A few months ago I picked up The Book Of Five Rings audiobook.

I’ve become a huge fan of podcasts and listening to books in my car. I was able to download The Art of War on a podcast with my iPhone.

Unfortunately, I was unable to download The Book Of Five Rings but I still wanted to be able to listen to it in my car. I was happy to find it on Youtube and also how easy it was to buy The Book Of Five Rings audiobook.

Recently I wrote an article on The Art of War. I felt I should follow it up with a review on the The Book Of Five Rings.

The Book Of Five Rings I believe might be less known but provides no less value to personal growth.
In reality, I actually enjoy The Book Of Five Rings more. I tend to go back to this book often and read a page or two and then self reflect.

Musashi tells us not to read or memorize his writings, but to absorb them.

 

Written over 300 years ago, it provides a limitless source of psychological strategy and self improvement. Martial Artists and business-people alike can all benefit from the tactic and strategy presented in the book. Purchasing The Book Of Five Rings as an audiobook allows you freedom to listen to it anywhere.

THIS POST CONTAINS AFFILIATE LINKS. PLEASE READ MY DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFO

 

The book is broken down into five parts.

The Book of Earth

This first part is in essence the foundation upon which the rest of the book can be followed and understood. Understanding the way, Martial Arts, timing, and training are discussed.

Perpetual studying is emphasized and understanding tools, their uses, and limitations. Musashi explains how a tool that may be prefect in one arena may be a disadvantage in another. Understanding when to use what tool and why is important.

“From one thing, know ten thousand things.”

The Book of Water

Water represents flexibility, it holds no shape. Flowing to fit it’s boundary, reshaping and eroding when necessary. Water finds the most efficient way for it to flow.

This part of the book speaks of understanding balance in life. If your spirit is calm, your body can not relax. When your body is relaxed, your spirit must be vigilant.

My personal favorite quote comes from this section of the book.

“Today is victory over yourself of yesterday; tomorrow is your victory
over lesser men.”

The Book of Fire

Accessing situations and specific situational instructions are detailed in this part. Musashi states how many people think narrowly of strategy. By using only there fingertips they know nothing for the benefits of the wrist.

We dive into the strategy of emotion, when and how to attack. Lead your enemy and dictate his movements. Do not follow him or allow him to follow you. Chase him into bad footings, put him in adverse positions.

“Because you can win quickly by taking the lead, it is one of the most important things in strategy.”

 

The Book of Wind

To fully understand yourself you need to understand your opponents as precisely as possible. Musashi speaks of how we can’t truly know ourselves if we don’t study others.

A point is made of another way of thinking in regards to specializing in the long sword. “One inch gives the hand advantage“, relying on a specific tool for victory other than strategy or skill. There is no “water” in this thinking because it holds shape. It is not free flowing and has no ability to change or adapt. If your opponent is hurried or irrational you can not allow them to influence your spirit.

This is a great chapter for the Martial Artist and competitor. Musashi breaks down his concept on speed, eye contact, and footwork.

“According to the enemy’s rhythm, move fast or slowly, adjusting you body not too
much and not too little.”

 

The Book of Void

In the final part Musashi delves into the spirit where there is nothing.

That which cannot be seen

Items not included in a man’s knowledge, the void is nothingness. It highlights that by knowing what exists you can know what does not exist. Musashi expresses to know the way of strategy you must fully study other martial arts and must not deviate even a little from the way.

“People in this world look at things mistakenly, and think that what they do not understand must be the void. This is not the true void. It is
bewilderment.”

I’ve noticed over the years how the book has changed with me.

What I read 15 years ago when I discovered this book has a different impact on me now then it did then. Items that were more profound when I was younger don’t affect me as much now. Other parts of the book that I might have glossed over when I was younger seem more important to me now.

 

The Art of War is a guide that provides direction for a unit or a team. The Book of Five Rings is a doctrine for the individual soldier or for you yourself. Yes, by making yourself better you can of course add more to the team. However, the major difference between the books is that The Book of Five Rings will help improve you, not the team.

Have you heard or read The Book of Five Rings?
What lesson or lessons have you absorbed?

16 Comments

  1. Dave

    Just seeing the title of this post tossed my interest. I was recommended this title by a life coach I was seeing over 10 years ago as I am very much into personal development and the self help genre. Needless to say I bought the hardback physical version immediately after my meeting and put it straight in my book shelf for future reading and I’m ashamed to admit it I’m still yet to pick to up again, that said, your review and breakdown of the separate parts of this book have definitely made me think twice about it and once I’ve finished reading my current book I will have another go at Book of Five Rings now I have a better understanding of it  – thank you

    1. Lee Goupil

      I get recommended books all the time by people that I should read but just never seem to get to, so you’re not alone! 

      If you were seeing your Life Coach for over 10 years they probably had a good understanding of you and recommended this book for a reason. 

      I certainly would advise picking it up, or at least the audio version and checking it out. 

