What An Undefeated Samurai Warrior Had To Say About Life And Combat

ISBN: 1590309847

The Book Of Five Rings was written in 17th century Japan by a samurai warrior. He shares the fighting techniques and belief system that resulted in him never losing a match.

I went from province to province, from place to place, and encountered martial artists from many different schools; and though I fought as many as sixty matches, I did not lose even once. All of these were events occurring from the time I was thirteen until I reached twenty-eight or twenty-nine.

Remaining undefeated then was more noteworthy than doing the same in the UFC of today because samurais fought with real swords. Losing very likely meant death.

He describes the rhythm of life:

…there is rhythm in the formless. Concerning the position of a warrior, there is a rhythm to rising in the service of his lord, and a rhythm for retreating from it; there is a rhythm to being in harmony with others, and a rhythm to not being in harmony with them. In the Way of the Merchant, there is a rhythm for becoming a wealthy man, and a rhythm for ruining oneself with wealth. The rhythm is different according to each and every Way. You should discriminate thoroughly between the rhythm of success and the rhythm of failure.

He shares martial arts advice:

In the midst of the fight, if you are intent on making your opponent flinch, you will have already obtained the victory. For this reason, you should not forget about stabbing at your opponent’s face.


If he thinks you have understood the martial arts well, that you are strong in technique and that you are an expert in the Way, he is surely thinking that he is going to lose.


It is essential that you attack violently when your opponents are not expecting it. Take advantage of the situation while their minds are unsettled, grasp the initiative, and gain the victory. Again, even in the martial arts of one-on-one, show leisureliness in the beginning, then suddenly attack vigorously. Following through on your opponent’s agitation, you can take the advantage without missing a beat and grasp the victory.


If you use a technique on your opponent and it is not successful the first time, it will have no effect to attack him once more with the same move. Attack suddenly with a different technique, and if that has no effect, you should use yet a different one. Thus, if your opponent is thinking “mountains,” attack with “seas”; and if he is thinking “seas,” attack with “mountains.”


…send [your enemy’s] mind in different directions, make him think various things, and have him wonder if you will be slow or quick. When you grasp the rhythm of his confusion, discern your point of victory with certainty.

He insists you defeat your opponent completely and utterly:

Smashing your opponent completely, even if he seems weak and you are strong, is called Crushing.


If your Crushing is weak, they will be able to rally.


…if your opponent is inferior to you, or his rhythm has broken, or if he appears as though he is going to retreat, it is essential that you crush him immediately, without letting him catch his breath or even letting him glance at you. It is your primary consideration to not let him recover even a little.

One sentence you will see repeatedly is “You should investigate this thoroughly.” In essence he’s saying, “Hey, don’t take my word for it; go try it out yourself and see what you can learn.” I believe we have lost this investigative mindset in modern culture, where people seek out knowledge not as a way to build connections between disciplines or have unique experiences of their own, but to plug and chug. A man wants to get laid so he insists on a book that teaches him exactly how to do it without having to think. Another man wants to get rich so he wants someone to give him a precise recipe for making it happen. People don’t want to experiment and struggle in modern times—they want to be spoon-fed like babies to achieve immediate success.

While this book was interesting, it was very specific to martial artistry, with little that you could extend to a more normal life. In that regard it was a more inferior work than The Art Of War. Unless you have a specific interest in fighting, you can skip this one.

Read More: “The Book Of Five Rings” on Amazon

60 thoughts on “What An Undefeated Samurai Warrior Had To Say About Life And Combat”

    1. It’s public domain, you can get it free from Gutenberg, Feedbooks, etc. I still think you’re a troll though.

  1. I heard that he was a phony and a liar. I don’t know, i prefer to believe that is all some stupid conspiracy.

  2. I disagree that there was nothing to get out of it except for fighting. I think a lot of the wisdom can apply to game and life in general. Here were some of my favorite parts:
    “even if a man has no natural talent, he can become a warrior by sticking assiduously to the divisions of the Way.”
    “If you master the principles of sword-fencing, when you freely beat one man, you beat any man in the world. The spirit of defeating a man is the same for ten million men.”
    “Absorb the things written in this book. Do not just read, memorise or imitate, but so that you realise the principle from within your own heart study hard to absorb these things into your body.”
    “In strategy your spiritual bearing must not be any different from normal. Both in fighting and in everyday life you should be determined though calm.”

