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The Lone Samurai: The Life of Miyamoto Musashi

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The Lone Samurai: The Life of Miyamoto Musashi Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

The Lone Samurai is a landmark biography of Miyamoto Musashi, the legendary Japanese figure known throughout the world as a master swordsman, spiritual seeker, and author of The Book of Five Rings. With a compassionate yet critical eye, William Scott Wilson delves into the workings of Musashi's mind as the iconoclastic samurai wrestled with philosophical and spiritual ideas that are as relevant today as they were in his times. Musashi found peace and spiritual reward in seeking to perfect his chosen Way, and came to realize that perfecting a single Way, no matter the path, could lead to fulfillment. The Lone Samurai is far more than a vivid account of a fascinating slice of feudal Japan. It is the story of one man's quest for answers, perfection, and access to the Way.

By age thirteen, Miyamoto Musashi had killed his opponent in what would become the first of many celebrated swordfights. By thirty, he had fought more than sixty matches, losing none. He would live another thirty years but kill no one else. He continued to engage in swordfights but now began to show his skill simply by thwarting his opponents' every attack until they acknowledged Musashi's all-encompassing ability. At the same time, the master swordsman began to expand his horizons, exploring Zen Buddhism and its related arts, particularly ink painting, in a search for a truer Way.

Musashi was a legend in his own time. As a swordsman, he preferred the wooden sword and in later years almost never fought with a real weapon. He outfoxed his opponents or turned their own strength against them. At the height of his powers, he began to evolve artistically and spiritually, becoming one of the country's most highly regarded ink painters and calligraphers, while deepening his practice of Zen Buddhism. He funneled his hard-earned insights about the warrior arts into his spiritual goals. Ever the solitary wanderer, Musashi shunned power, riches, and the comforts of a home or fixed position with a feudal lord in favor of a constant search for truth, perfection, and a better Way. Eventually, he came to the realization that perfection in one art, whether peaceful or robust, could offer entry to a deeper, spiritual understanding. His philosophy, along with his warrior strategies, is distilled in his renowned work, The Book of Five Rings, written near the end of his life.

Musashi remains a source of fascination for the Japanese, as well as for those of us in the West who have more recently discovered the ideals of the samurai and Zen Buddhism. The Lone Samurai is the first biography ever to appear in English of this richly layered, complex seventeenth-century swordsman and seeker, whose legacy has lived far beyond his own time and place.

---------------------------------------------------------------- INTERVIEW WITH WILLIAM SCOTT WILSON ABOUT BUSHIDO

Q.: What is Bushido?

A.: Bushido might be explained in part by the etymology of the Chinese characters used for the word. Bu comes from two radicals meanings "stop" and "spear." So even though the word now means "martial" or "military affair," it has the sense of stopping aggression. Shi can mean "samurai," but also means "gentleman" or "scholar." Looking at the character, you can see a man with broad shoulders but with his feet squarely on the ground. Do, with the radicals of head and motion, originally depicted a thoughtful way of action. It now means a path, street or way. With this in mind, we can understand Bushido as a Way of life, both ethical and martial, with self-discipline as a fundamental tenet. Self-discipline requires the warrior at once to consider his place in society and the ethics involved, and to forge himself in the martial arts. Both should eventually lead him to understand that his fundamental opponents are his own ignorance and passions.

Q.: How did the code develop and how did it influence Japanese society?

A.: The warrior class began to develop as a recognizable entity around the 11th and 12th centuries. The leaders of this class were often descended from the nobility, and so were men of education and breeding. I would say that the code developed when the leaders of the warrior class began to reflect on their position in society and what it meant to be a warrior. They first began to write these thoughts down as yuigon, last words to their descendents, or as kabegaki, literally "wall writings," maxims posted to all their samurai. Samurai itself is an interesting word, coming from the classical saburau, "to serve." So when we understand that a samurai is "one who serves," we see that the implications go much farther than simply being a soldier or fighter.

