Miyamoto Musashi: The Masterless Samurai

Miyamoto Musashi or also known as Miyamoto Masana, with the Buddhist name of Niten was the most famous and considered to be as one of the most legendary warriors in Japanese history. He was popular in ancient Japan for an alias as a great flying swordsman.

Aside from his fighting skills, he was also popular for owning a Dojo which he, himself was the headmaster. He taught his students on how to fight like him, like fighting enemies using a Katana. Musashi was also popular for being a great strategist when it comes to war.

He became more popular when he published the Book of Five Rings. His teachings did not stop even after his death. In fact, his teachings were passed down from generations to generations until today.

How did Musashi become one of the legendary Samurai of all times?

Historians cannot verify if the dates that are in history books were real. Because there is so much doubt over the facts and dates about the life of Musashi.

However, there was evidence that Musashi himself wrote it. It was the book called the Go Rin no Sho (五輪書) or the Book of Five Rings.

According to the book, Miyamoto was born with a golden spoon in his mouth. His mother was the daughter of the local chief Tang while his father was a warrior came from the Shinmin clan.

His mother died during his birth so his father named Shinmen Munisai raised him alone. Miyamoto was born in the spring of 1584 in the village of Miyamoto in the Ishino of the new Misaka province in Japan.

Shinmen Munisai was a warrior who was an expert when it comes to fighting arts. The father of Musashi was adept at Jujutsu swordsmanship and the use of the Jitte or the iron rod with fork-like protrusions.

He teaches a lot of students including Miyamoto. So, everyone treated Shinmen with uttermost respect.

Musashi can easily adapt to the teachings of his father. However, he was so stubborn that made his father exasperated. He always criticizes the lessons of his father and would often talk back.

With that, he and his father would often have a clash. There was one time that Shinmen was not able to control himself so he swings his Japanese Wakizashi to Musashi. Luckily, Musashi was able to dodge it. Shinmen immediately disowned his son.

Japanese martial arts athlete training kendo in a dojo – Samaurai practicing in a gym

Miyamoto finds himself traveling to a small village called the Hirafuku.

The Life of Miyamoto Musashi under Buddhism teachings

When his father disowned Musashi, his monk uncle named Dorin adopted him. Dorin has once been a warrior but renounced the fighting arts and became a Buddhist monk. When he adopted Musashi he was living a life and studying meditation. He raised and thought Musashi on how to write and as well as meditate to develop his spirituality.

However, Musashi’s real passion was not on being a monk or was not to sit and meditate all day. So, he spent countless hours alone in the woods practicing his swordsmanship skills by cutting many pine trees. His anger with his father by abandoning him became his strength. So he projected all his angriness to his sword and started to develop his skills in sword fighting.

According to the Book of Five Rings, his first real battle occurred when he was thirteen years old. When one of the Samurai, who was just passing by named Arima Kihei challenged the local swordsman in their area. When he put his name on the list, Arima finds it funny but later on considered with the intent of teaching the young boy a lesson.

Dorin found out about it then begged his nephew to withdraw but he failed. When the battle began, Musashi immediately charged his opponent with a six-foot quarterstaff. He caught Arima off guard continuously beat him until death.

The Beginning of Musashi’s Life as a Warrior

After three years, Musashi left Hirafuku and set off his way in the world. After traveling with different cities, he found himself staying at the castle town where his father now lived. His father entered and became the warrior of Yoshitaka the master of Nakatsu castle.

Upon arriving, he saw that his father’s army was in the middle of the war against the islands of Kyushu and other Western provinces. Musashi was then recruited by his father to fight alongside with him.

According to Musashi, it was his first official taste of a big war. Yoshitaka’s army was able to win and brought the two provinces under their supervision.

After the war, his father retired from his position and passed it down to Musashi. Musashi became popular and his career started to bloom. However,  he was greedy for more power so he set out a different path from his father to gain more achievements than him. Miyamoto was eager to learn more about the art of sword fighting so he seeks out and defeats other masters, then, later on, established his own Dojo.

