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Thread: Musashi was a thug

  1. #16
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    The article by Draeger says that Musashi did not actually write Gorin no Sho, but that it was actually a collection of his sayings written down by his students. This is the only source I have seen to claim this (although there may be others, I don't know). Does anyone have more on this?

    Joseph Rasnack

  2. #17
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    Default Tombstone book?

    Interesting letters by Donn Draeger. I was curious about Guy-san's translation as "Tombstone Book" though:

    Although Gorin no sho literally translates as "the Scroll of Five Wheels [or Spheres]," Guy Power, the US director of the International Iai-Battodo Federation, suggests that a better contextual translation might be "The Tombstone Book." The reason is that in Japanese a gorin is a tombstone, and a gorinto is a five-tiered stupa whose geomantic configurations match those of Musashi's book.
    The main entry in the modern dictionary I'm looking at also lists the primary definition of "gorin" as "rings, circles".

    However, gorin is also the Japanese term for the early Chinese cosmology concept of "five elements" (same kanji); Earth, Fire, Metal, Water & Wood. According to notes I have from one of my mentors, Musashi substituted the "metal" and "wood" elements in favor of "wind" and "emptiness (void)" to better fit his concepts.

    A "gorin no to" (five tier pagoda) is featured on the cover of Watanabe's little (Japanese) version of "Gorin (no) Sho", but this seems to have been a choice in illustrations - that include Musashi's five elements in kanji next to each tier - rather than a literal symbol of his teachings.

    In other words, to literally translate the volumes as the "Tombstone Book" does not convey the concept of the Japanese title. To use "Tombstone" in the translation may be reading more into the term that was intended in the choice of phrasing. A gorin burial pagoda, if I understand correctly(?), is structured in such a way as to symbolize the stages and transformation of a human from his creation to his death.

    Translations of the name that I've come across and seem more appropriate to the nature of Musashi's writings are, IMHO, are "A Treatise of the Five Elements", or simply, "The Five Elements".

    Just a long winded observation.
    Last edited by Nathan Scott; 16th January 2002 at 22:05.
    Nathan Scott
    Nichigetsukai

    "Put strength into your practice, and avoid conceit. It is easy enough to understand a strategy and guard against it after the matter has already been settled, but the reason an opponent becomes defeated is because they didn't learn of it ahead of time. This is the nature of secret matters. That which is kept hidden is what we call the Flower."

    - Zeami Motokiyo, 1418 (Fūshikaden)

  3. #18
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    Exclamation Musashi Who?

    Originally posted by stratcat
    First of all: No offense intended! This IS a serious question.

    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.

    Is Musashi worthy of his recognition, and should we emulate him?
    First thing you should have in mind is this:

    If you haven't seen him, you don't know who he was!

    The Real Musashi is very much like the Real Jesus.

    We have no idea of how he was.

    Jesus was from the midle east, a jew from a current that didn't bath often (a Nazaren, detail that Hollywood often ignores) and was a carpenter.

    The majour source we have about him are the writings of his own disciples...

    The only good hints to "who Musashi KenSei was" are:

    -His paintings;
    -His sculptures;
    -His writings and
    -His school.

    By "only good hints" i mean that from the works you are able to get a glimpse of the feelings, emotions and dreams of the artist.

    You asked two questions:

    "Is Musashi worthy of his recognition?"

    His works are still treasured by people all over the world.

    From the thousands of warriors of the begining of the Edo period, he is among the few that are still remembered.

    "should we emulate him?"

    Why?

    He was a 16/17 century warrior. Why emulate him?

    On the other hand, why emulate Ueshiba or Martin Luther King?

    I think trying to learn who I am and how to be sincere within my heart is already a great task.

    It is the only thing all great men have in comom (they knew who they were).

    The GoRinNoSho is very disappointing to people looking for "fortune-cookie wisdom".

    Right in the Earth Scroll Musashi Sama gives out the Gokui to usefully reading his book:

    "Nurture the ability to perceive the truth in all matters. ";
    "Perceive that which cannot be seen with the eye. "

    I took this from Hyakutake Colin's page (which i strongly recommend!).

    http://www.bunbun.ne.jp/~sword/Hyoho1.html

    With enough backup, GoRinNoSHo is an endless source of guiding in anything.