Also, it is important to understand that Confucian scholars had always reflected on what it meant to be true gentleman, and they concluded that such a man would be capable of both the martial and literary. The Japanese inherited this system of thought early on, so certain ideals were already implicitly accepted.

The warrior class ruled the country for about 650 years, and their influence-political, philosophical and even artistic-had a long time to percolate throughout Japanese society.

Q.: The Samurai were very much renaissance men - they were interested in the arts, tea ceremony, religion, as well as the martial arts. What role did these interests play in the development of Bushido? How did the martial arts fit in?

A.: This question goes back to the Confucian ideal of balance that Japanese inherited, probably from the 7th century or so. The word used by both to express this concept, for the "gentleman" by the Chinese and the warrior by Japanese, is (hin), pronounced uruwashii in Japanese, meaning both "balanced" and "beautiful." The character itself is a combination of "literature" (bun) and "martial" (bu). The study of arts like Tea ceremony, calligraphy, the study of poetry or literature, and of course the martial arts of swordsmanship or archery, broadened a man's perspective and understanding of the world and, as mentioned above, provided him with a vehicle for self-discipline. The martial arts naturally were included in the duties of a samurai, but this did not make them any less instructive in becoming a full human being.

Q.: What was sword fighting like? Was the swordplay different for different samurai?

A.: There were literally hundreds of schools of samurai swordsmanship by the 1800's and, as previously mentioned, each school emphasized differing styles and approaches. Some would have the student to jump and leap, others to keep his feel solidly on the ground; some would emphasize different ways of holding the sword, others one method only. One school stated that technical swordsmanship took second place to sitting meditation. Historically speaking, there were periods when much of the swordfighting was done on horseback, and others when it was done mostly on foot. Also, as the shape and length of the sword varied through different epochs, so did styles of fighting. Then I suppose that a fight between men who were resolved to die would be quite different from a fight between men who were not interested in getting hurt.

Q.: How is the code reflected in Japanese society today?

A.: When I first came to live in Japan in the 60's, I was impressed how totally dedicated and loyal people were to the companies where they were employed. When I eventually understood the words samurai and saburau, it started to make sense. While these men (women would usually not stay long with a company, giving up work for marriage) did not carry swords of course, they seemed to embody that old samurai sense of service, duty, loyalty and even pride. This may sound strange in our own "me first" culture, but it impressed me that the company had sort of taken the place of a feudal lord, and that the stipend of the samurai had become the salary of the white-collar worker.M

That is on the societal level. On an individual level, I have often felt that Japanese have a strong resolution, perhaps from this cultural background of Bushido, to go through problems rather than around them. Persistence and patience developed from self-discipline?

Review:

"Musashi is primarily known in the West as the author of The Book of Five Rings, a guide to swordsmanship strategies that became a essential business-strategy manual in the 1980s. Wilson, having translated Musashi's book into English, turns for the first time to biography, with as complete a life of the man behind the sword as possible, given his legendary stature and peripatetic, largely undocumented story. Musashi lived in the 17th century and had his first match at 13 with a shugyosha (an older, professional swordsman); only Musashi walked away alive. For three decades, he wandered feudal Japan, moving from patron to patron, taking on opponents in formal and informal matches, teaching others his art and sometimes taking part in clan and regional rivalries. He eventually settled in southern Japan, where his martial art skills led organically to visual art: simple-looking, highly disciplined ink-and-brush painting and calligraphy. Toward the end of his life, Musashi synthesized everything he'd learned into the literary work he is now best known for. Wilson integrates a considerable amount of Japanese history and culture into a short, dense book with lots of specialized information. Although Musashi doesn't become fully dimensional — and given the scarcity of primary source material, he probably can't — Wilson provides an extensive appendix of other materials that have depicted the legendary swordsman over the centuries." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Book News Annotation:

Among other Japanese classics, Wilson has translated The Book of Five Rings, and here offers a biography of its author Musashi (1584-1645). He was a renowned swordsman most of his life, and only wrote his famous book in his last years. No index is provided.
Annotation 2004 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Synopsis:

The Lone Samurai is a landmark biography of Miyamoto Musashi, the legendary Japanese figure known throughout the world as a master swordsman, spiritual seeker, and author of The Book of Five Rings. With a compassionate yet critical eye, William Scott Wilson delves into the workings of

Musashi's mind as the iconoclastic samurai wrestled with philosophical and spiritual ideas that are as relevant today as they were in his times. Musashi found peace and spiritual reward in seeking to perfect his chosen Way, and came to realize that perfecting a single Way, no matter the path, could

lead to fulfillment. The Lone Samurai is far more than a vivid account of a fascinating slice of feudal Japan. It is the story of one man's quest for answers, perfection, and access to the Way.

By age thirteen, Miyamoto Musashi had killed his opponent in what would become the first of many celebrated swordfights. By thirty, he had fought more than sixty matches, losing none. He would live another thirty years but kill no one else. He continued to engage in swordfights but now began to show

his skill simply by thwarting his opponents' every attack until they acknowledged Musashi's all-encompassing ability. At the same time, the master swordsman began to expand his horizons, exploring Zen Buddhism and its related arts, particularly ink painting, in a search for a truer Way.

Musashi was a legend in his own time. As a swordsman, he preferred the wooden sword and in later years almost never fought with a real weapon. He outfoxed his opponents or turned their own strength against them. At the height of his powers, he began to evolve artistically andspiritually, becoming

one of the country's most highly regarded ink painters and calligraphers, while deepening his practice of Zen Buddhism. He funneled his hard-earned insights about the warrior arts into his spiritual goals. Ever the solitary wanderer, Musashi shunned power, riches, and the comforts of a home or fixed

position with a feudal lord in favor of a constant search for truth, perfection, and a better Way. Eventually, he came to the realization that perfection in one art, whether peaceful or robust, could offer entry to a deeper, spiritual understanding. His philosophy, along with his warrior strategies,

is distilled in his renowned work, The Book of Five Rings, written near the end of his life.

Musashi remains a source of fascination for the Japanese, as well as for those of us in the West who have more recently discovered the ideals of the samurai and Zen Buddhism. The Lone Samurai is the first biography ever to appear in English of this richly layered, complex seventeenth-century

swordsman and seeker, whose legacy has lived far beyond his own time and place.

---------------------------------------------------------------- INTERVIEW WITH WILLIAM SCOTT WILSON ABOUT BUSHIDO

Q.: What is Bushido?

A.: Bushido might be explained in part by the etymology of the Chinese characters used for the word. Bu comes from two radicals meanings stop and spear. So even though the word now means martial or military affair, it has the sense of stopping aggression. Shi can mean samurai, but also

means gentleman or scholar. Looking at the character, you can see a man with broad shoulders but with his feet squarely on the ground. Do, with the radicals of head and motion, originally depicted a thoughtful way of action. It now means a path, street or way. With this in mind, we can

understand Bushido as a Way of life, both ethical and martial, with self-discipline as a fundamental tenet. Self-discipline requires the warrior at once to consider his place in society and the ethics involved, and to forge himself in the martial arts. Both should eventually lead him to understand

that his fundamental opponents are his own ignorance and passions.

Q.: How did the code develop and how did it influence Japanese society?

A.: The warrior class began to develop as a recognizable entity around the 11th and 12th centuries. The leaders of this class were often descended from the nobility, and so were men of education and breeding. I would say that the code developed when the leaders of the warrior class began to reflect

on their position in society and what it meant to be a warrior. They first began to write these thoughts down as yuigon, last words to their descendents, or as kabegaki, literally wall writings, maxims posted to all their samurai. Samurai itself is an interesting word, coming from the classical

saburau, to serve. So when we understand that a samurai is one who serves, we see that the implications go much farther than simply being a soldier or fighter.