  3. Modern men lack masculinity because there is much less need to be warriors. Our consumerist culture has turned us all into drones where all we do is make money and spend it on useless things. It’s true that we live in a more civil and comfortable society in contrast to the pre-industrial times of continuous warfare and fight for survival, but as a consequence, we have essentially traded our freedom and manhood for safety and everlasting boredom.

    1. I think this is one of the major drivers of feminism. When women used to look on men as warriors and champions, they submitted themselves willingly to men, by nature. Because that’s what the female hindbrain is hard-wired to do.
      The problem is that there is no modern struggle, no fight to fight. The military is highly organized and concentrated around just a small number of highly-trained elite specialists, with the rest mainly assigned to ‘cleaning up after the mess’. The police are cowards who prey on idiots selling dope. Why do women love football players and basketball players so much? Because it reminds their primitive hindbrains of ancient warriors defending turf against intruders. Note that men watch sports because it’s fun; women watch sports because they have the hots for the players.

      1. @A guy: Brilliant analysis man and I agree. Solutions?
        Have a hobby, a passion, or some personal goals to achieve (that’s very important for any man I believe). Your woman (women) will then rally around you to beat your opponents/achieve your goal(s) and you will be able to tap into the same psychological mechanism.
        For example, say you are training for a marathon, or an Iron Man competition, or your team is set to compete in a dirt bike competition. Sadly (or not) battling it out on the killing fields is not common anymore. (Sidenote: wartime pussy must be easiest to pull, if you’re not injured or killed that is.)

      2. maybe youre overthinking it: sports players are young, physically imposing, famous and rich. im not saying your analysis is wrong, just saying that maybe we need to step back and realise women arent as complicated as we make them out to be.

        1. Well yes that definitely plays into it as well, but I’d be surprised if the act of playing team sports by itself isn’t tantalizing to women.

      1. Love Bane. Except for the terrible reveal at the end, that he was a hopeless beta for Talia Al Ghul. But yeah, great quote. But you reversed it. It’s “Peace has cost you your strength. Victory has defeated you.”

        1. yeah the bit with him being a tool for talia was completely out of character and took me right out of it. also that that weak ass girl could be the one to escape the lazarus pit was ridiculous too. they built up such an inhuman foe, and then throw it away and him in such a ridiculously pitiful and powerless way.

    2. There’s no need to be warriors, and all of society has conspired to tell men not to even try to look like warriors, not to even try to be tough. Everyone celebrates a boy in a tutu. So boys grow up with no reason to be strong, and being told it’s great if they open up and show weakness.

      1. we used to have a social contract that said:
        i won’t mess with you, if you don’t mess with me… BUT … if you cross me or i am an outlaw, i can mess with and kill you…
        that made society masculine, a little raw and violent, but the reality of life is raw and violent and life is not that precious… women are hard wired to consider life precious because they are the ones taking care of small babies, but life is not that precious… about 1% of babies born die in their first year.
        now we have a social contract that is distorted, much like the divorce laws are distorted…. now we say, you cannot mess with me and i cannot mess with you…. so that’s the end of a man needing to carry himself in life to a large degree…. it also gives women free reign and sets them up as automatic equals to men in many ways.

    3. That is why a lot of people enlist, so they get that sense of insecurity. Modern man still has their warriors. They are called the United States Military.

      1. Even there though there is still a divide. The infantry still has a masculine ideology that insist on physical and mental strength but the POG world is becoming as bad as corporate america – maybe worse.

      2. I don’t doubt that the individual soldiers are brave and strong men, but calling the US military as a whole as warriors is like calling a school bully an UFC fighter.

        1. This is addressed to everyone who commented in reply to this, I’m not saying Soldiers are Samurai Warriors, but when you enlist and serve this Country, regardless of my opinion of it, then you have the right to say they aren’t Modern Day Warriors, obviously people don’t use swords anymore, this is the 21st century. And yes a lot of it is technology, swords were modern day technology back then. I’m just stating people are putting their lives on the line for every country, and those are MODERN DAY warriors.And you can’t deny that.

      3. There are plenty of warriors in the US military, as there are in the military organizations of other countries. But the reason the US military is superior is because of technology and strategy, irrespective of the actions of ‘a few good men’. That’s the way it *should* be in the modern world, by the way, if you want to win. You can’t win anymore by carrying a sword and challenging your opponents to duels. When the bombing of Hiroshima was ordered, many generals complained because they did not consider a WMD to be an honorable form of fighting. They were right, of course, but outdated.