      Take Care 

  2. Christine

    This seems to be a very interesting book, and it has valuable lessons. I especially loved some of the quotes, for example “Today is victory over yourself of yesterday”. It looks like a good book to read to learn more about yourself and so consequentially improve yourself as an individual. I find that this book has a different approach about self improvement, compared to other books, and I like it. You, the soldier, improve yourself, in order to function in a team. Fascinating.

  3. PurpleLioness

    Hiya Lee

    I really enjoyed your review of Book of Five Rings audio book. The teachings seemed interesting and applicable to various situations in life. I do not practice yoga but I did practice tai chi for a while – I did try yoga but I am terrible at following instructions and not very flexible so I had to stop when even the warm ups were too much for my decrepit self😊

    I can however absorb the more mental and spiritual aspects of these type of teachings and apply them in my own way. Do you know if there are disabled friendly yoga teachings? Is there a braille version available? 

    Overall I liked what I read and I have bookmarked the site so I can read it again before I decide whether to buy the audio book. Thank you for helping me to make an informed decision, krs PurpleLioness 

    1. Lee Goupil

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment, it’s appreciated. 

      The Book Of Five Rings definitely has a lot of great mental training and emphasis on meditation. 
      However, it really wouldn’t be considered a Yoga practice or anything similar. 

      If you are curious to learn more about Yoga here is a link to a great yoga website I like to visit and read. 
      https://janetyogaspirit.com/ 

  4. Eric Seil

    Very friendly, a useful review of an audiobook for improving yourself or your team. 

    I never heard of “The Book of Five Rings”, but it sounds like a book I’d like to listen to. I’m always looking for guidance and approaches to improving myself each day. There certainly would be a valuable lesson to take away from reading this book. I’m sure my thinking may change a bit from reading or listening to it.

    I’ll look into it- something worthwhile!

    Thanks for the great review!

  5. Kylie

    Hello Lee! Thank you for this great post! I have read the book of The Art of War, but to be honest, I have never heard of an audiobook for this Book of Five Rings. But based on what you write it seems quite interesting as sam as the book The Art of War too.

    I personally like the book The Art of War because the war shown is not from what we see, but rather that which is within ourselves. Just as you review a little about Book of Earth and Book of Water (my favorite part). Because in my opinion, from self help books and self development like that, it can teach me to get to know myself better. So instead, think of how to defeat the enemy, it’s better to defeat yourself first so you can win many battles.

    And it seems like I want to buy the audiobook because I was hypnotized by your words “By making yourself better you can of course add more to the team”.

  6. EVA

    Hi thank you for your article on the book of  five rings audiobook.

    I am not a good fan of reading book ,but I like audiobook, as we can enjoy the book and do another activities. I really like when it was broken down. Each title of the book is attractive especially the void one. It looks like there are hidden mysteries to discover. Thank you , I will share it with friends! 

  7. Isaac

    It’s always hard for me to pick up a book and read it because I always feel like I could be doing something else. Audiobooks are the perfect solution because it’s easy to listen to something while doing simple tasks like cleaning or drawing or, like you said, driving.

    I’ve never read or listened to The Book of Five Rings before, but it sound similar to a lot of other things I’ve read. It seems like it was staged around martial arts but is really full of information that can be used throughout the rest of one’s life. I like the quote “from one thing, know ten thousand things.” It reminds me of how learning never really stops.

    I’ll be sure to put this book in my reading list. It sounds like it could be very helpful. Thanks for the article,

    Isaac

    1. Lee Goupil

      Thanks for reading and commenting Isaac. 

      I’m sure you’ll enjoy the book and I agree with the convenience of audiobooks. 

      I find myself listening to books more now because of the convenience. 

      Take Care 

  8. Hi Lee. This is my first time heard about this book. But after going through your article and understand what this book is talking about I’m kind of surprise that there is such a great book since so many years around!

    His teaching sound very familiar to me as I have learn about others well known teaching. Come to think of it, all these teaching actually are the same with the same fundamental if we know how to look at it with an open mind.

    It breaks into 5 parts which are actually the 5 elements on earth! which mean fundamentally all are in the nature from the same source including our body. Therefore, if we break down our body and everything around us, there is actually nothing.

    Just to share my thought here..:-)

    1. Love it Janet!

      Musashi writes often on absorbing his teaching, not just reading or learning it.
      Purposefully using the word “absorbing” translates to me in such a deeper transition of thought.
      I think these are things to study and meditate on.

      It’s possible some of the things you learned were inspired by Musashi as he was inspired by other teachers before him.
      I also broke down The Art of War which was written almost 2,000 years previously and you can see the influence of that book in Musashi’s teachings.
      He was obviously influenced by it.
      https://sushifitness.com/the-art-of-war-book-by-sun-tzu/

      Occasionally in history you discover a learning or thought separated by such great distance that we can assume that there was no influence upon each other.
      When I stumble across these teachings, they to me, carry such heavier weight.
      I wonder how this thought was conceived and how each individual teacher interpreted and expressed it.
      How has it transformed over time before I’ve had the opportunity to learn and absorb it?

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