How did Miyamoto Musashi establish his name?

Musashi believed that having a Dojo will not recognize his talents in the fighting. He believed that in order to be famous in the field of swordsmanship he must kill the famous skilled warriors.

Musashi set his journey to the capital of Japan which is Kyoto. He knew that if he can defeat at least one of the member of the Yoshioka clan, he will surely establish his name.

When he arrived at the capital he challenges the top swordsman named Yoshioka Seijuro. Their duel took place in Rendaino temple, one of the Yoshioka’s place.

Musashi attacked immediately without a warning or even giving Seijuro respect. Musashi caught his opponent off guard then beat him until death.

The Yoshioka Denshichiro was not happy with the result so they challenged him again. When the battle began, Denshichiro draws his sword fast, so Musashi was almost killed by him but he was able to counter it, then quickly killed his enemy.

Another Yoshioka named Matashichiro, a 12-year-old boy challenged Musashi. But just like the two members of their clan, Musashi also beheaded the young master.

Who was the most outstanding enemy of Musashi?

The other duel that Musashi became so popular was his duel against Sasaki Kojiro. Sasaki was so famous during that time for being a notorious Samurai and as well as a respected Samurai. Many people looked up with Sasaki since many idolize him for his devotion on following their code called Bushido.  While on the other hand, Musashi was the opposite of him.

Musashi challenged Sasaki in a duel to show to the people on who was the best between the two.

At the day of their battle, Sasaki arrived in the battle place early with his best clothes and swords. On the other hand, Musashi arrived super late in their place specifically, he was late for three hours. Unlike Sasaki who wore an elegant dress, Musashi wore dirty attire.

When the fight began, the two quickly draw their swords and simultaneously attack each other. The long sword of Kojiro was an advantage to him, he was able to cut the clothes of Musashi but Musashi countered it by slashing his throat with Bokken which killed him instantly.

After the duel was over, Musashi became so popular that a lot of Samurai enrolled in his school. He went back to his Dojo to teach his students his unique and remarkable techniques.

How did Musashi establish his name once again?

In  1614, one of his former students named Matsuno Katsunari recruited him to fight against Hideyoshi’s clan. During that time there was a war between Hideyoshi and Tokugawa’s clan. Musashi saw that as an opportunity to show his skills once again in a battlefield. Katsunari requested Musashi to guard his 10 mounted soldiers and to guard his son.

Upon traveling, Toyotomi’s soldiers ambushed Musashi’s forces. At first, Musashi was at the disadvantage but later on change the situation and killed Toyotomi’s armies. Musashi officially became part of Tokugawa’s clan.

The Siege of Osaka came, Musashi said that it was the largest battle that he ever encountered wherein thousands of men died. Among those warriors, one was his closest comrade named Nakagawa Shimanasuki. Nakagawa left his 11-year-old boy with the care of Musashi.

The Aftermath of the Siege of Osaka: Winter and the Summer campaigns

He brought his adopted to son to the village where he grew, the Hirafuku. He thought his fighting techniques with Mikinosuke.

Years passed by, he requested Honda Tadamasa, the lord of their castle town to assign his son to their household. The leader agreed and assigned Musashi’s son as the personal bodyguard of Tadatoki, his son.

Musashi was so happy with the achievements of his son. but in the year 1626, his son has mandatorily committed Seppuku since Tadatoki died due to his deceased. Musashi felt so much pain that he adopted another son named Lori to ease the pain.

He devoted his last remaining years teaching his son the techniques in using Katana and Wakizashi. He also established his new Dojo to the remote island in Kyushu.

Photo credit: katanasforsale.com

He started to put his thoughts in the paper, by the year 1645, he was able to finish the Go Rin no Sho or most commonly known as the Book of Five Rings. The book was all about his life, techniques, philosophical methods and attitudes of swordsmanship.

On June 13th, 1645, Musashi died and buried into Mound Musashi in Kaido. But even after his death, his legacy did not stop. In fact, his memories are still alive today.

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