Who is Miyamoto Musashi and why is he so well-known?
The most well-known samurai in Japanese history, Miyamoto Musashi is famous for his mastery of the Japanese sword arts.
Born in 1584 to a farming family, Musashi was orphaned at age 13. He petitioned to train as a swordsman and was accepted by his guardian, Terao Magonojo Takada Masumi. At the age of 18 he killed his first man in a duel over an argument about how best to wield a sword.
Musashi’s skills quickly grew and he became one of Japan’s most renowned duelists, even being offered high-ranking military posts by warring clans that sought to exploit him for their own gain. He was a legendary samurai swordsman and ronin philosopher. He wrote influential texts on military strategy, the philosophy of swordsmanship, and the philosophy of Zen Buddhism.
Miyamoto Musashi was born in Harima Province in Japan on April 27, 1584. His father’s name was Shinmen Munisai Nagamatsu, who also happened to be an expert in kenjutsu (the art of sword fighting). From an early age, Miyamoto had been taught by his father to become a master swordsman. Musashi became fully acquainted with the military arts at a young age during the turbulent Sengoku period of Japanese history.
Childhood & Early Life in Japan
Miyamoto Musashi was born Shinmen Takezo near present-day Nagoya. His father, Shinmen Munisai, taught him the ways of the samurai.
Miyamoto Musashi is one of the most famous Samurai of all time. Even though he never had a formal education, he became a master swordsman. He made his name as a great warrior and strategist by writing an unbeatable book called “The Book of Five Rings”.
Youngest Samurai of All Time at Age 13
Musashi was born in 1584 in Miyamoto village, Mimasaka province. He was awarded the title of samurai when he was just 13 years old. Miyamoto Musashi is considered to be the youngest samurai of all time to have ever existed. He lived from 1584-1645 and became a samurai at the age of 13.
He received his title after defeating warrior Okochi, who was much older than him and had been practicing sword fighting for over 20 years. Musashi’s victory helped him win an audience with Yoshinobu, the daimyo who ruled over Kyushu Island in Japan, which made Musashi much more famous among other warriors.
He is well known for his book “The Book of Five Rings” which is considered one of the personal, military, and business must-reads of the 21st century. It is constantly under re-issue and sometimes interpreted differently by various black belt dans.
Conquering Most of Japan’s Great Swordmasters
Musashi had many famous duels with many different masters. Some of these duels were for the sake of his own honor, some were to test his skills, and some were for money.
Over the course of his life, Musashi had more than 60 dueling matches with other swordsmen. Of these, he had more than 30 encounters with people who had a reputation as master swordsman. Musashi won most of these encounters including three against master swordmaster Yagyu Munenori who was considered invincible at that time.
Teaching Buddhism to Others
Miyamoto Musashi’s life can be viewed as a series of battles. His life was full of battles from the time he was a young boy to the time he died. These battles were not just physical but intellectual and metaphysical.
In his late teenage years, he began to learn about Buddhist philosophy and began studying Buddhism under a Zen priest at Kokusho-ji Temple. He would continue to study Buddhism for years and eventually become an ordained Buddhist monk himself. He entered into Buddhism by learning its teachings, studying its literature, meditating with monks, attending lectures that priests gave on Buddhist philosophy, and finally becoming a spiritual teacher in his own right.
Miyamoto Musashi sought out enlightenment through various practices including Zen meditation and Daoist alchemy which sought immortality with the elixir of life.
What is the Importance of Shien to Miyamoto Musashi?
Shien is an attitude that can be attained by following Musashi’s three disciplines of the sword.
The word Shien means “righteousness, justice, and truth” in Japanese. The three disciplines of the sword are “Miyamoto Musashi’s understanding of the fighting arts was based on this concept.”