    Without it, it is just a technical guide for sword work.

    My spoon full of sugar...
    Renato Costa de Alcântara

  4. #19
    stratcat Guest

    Exclamation Just a Cotton Pickin' Minute!


    Okay, Okay! Listen, I'll say this again, my intention is not to offend- these are the things I've read on Musashi's life, and thus that is my first impression of him. Being a lawyer by trade, I DO know how to do a little research, and being a criminal law specialist by vocation, I DO know how to rate a source's credibility. Sure, I wrote "Musashi was a Thug"- got your attention didn't it? A lot more than if I had written "Who was Musashi and why is he important?"

    THEREFORE: I KNOW that Musashi is extremely well regarded in Japan as a folk hero and specially among Kenjutsuka who see him as their "saint"; heck, my teacher practically worships him!. So, I apologize if any offense has been taken by practioners of Niten Ichi Ryu or assorted kenjutsu-ists. My intent is to get to the deeper truth behind the surface sheen of Musashi's "Legend", not to disparage anybody.

    HAVING SAID THAT: If my first impression of Musashi is wrong, don't insult my intelligence- I'm not after "fortune cookie wisdom" and don't give me any witty riposte (pun intended) or semi offensive remarks- tell me WHY I'm wrong and back it up! -And don't tell me "...'cause he was cool! (cue Beavis and Butthead laugh)". I want an academic discussion, with Martial Artists who are more learned in the subject than I. Mssrs. Svinth's, Rasnack's and Friday's posts in this sense are most helpful! I find Musashi's character both fascinating and enigmatic, and paradoxical enough to suit my own mercurial nature, so I want to know why so many people admire him.

    BY THE BY: I DO practice martial arts, Aikido and Ju-Jutsu, so, in keeping with the SCUBA diving reference, I can at least "swim". Mr. Hyakutake, our teacher is going to start teaching kenjutsu again to his higher ranked students and I was honored to be chosen, so I'll be learning to "SCUBA dive" soon enough! In any case, some people may not know how to swim, but you CAN tell them who Jacques Cousteau was and why he was important to SCUBA divers, hmmm? ...cough cough.

    Furthermore, in your opinion, if some of Gorin No Sho is useless to all but Kenjutsuka, why was the book such a big hit on Wall Street way back when?

    In any case, keep the replies coming. After all that's the idea behind this forum- let's trade information. Only through consultation with the experts can the mistruths of Martial Arts be dispelled!

  5. #20
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    Default

    Since you're looking for academic input, here's Prof. Bodiford, from his essay, "Written Texts: Japan," in _Martial Arts of the World: An Encyclopedia_, ed. by Thomas A. Green (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2001):

    1. Volume 2, page 762

    "The most notable [swordplay adventure], perhaps, is the 1953 novel _Miyamoto Musashi_ by Yoshikawa Eiji (1892-1962). This novel (which was translated into English in 1981) more than anything else helped transform the popular image of Miyamoto Musashi (1584-1645) from that of a brutal killer into one of an enlightened master of self-cultivation."

    2. Volume 2, pages 765-766

    "The earliest extant martial art treatises are _Heiho kadensho_ (Our Family's Tradition of Swordsmanship, 1632) by Yagyu Munenori (1571-1646) and _Gorin no sho_ (Five Elemental Spheres, 1643) by Miyamoto Musashi... Until modern times both texts were secret initiation documents. Like other initiation document they contain vocabulary that cannot be fathomed by outsiders who lack training in their respective martial arts styles. For this reason, the modern interpretations and translations that have appeared so far in publications intended for a general audience have failed to do them justice. In some cases, the specialized martial art terminology in these works has been interpreted and translated into English in the most fanciful ways (e.g., Suzuki 1959).