Also, it is important to understand that Confucian scholars had always reflected on what it meant to be true gentleman, and they concluded that such a man would be capable of both themartial and literary. The Japanese inherited this system of thought early on, so certain ideals were already

implicitly accepted.

The warrior class ruled the country for about 650 years, and their influence-political, philosophical and even artistic-had a long time to percolate throughout Japanese society.

Q.: The Samurai were very much renaissance men - they were interested in the arts, tea ceremony, religion, as well as the martial arts. What role did these interests play in the development of Bushido? How did the martial arts fit in?

A.: This question goes back to the Confucian ideal of balance that Japanese inherited, probably from the 7th century or so. The word used by both to express this concept, for the gentleman by the Chinese and the warrior by Japanese, is (hin), pronounc

Synopsis:

The life of Miyamoto Musashi (1584-1645), Japan's greatest samurai swordsman, is chronicled in this first authoritative, "lively and balanced" ("Library Journal"), English-language biography of the impressive warrior. Included is original artwork by Musashi plus Glossary, map, and Appendices.

About the Author

William Scott Wilson was born in 1944 and grew up in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. As an undergraduate student at Dartmouth College in 1966, he was invited by a friend to join a three-month kayak trip up the coast of Japan from Shimonoseki to Tokyo. This eye-opening journey, beautifully documented in National Geographic, spurred Wilson's fascination with the culture and history of Japan.

After receiving a B.A. degree in political science from Dartmouth, Wilson earned a second B.A. in Japanese language and literature from the Monterey Institute of Foreign Studies in Monterey, California, then undertook extensive research on Edo-period (1603-1868) philosophy at the Aichi Prefectural University, in Nagoya, Japan.

Wilson completed his first translation, Hagakure, while living in an old farmhouse deep in the Japanese countryside. Hagakure saw publication in 1979, the same year Wilson completed an M.A. in Japanese language and literature at the University of Washington. Wilson's other translations include The Book of Five Rings, The Life-Giving Sword, The Unfettered Mind, the Eiji Yoshikawa novel Taiko, and Ideals of the Samurai, which has been used as a college textbook on Japanese history and thought. Two decades after its initial publication, Hagakure was prominently featured in the Jim Jarmusch film Ghost Dog.

Product Details

ISBN:
9784770029423
Subtitle:
The Life of Miyamoto Musashi
Author:
Wilson, William Scot
Author:
Wilson, William Scott
Author:
null, William Scott
Publisher:
Kodansha USA
Subject:
Historical
Subject:
Martial Arts & Self-Defense
Subject:
Historical - General
Subject:
Asia - Japan
Subject:
Literature/English | World Literature | Asia
Subject:
Biography-Historical
Copyright:
Publication Date:
20040813
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
original artwork by Musashi
Pages:
288
Dimensions:
5.5 x 7.5 x 1 in 0.8 lb

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Related Subjects


History and Social Science » World History » Japan
Reference » Sale Books
Religion » Eastern Religions » Japanese Religion and Literature
Sports and Outdoors » Martial Arts » General
Sports and Outdoors » Martial Arts » Philosophy

The Lone Samurai: The Life of Miyamoto Musashi Used Hardcover
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Product details 288 pages Kodansha International (JPN) - English 9784770029423 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Musashi is primarily known in the West as the author of The Book of Five Rings, a guide to swordsmanship strategies that became a essential business-strategy manual in the 1980s. Wilson, having translated Musashi's book into English, turns for the first time to biography, with as complete a life of the man behind the sword as possible, given his legendary stature and peripatetic, largely undocumented story. Musashi lived in the 17th century and had his first match at 13 with a shugyosha (an older, professional swordsman); only Musashi walked away alive. For three decades, he wandered feudal Japan, moving from patron to patron, taking on opponents in formal and informal matches, teaching others his art and sometimes taking part in clan and regional rivalries. He eventually settled in southern Japan, where his martial art skills led organically to visual art: simple-looking, highly disciplined ink-and-brush painting and calligraphy. Toward the end of his life, Musashi synthesized everything he'd learned into the literary work he is now best known for. Wilson integrates a considerable amount of Japanese history and culture into a short, dense book with lots of specialized information. Although Musashi doesn't become fully dimensional — and given the scarcity of primary source material, he probably can't — Wilson provides an extensive appendix of other materials that have depicted the legendary swordsman over the centuries." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Synopsis" by , The Lone Samurai is a landmark biography of Miyamoto Musashi, the legendary Japanese figure known throughout the world as a master swordsman, spiritual seeker, and author of The Book of Five Rings. With a compassionate yet critical eye, William Scott Wilson delves into the workings of