        1. the US military is superior. Ha that’s an oxymoron if I ever heard one. The US has never won a war it started.

      4. Didnt a SEAL become a tranny? LOL. US Military, what a joke. We lost in Vietnam. Lost in Iraq, Afghanistan, embarrassed with Iran. All the money and technology in the world cant make pussies warriors.

        1. Excuse me, the US won the war in Vietnam. The victory was meaningless within a couple of years, but they exceeded their initial objectives. Much the same can be said about Iraq and Afghanistan: they won the war, it was the management afterwards that failed.

  4. Excellent advice! I believe all men should learn to fight and fail and succeed. Fighting is primal as is combat. It touches something deep inside us all. All have fear when fighting. This is a good thing. Overcoming fear and using it as fuel to win is what makes you successful. Fighting can teach you a lot about yourself. You learn more in failure than you do in victory. It can show you your character. Who you truly are, not who you think you are.

  5. This is my favorite of Miyamoto Musashi:
    “there is nothing outside of yourself that can ever enable you to get better, stronger, richer, quicker, or smarter. Everything is within. Everything exists. Seek nothing outside of yourself.”
    ― Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings

    1. Basically, there is no substitute, no magic pill, no easy fix (looking at you Americans and your “three easy steps to….” lists), no outside force or potion that can help you improve. What truly works is within: discipline, work ethic, sacrifice, time and effort. The only exception to this is knowledge: if you’re pointed in the right direction, given words of wisdom, or some mentoring, that can save you time and potential trouble going down the wrong path. Having said that, trail and error is good too. ‘Experience is the best teacher’. A fine balance on the part of the teacher. I wonder is Miyamoto had a mentor??

      1. Apparently not. Musashi claimed that he didn’t had any formal teachers or mentors but his father was a major influence in his early life. He was pretty nasty though. Bordering on child abuse. But that was where Musashi learnt a lot of his early fighting skills. He must have learnt pretty good stuff alright because he killed his first enemy at the tender age of 13 when a wandering ronin came to his village looking for challengers. He accepted it. Marched straight up to him armed with only a wooden sword and beat him to death with it. Alpha indeed…

    2. “If you know the enemy and yourself, you need not fear the results of a 1,000 battles.” – Sun Tzu, The Art of War.

  6. Musashi is probably one of the best known Samurai known to the West and in Japan but he had a number of contemporaries in his day which were just as formidable or even deadlier than him. One of those was Yagyu Munenori and he wrote the “The Sword and the Mind” which is as worth reading as “Book of the 5 Rings”. Its available for sale on Amazon but I think you can get it for free from Gutenberg as well.
    That being said, Musashi may not have been undefeated in his life. Anyone here familiar with Jodo (NOT Judo), the art of the stick? The legend passed down today was that the founder of the art of the stick, Muso Gonnosuke, met with Musashi and challenged him to a duel. Musashi won but spared Gonnosuke’s life. The latter then retreated to contemplate his experience and then created a set of fighting techniques with a short stick meant to defeat Musashi’s 2-sword fighting style. And this time, Gonnosuke won and spared Musashi’s life. There is no historical evidence that this duel ever took place so this story can’t be verified.
    However, there are definite techniques meant to defeat an opponent using 2 swords so there might be some truth to the story. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D3MW5wKpt8k
    Jodo is taught in quite a few places around the world if anyone is interested in it. There’s 2 traditions taught today which is the modern All Japan Kendo Federation style called Seitei Jodo and the original tradition handed down by Muso Gonnosuke called the Shindo Muso Ryu (SMR). The former is a bit limited so if you can, you should check out the original SMR tradition. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shindo_Muso_Ryu

  7. Read “34 Strategies of War” by Robert Greene for quotes from this book and extrapolations too. These principles can very easily be applied to everyday life. They help you in yourquest to dinadonate your life and opponents

  8. The world is a cruel and unforgiving place. It is good to test your mettle in combat. All me respect a man that can fight and win. It helps you to develop a never give up and never quit mentality. Fighting allows you to face your fears of getting, hurt, beat and or humiliated head on. Whether you win or lose you have won by facing that fear……but win the fight….if you can…..if not, learn from the loss and become stronger for it.