    ... _Gorin no sho_ eschews the philosophical reflection found in _Heiho kadensho_ and concentrates almost exclusively on fighting techniques... Throughout the work, Musashi's style is terse to the point of incomprehensibility. In spite of his use of the elemental scehme to give his work some semblance of structure, the individual sections lack any internal organization whatsoever. Some assertions reappear in several different contexts without adding any new information. Much of what can be understood appears self-contradictory. This unintelligibility, however, allows the text to function as Rorschach inkblots within which modern readers (businessmen, perhaps) can discover many possible meanings."

  6. #21
    Ben Bartlett Guest

    Default

    Furthermore, in your opinion, if some of Gorin No Sho is useless to all but Kenjutsuka, why was the book such a big hit on Wall Street way back when?
    Because back in the 80's, when Japan's economy was booming, many American businessmen were silly enough to believe that the Japanese had some ancient secret which made them really good businessmen. The people who published Gorin no Sho took full advantage of this. You ever see those commercials for beauty products which tell American women that they now can use products that European women have been using for ages to stay young/beautiful/etc? Same basic idea. Of course, Gorin no Sho has nothing to do with business, and the idea of the Japanese as superior businessmen went out the window after the bubble burst in Japan, while the American economy grew stronger. At any rate, as one of the articles listed above mentions, the values Musashi embodied are frankly closer to traditional American values than Japanese ones. "Concern for the group over the individual" is not what comes to mind when I think of Musashi. At any rate, why anyone thought that a 17th century treatise on swordsmanship had anything to do with today's business practices is beyond me.

  7. #22
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    Cool It's been said...

    Hello again all,
    It has already been posted but maybe missed by some here..The best article that I have read on the whole 'Businessman Musashi Phenomenon' is one at the EJMAS site called "Samurai on Wall Street" by G. Cameron Hurst. (Check Dr. Friday's post above for the link)
    The article covers a lot of the very same points that are under question here and is a very good/comprehensive summary of how a trend gets started and why some people go for it full throttle.
    It will answer those questions for you.
    Abayo.
    Ben Sharples.
    智は知恵、仁は思いやり、勇は勇気と説いています。

  8. #23
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    Dear Mr. Gomez,
    Your initial inquiry is a priori questionable. Your conjecture is, if I am reading you correctly, that Musashi is “revered” or at least held "in great regard as a folk hero" by many Japanese, especially by practitioners of classical martial arts. You wonder why, given that certain details about his life lead one to conclude that whatever else he may have been, he was something of a lout.

    Restated in a different way, how would we entertain the same question from a Japanese: Robin Hood is hugely admired by legions of Westerners, especially archers, and I wonder why, in light of the fact he was essentially a bandit?
    Your reply would likely be to patiently explain that most Westerners don’t give a rip one way or another about Robin Hood, a semi-mythical figure out of the distant past, unless a movie or book about him would be currently popular. And under those circumstances, they would be more attracted to the glamourized, Hollywood incarnation of Robin Hood than to any historically verifiable person by that name.

    Musashi’s “popularity” among the general public in Japan has been similar to that of a character from a Clint Eastwood film or a James F. Cooper novel. Rugged individual on a “quest” for something or other, operating alone, a romantic figure. The majority of Japanese know of Musashi the same way we know of Robin Hood, through movies and novels. The notion that Japanese businessmen are perusing Musashi’s writings to gain an edge in their professions has more to do with ambitious publicity on the part of publishers hyping their English translations of Musashi’s book than to any reality.

    I am acquainted with a fair number of exponents of koryu sword arts in Japan and I don’t know a single one who holds Musashi in any kind of special regard. The idea that he would be considered a “saint” is curious. Maybe in popular martial arts literature. But I’ve never heard his name even mentioned in a koryu dojo in the context of a role model or an expert on technique or strategy. That’s why I said your inquiry was a priori flawed. It seems as though you have extrapolated that because Musashi has a following among the Japanese public (which he really doesn’t), he is a revered figure among Japanese budoka (which he isn’t).

