The Iaido Journal  Nov 2004
Our Sponsor, SDKsupplies, click here
Our Sponsor, SDKsupplies

Martial Arts in the Modern World

Musashi: his life and writings

Review by Colin Watkin. Copyright © 2004. All rights reserved

Book Review: Miyamoto Musashi - His Life and Writings
Author: Kenji Tokitsu
Publisher: Shambhala Boston & London $34.95

The cover of book reflects the contents. Within the book there are some excellent photographs of Musashi's artwork.

The first chapter of the book is similar to that of the recently published Lone Samurai by William Scott Wilson Kodansha, so it is inevitable that I should make comparisons as they both draw on the historical facts of Musashi's life and exploits. Certain parts are of course the same, but the authors use different words to describe them. So perhaps we can say certain things probably happened.

However what first stuck me in comparison was the fact that in some of the accounts they don't even use the same weapons. This first becomes apparent when one book states that Arima Kibei used a staff, then in this book he used a bokuto. Reading on in the duel against a Yoshioka Seijiro he has a real sword, in this book a bokuto. In the duel against Yoshioka Denshichiro he has a five foot long sharpened wooden sword, while this book says a staff with steel rings or a hollowed out staff with a ball and sickle hidden within. To be honest with such inconsistencies, not knowing what weapons were used, makes one really wonder where we can find some actual facts in either books. There is some confusion over names too. Osedo Hayashi becomes Hayato. These are all simple Kanji that carry on to this very day and are the names of the people around me, so there can be no excuse on misreading kanji.

Some nice points are made in Mr Tokitsu's book. He talks of the illusion of wearing traditional costume, which creates an impression of living in the past, and the practice of associating this costume with some newer arts. This gives me another reason for not wearing a uniform in Hyoho Niten Ichiryu and to try and show its waza through experience rather than in what I wear. 

Chapter two is yet another translation of Gorin no Sho and other brief translations. Hopefully we may one day see a translation by someone who actually practices the ryu.

Mr Tokitsu's summary of Musashi's lineage's is already out of date as people have died. Also it would be incorrect to describe a student of a student as a separate lineage. Actual records held by Usa Jingu in Oita show his findings to be inaccurate with regard to the 8th Soke.

To sum up there are a few inconsistancies, but he draws on facts, translations and comparisons with other Budo to illustrate Musashi's ideals. The explanation of the Budo ideal in modern terms and his words on Musashi's Sen will bring new learning to those that know little of his ways. His description of the transition of old to modern Budo and other facts offer a general encyclopedia of knowledge to those wishing to find answers and links to Genbudo.

As Mr Tokitsu states Musashi went from Setsunin (Satsujin) ken to Katsunin (Katsujin) ken in real times. If someone needs a decent overall picture of Musashi's life, philosophy and the tradition he founded, this is it.

An excellent referential source not only about Musashi, but of general Budo Philosophy.

Colin Watkin teaches high school in Japan and is a senior student of Hyo Ho Niten Ichiryu.

Our Sponsor, SDKsupplies, click here
Our Sponsor, SDKsupplies

TIN Nov 2004