  9. “You should investigate this thoroughly.”
    I’ll second that…. excellent point Roosh…
    If you look at the 1700s and 1800s era scientists, they had free minds and explored all kinds of phenomenon. Today we are chained by what we already know and the dogma of institution and government. How is anyone going to invent a warp drive or teleporter unless they try and fail and experiment ?

  10. “” In essence he’s saying, “Hey, don’t take my word for it; go try it out yourself and see what you can learn.” I believe we have lost this investigative mindset in modern culture, where people seek out knowledge not as a way to build connections between disciplines or have unique experiences of their own, but to plug and chug.”
    Spot on. Americans in general have become intellectually as well as physically lazy. Wikipedia is to the mind as obesity is to the body.

    1. Agreed. Reading is good, though – I’ve learnt a lot from Chase and ROK, but you need to actually try these ideas and make them your own lived experimental hypotheses. I find all the info bewildering at times, and have sometimes been influenced into something that is not me, but I get better at knowing me, pulling girls, and not worrying about it every time it happens.

  11. Roosh, I haven’t read the particular book in question, but I approve of your efforts to read classic literature and then blog about it. Many of the problems of human life have lasted forever, and we have the benefit of the written thoughts and experiences of some very smart people in the past about them. Moreover, we can never exhaust the goods of the mind. Centuries from now, people will probably still read these books, while they have long since forgotten currently trendy intellectuals like Malcolm Gladwell.

  12. “While this book was interesting, it was very specific to martial artistry, with little that you could extend to a more normal life. In that regard it was a more inferior work than The Art Of War. Unless you have a specific interest in fighting, you can skip this one.”
    WRONG. I normally just lurk on the manosphere, but I actually own this book, and despite its brevity, there is so much there that a man can take away from it and apply to his entire life, not just in “warfare”. In fact, one of the first things he states in the book is how one can liken warfare to carpentry and in doing so can liken warfare to any other aspect of one’s life. They are one and the same. A big thing in that part is talking about dividing up labor and properly matching the importance of the task up with those with the appropriate skill level to carry it out. That’s not just limited to warfare but any area in life where one must accomplish a task with a group of people.
    Furthermore, there’s another theme that might not make as much sense to people that didn’t live in the time period he did, but right at the beginning of the book he mentions how he fought those duels and never lost. But then immediately after saying that, he follows it up by effectively saying: “Looking back, my success wasn’t due to how awesome I was at martial arts, but due to the lack of discipline in my opponents.” He wasn’t saying “I was so successful because I was awesome!” but “I was successful because my opponents sucked!” Now that’s not to take away from Musashi but to drill home an issue that was prevalent in his time.
    There were a lot of martial arts schools and teachings going on in his time, but something he locked in on as a common failing they all shared was being too flashy and not focuses enough on the fundamentals and drilling that in with massive discipline and practice. Much of the schools relied on trying to use “special techniques” to win fights effortlessly and esoterics, which Musashi castigates in his book as resulting in the unnecessary injury and death of countless martial artists and warns the reader to be wary of this “style over substance” approach to warfare.
    Effectively he was lambasting the martial arts equivalent of a “magic pill to success” that you all tend to frown upon on the manosphere. In fact, while Musashi argues for his own specific style of combat (dual-wielding a short and long sword) he also points out that it is not an end-all, be-all magic bullet to success but only a generally useful combat style that can potentially be applied to a general set of circumstances, and that in warfare one should use the appropriate tool for the job (even advocating the use of firearms).
    There’s also this little gem: “Also, large-scale military science is a matter of winning at keeping good people, winning at employing large numbers of people, winning at correctness of personal conduct, winning at governing nations, winning at taking care of the populace, winning at carrying out customary social observances. In whatever field of endeavor, knowledge of how to avoid losing out to others, how to help oneself, and how to enhance one’s honor, is a part of military science.”
    WINNING, and isn’t that what the manosphere is about? Teaching men to be successful in relationships (of various kinds) with women. And by Musashi’s own metric, success can only be gained through both insightful observation and constant practice and self-discipline. And that doesn’t go for just women but for ANYTHING in life. It’s why businessmen were obsessed with his book during the 80s. And it’s all right there in the book. Everything he talks about can be boiled down to understanding human behavior and adhering to the natural laws that govern our world and using that not just to win, but to better ourselves and those we hold in esteem. And how much pain do we suffer when we ignore this simple thing? Yet even in Musashi’s time this was a problem big enough for him to talk at length about in his own field of expertise, martial arts and warfare.
    For Roosh, I’d recommend a book to follow up reading, which is “Japanese Destroyer Captain”, written by Tameichi Hara, a former destroyer captain for the Japanese navy during WW2, which is a very interesting read, and he gives a very fair and sobering account of the things he witnessed during the war, but also his own contributions to the various battles he partook in. The big thing though is that he cites reading Musashi as being a big reason why he survived the war in its entirey. And this guy was already the type of person the manosphere might hold in high regard as someone who basically broke from the herd and took risks to make positive improvements to his area of the military that he worked in at the time.
    Another author I strongly recommend people to read is Clayton Christensen’s books about disruptive innovation. If anybody is serious about getting away from the bloated corporate world and seek financial independence, then these books are a must read for our world today. A lot of people have used his work to become very successful or in rarer cases remain successful. If Roosh is serious about wanting to be financially independent he should be reading his books as well:
    -Innovator’s Dilemma (basically about how small upstart businesses can kill off giant entrenched industries and WHY the existing industry doesn’t take the threat seriously until it’s too late)
    -Seeing What’s Next (just expanding on what the last book wrote)
    -Blue Ocean Strategy (could be argued that the manosphere is kind of doing this right now, unlike disruption this is about looking for markets that are not being serviced by any industry whatsoever)
    -Disrupting Class (about how to unfuck up our education system)
    -Innovator’s Prescription (about how to unfuck up our healthcare system)