    I suspect Musashi is a much more popular figure among Western martial arts enthusiasts than he is in Japan simply because his works are among the few that have been translated. And because he fits the profile—at least in his fictional form—of our heroes, as noted above. If your teacher’s adulation for Musashi comes because you are a member of some ryu to which he is connected, I suppose that’s understandable. If not, it would be interesting to ask your teacher why he isn’t as enamoured of the ancestral figures of his own ryu.

    Cordially,
    Dave Lowry

  9. #24
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    Thumbs up

    Thank You Dave,
    I was thinking something very similar to what you just wrote, but I do not have anywhere near your ability to convey my thoughts to writing.

    Regards,
    Paul Smith
    "Always keep the sharp side and the pointy end between you and your opponent"

  10. #25
    Yamantaka Guest

    Cool Re: Just a Cotton Pickin' Minute!

    Originally posted by stratcat

    Okay, Okay! Listen, I'll say this again, my intention is not to offend- these are the things I've read on Musashi's life, and thus that is my first impression of him. Being a lawyer by trade, I DO know how to do a little research, and being a criminal law specialist by vocation, I DO know how to rate a source's credibility.

    YAMANTAKA : Knowing many lawyers, as well as representatives from other professions, I DO KNOW that no one is much better than anybody else and they are subject to mistakes and misunderstandings as everybody else. Of course, my intention also is not to offend...

    Originally posted by stratcat
    THEREFORE: I KNOW that Musashi is extremely well regarded in Japan as a folk hero and specially among Kenjutsuka who see him as their "saint"; heck, my teacher practically worships him!. So, I apologize if any offense has been taken by practioners of Niten Ichi Ryu or assorted kenjutsu-ists. My intent is to get to the deeper truth behind the surface sheen of Musashi's "Legend", not to disparage anybody.

    YAMANTAKA : Your misconception has already been answered.

    Originally posted by stratcat
    HAVING SAID THAT: I want an academic discussion, with Martial Artists who are more learned in the subject than I. Mssrs. Svinth's, Rasnack's and Friday's posts in this sense are most helpful! I find Musashi's character both fascinating and enigmatic, and paradoxical enough to suit my own mercurial nature, so I want to know why so many people admire him.

    YAMANTAKA : Your nature is mercurial indeed! And if you want an academic discussion you shouldn't come here. Even if we have many highly intelligent people of academic acumen, this list is for everybody, its objective to exchange ideas. We have people here who do not practice martial arts; who have no academic formation; who sometimes can't even spell it right...We are all here to discuss ideas and to learn. If you want academic answers perhaps the University would be the better place for you to go. And, please, why the "redhot" smiley ?


    Originally posted by stratcat
    BY THE BY: I DO practice martial arts, Aikido and Ju-Jutsu, so, in keeping with the SCUBA diving reference, I can at least "swim". Mr. Hyakutake, our teacher is going to start teaching kenjutsu again to his higher ranked students and I was honored to be chosen, so I'll be learning to "SCUBA dive" soon enough!
    YAMANTAKA : A bit arrogant, don't you think so? Some people on this list have been learning Koryu or Gendai arts for more than 30 years and they think they are still LEARNING. You'll "be learning to SCUBA dive SOON ENOUGH..." What do you mean by that? That you are beginning to learn Kenjutsu and, SOON ENOUGH, you will know it all ? Sorry, if that is what you intended to say, I believe you're much better than all of us put together!

    Originally posted by stratcat
    Furthermore, in your opinion, if some of Gorin No Sho is useless to all but Kenjutsuka, why was the book such a big hit on Wall Street way back when?
    YAMANTAKA : Because of something called FAD and another thing called MARKETING. People will always believe nonsense spread by the Media.

    Originally posted by stratcat
    In any case, keep the replies coming.
    YAMANTAKA : That's what I did. By the way, what other books did you read besides the "Book of 5 Rings" ? And what pages on the Internet did you consult before asking your questions at E-Budo?
    Best

  11. #26
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    Default flame? maybe not but close

    Cady had a point about taking the whole person as geat because they had one exceptional part. A very good modern example of this would be Demo Dick Marcinko. Argueablly one of the finest SpecWarriors this nation has produced. He is also a convicted fellon...for good reason. His ideas on tactics and training were ahead of his time however he was also likely a complete A$$4013 . Take the good with the bad and don't discount the good because of the bad.

