    Hyakutake Colin

    Hyoho Niten Ichiryu - Kageryu

    http://www.bunbun.ne.jp/~sword

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    Default Re: Whoa!!

    [QUOTE]Originally posted by stratcat
    [B]Interesting replies! Now, it is not my contention to say that Mr. Musashi was indeed a thug or a bully; however, I AM asking those of us who are more learned in the subject than I to provide with some more complete and/or reliable information than what I've been able to gather. Certainly I don't mean to insult anybody here, or Musashi san's reputation based on what I've read in the Five Rings (Thomas Cleary's version) and what is generally available on the 'net. As it is, I'm not too trusting of the "Samurai Trilogy" with Toshiro Mifune as Musashi "gospel"or other comercially available products on Miyamoto Musashi (i.e. Musashi "Fiction").


    >>>>
    >>>>
    I think I see the problem here..
    You are talking about one of the other Musashi swordsmen. Out of the 5 to 7 historical swordsmen called Musashi I am sure there was one that had bad hygene and one that was a kind of bully and a least one that was fine .So no one needs to get their hackles up as these are a couple of different swordsmen.

    Gene Gabel

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    Arrow GORIN NO SHO

    Hi Everyones!!

    The best translation I have read (in french or english) seem to be this one:

    A Way to Victory : The Annotated Book of Five Rings by Musashi Miyamoto, Hidy Ochiai (Translator) 248 pages (February 19, 2001, Overlook Press; ISBN: 1585670383

    Go to koryu.com for a review of this book by Meik Skoss.

    As for Your understanding of Musashi and the gorin no sho, I think You are missing the point (no offense intended). You seem to focus on the small details like Musashi Personal hygiene and forget the social and historical context of the day he was living. I think we are taking the romanticism of the budo for the reality. My guess is that the feudal time was not always that honorable to our present 2002 views.

    Finally, I think that the Gorin no sho is indeed a master text. I read a page of it almost every night and by the years I see things that I was not aware years ago. For me this is a master text.
    But You will not get much from it on a fast and single read.

    P.S. Please, forgive my bad english

    Have all a nice day
    Jim

  13. #12
    Ben Bartlett Guest

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    Well, he wrote Gorin no Sho, and painted, so he couldn't have been *that* uneducated. As for the rest, it's hard to know the truth from the legend. I have heard that he didn't particularly like to bathe, and had some sort of skin condition, but I'm not sure if that's true. As for the jo, assuming that legend is correct, the jo was specifically developed to defeat Musashi (earlier he had defeated the same fellow, who was using a bo at the time). Of course, it could just be a myth. Assuming the boat oar story is true, the other fellow had a sword, so I don't feel too bad for him.
    As for should we emulate him, the man devoted his life to swordsmanship at the expense of everything else. I admire him, but there's no way in heck I'd emulate him. There's no one thing that I wish to devote my entire life to. If anyone out there does wish to emulate him, more power to them.
    Oh, and as for him being low-ranking, I'm not sure, but if I remember correctly, his father was also a swordsman of some skill, and at least somewhat well known. Of course, Hyakutake Colin is already posting on this thread, and I'm sure he knows way more about Musashi's history than I do, so maybe I'll just let him cover any salient facts. At any rate, I'm sure Musashi had some faults (hey, he was only human after all... we all have faults), but there was a lot to admire there as well.

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    I have been reading this thread with interest. I would like to refer everyone to an interesting article in the Journal of Asian Martial Arts (Vol. 8, no. 3, 1999, p. 35-37) titled Letters on Miyamoto Musashi by Donn F. Draeger. It definitely presents a different perspective of Musashi.

    Joseph Rasnack

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    The Draeger letter cited above appears online at http://ejmas.com/jcs/jcsdraeger_musashi.htm .

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    Another good source for reasonalby accurate information (an excellent summary of what little we really do know about him) is G. Cameron Hurst's 1982 article, "Samurai on Wall Street." It's been reprinted at http://ejmas.com/jalt/jaltart_Hurst_0101.htm
    Karl Friday
    Dept. of History
    University of Georgia
    Athens, GA 30602

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