    1. WINNING, and isn’t that what the manosphere is about?
      Hate to break it to you, but we men are not winning. Women are becoming bitter, hateful, man-hating, cat-loving and lonely lesbians, young men are becoming transexuals and getting their dicks chopped off, men are giving up and going their own way…the “manosphere” isnt winning shit bro. But nice work trying to apply the worthless thoughts of a samurai that died 800 years ago to us..

  13. Francis Bacon: “Seek ye first the good things of the mind, and the rest will either be supplied or its loss will not be felt.”

  14. Yes the book is specific to physical combat, but the 5th ring, the way of the void, can be applied to anything from golf to video games, art to music, game to social manipulation. It is about mastery, and has a broader application.

      1. It is the most important chapter in the entire book. I feel that many people missed this concept of void. So lets look at my translation of the very last sentence in the book.
        “In the void is virtue, and no evil. Wisdom has existence, principle has existence, the Way has existence, spirit is nothingness.”
        This spirit is nothingness concept is the true path of mastery in all things. It is the lost of the ego into nothingness and a complete surrender to your instincts that is the true way. Today this might be considered being a star clutch player or not choking or being in the zone. When you follow the “Way is in training” all the work has been done beforehand. You have already mastered the fundamentals. Let the subconscious programs/habits run their course and don’t interfere by “trying harder”.

  15. At the end of the day, who would honestly wish to swap their existence for all the murder, starvation, and death by exposure experienced by our predecessors? Woman like sporty guys, it’s true, but you can do very well without any ‘classic’ masculine characteristics. Your attitude determines what type of girls find you attractive: if you’re obsessed with masculinity, you’ll only get girls obsessed with femininity (sluts and homemakers). Be brave, and be yourself – what else is all that boring security of modern life good for?

  16. I think the part about not flinching could be added to our every day lives as well. I try not to engage in certain tactics during negotiations/sales because of my personal beliefs. But when I’m out to “crush” someone, from time to time I will destabilize them by pointing out errors in the “faith” that forms the substrate of their identities. I can do this because most people are self-deceived about one thing or the other, and this self-deception forms “gaps in their memory”. These gaps when you point them out, among other things, forces the person to deal with issues they were avoiding, makes them feel like an object/alienated from themselves, weakens their resolve/forces them to doubt themselves, or at the very least, exposes their stupidity which will boost your confidence/bolster your resolve in finding some sort of physical opening to exploit.

  17. though i appreciate the sentiments and see there is much to learn from the history of great men of old, i often wonder about how much, for lack of a better term, “bullshit” historical writers cram in to exaggerate their own feats and abilities. often people philosophise, much more clear headedly in their books then their actual actions would reveal.
    great men, all too often are talked about, and dont do much of the talking

  18. I think Chad Kultgen’s work is immensely profound and tangible.
    All his books (The Average American Male, The Lie, Men Women & Children, The Average American Marriage) are must-reads.

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