  12. #27
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    Default Re: Just a Cotton Pickin' Minute!

    [QUOTE]Originally posted by stratcat
    [B]
    Okay, Okay! Listen, I'll say this again, my intention is not to offend- these are the things I've read on Musashi's life, and thus that is my first impression of him. Being a lawyer by trade, I DO know how to do a little research, and being a criminal law specialist by vocation, I DO know how to rate a source's credibility. Sure, I wrote "Musashi was a Thug"- got your attention didn't it? A lot more than if I had written "Who was Musashi and why is he important?"
    .................................

    Sure it got my attention. But I am not one of your criminal cases and I am not on the witness stand. Your research seems to be minimal. Had you read any of the Buddhist Sutras as Imai Soke suggests. Have you read the Tannisho of Shinran Shonin? All good reading to get a better idea of the deep meaning of the Japanese texts of Gorin no sho. Then if you studied Ogasawara Ryu. The ryu which teaches the reiho used by the thug you mention, you might be able to bow correctly enough to enter the Heiho sho and learn some of the practical side of things.

    [QUOTE]Originally posted by stratcat
    My intent is to get to the deeper truth behind the surface sheen of Musashi's "Legend", not to disparage anybody.
    ...................

    Sadly if you want anybody to open up and tell you more, I think you will have to alter your approach in broaching a subject. It may work in a court but you wont get much help from me.

    You will have to be satisfied with what you can glean from the sparse English translations of the manuscripts of the five elements and opinions from qualified Westerners and Japanese that have never even been shown how to hold and use a Niten Ichiryu bokuto.

    [QUOTE]Originally posted by stratcat
    but you CAN tell them who Jacques Cousteau was and why he was important to SCUBA divers, hmmm? ...cough cough.
    ......................

    I have Divemasters and rescue divers card too but you would not be on my list as the the first to be rescued if I had to choose!


    [QUOTE]Originally posted by stratcat
    In any case, keep the replies coming.
    ......................

    There I have to decline also. I will bow out of this conversation. Sue me?

    Hyakutake Colin
    Last edited by hyaku; 18th January 2002 at 04:12.

  13. #28
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    Stratcat wrote:
    Okay, Okay! Listen, I'll say this again, my intention is not to offend- these are the things I've read on Musashi's life, and thus that is my first impression of him. Being a lawyer by trade, I DO know how to do a little research, and being a criminal law specialist by vocation, I DO know how to rate a source's credibility. Sure, I wrote "Musashi was a Thug"- got your attention didn't it? A lot more than if I had written "Who was Musashi and why is he important?"


    Trollish behavior catches attention, but loses respect. Just an fyi.

    -Charles Lockhart
    ----------
    Charles Lockhart
    FBI: From da' Big Island

  14. #29
    red_fists Guest

    Default

    Hi.

    Personally, I see him more along the lines of a "Robin Hood".
    Not not that he robbd the poor and gave to the rich.

    But that his skills and motives were changed and glorified over the times.

    Why do I say that, is because I once read a version of Robin Hood that made much more sense to me.

    In this Version he was a young reckless Boy/Man with lofty goals and ideas.
    He robbed the rich, but when the peasants were put under pressure to reveal his hiding place he basically "bought" his freedom and their silence from them by giving them part of his loot.

    And hence the Legend was born of Robin Hood who robbed the rich and gave to the poor.

    Just some thoughts.

  15. #30
    Yamantaka Guest

    Cool GREAT MEN AND BAD MEN...

    Originally posted by Tony Peters
    Take the good with the bad and don't discount the good because of the bad.
    YAMANTAKA : The same thing happened with Richard Wagner. A fantastic musician, in my opinion, but an awful human being. according to some of his biographers, he was a leech who not only lived at the expenses of his friends but also bedded their wives. And he used to say that the world had an obligation to sustent him, since he was a genius...
    Not someone we might wish to emulate but surely a great musician whom we admire.
    Best

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