Musashi's mind as the iconoclastic samurai wrestled with philosophical and spiritual ideas that are as relevant today as they were in his times. Musashi found peace and spiritual reward in seeking to perfect his chosen Way, and came to realize that perfecting a single Way, no matter the path, could

lead to fulfillment. The Lone Samurai is far more than a vivid account of a fascinating slice of feudal Japan. It is the story of one man's quest for answers, perfection, and access to the Way.

By age thirteen, Miyamoto Musashi had killed his opponent in what would become the first of many celebrated swordfights. By thirty, he had fought more than sixty matches, losing none. He would live another thirty years but kill no one else. He continued to engage in swordfights but now began to show

his skill simply by thwarting his opponents' every attack until they acknowledged Musashi's all-encompassing ability. At the same time, the master swordsman began to expand his horizons, exploring Zen Buddhism and its related arts, particularly ink painting, in a search for a truer Way.

Musashi was a legend in his own time. As a swordsman, he preferred the wooden sword and in later years almost never fought with a real weapon. He outfoxed his opponents or turned their own strength against them. At the height of his powers, he began to evolve artistically andspiritually, becoming

one of the country's most highly regarded ink painters and calligraphers, while deepening his practice of Zen Buddhism. He funneled his hard-earned insights about the warrior arts into his spiritual goals. Ever the solitary wanderer, Musashi shunned power, riches, and the comforts of a home or fixed

position with a feudal lord in favor of a constant search for truth, perfection, and a better Way. Eventually, he came to the realization that perfection in one art, whether peaceful or robust, could offer entry to a deeper, spiritual understanding. His philosophy, along with his warrior strategies,

is distilled in his renowned work, The Book of Five Rings, written near the end of his life.

Musashi remains a source of fascination for the Japanese, as well as for those of us in the West who have more recently discovered the ideals of the samurai and Zen Buddhism. The Lone Samurai is the first biography ever to appear in English of this richly layered, complex seventeenth-century

swordsman and seeker, whose legacy has lived far beyond his own time and place.

---------------------------------------------------------------- INTERVIEW WITH WILLIAM SCOTT WILSON ABOUT BUSHIDO

Q.: What is Bushido?

A.: Bushido might be explained in part by the etymology of the Chinese characters used for the word. Bu comes from two radicals meanings stop and spear. So even though the word now means martial or military affair, it has the sense of stopping aggression. Shi can mean samurai, but also

means gentleman or scholar. Looking at the character, you can see a man with broad shoulders but with his feet squarely on the ground. Do, with the radicals of head and motion, originally depicted a thoughtful way of action. It now means a path, street or way. With this in mind, we can

understand Bushido as a Way of life, both ethical and martial, with self-discipline as a fundamental tenet. Self-discipline requires the warrior at once to consider his place in society and the ethics involved, and to forge himself in the martial arts. Both should eventually lead him to understand

that his fundamental opponents are his own ignorance and passions.

Q.: How did the code develop and how did it influence Japanese society?

A.: The warrior class began to develop as a recognizable entity around the 11th and 12th centuries. The leaders of this class were often descended from the nobility, and so were men of education and breeding. I would say that the code developed when the leaders of the warrior class began to reflect

on their position in society and what it meant to be a warrior. They first began to write these thoughts down as yuigon, last words to their descendents, or as kabegaki, literally wall writings, maxims posted to all their samurai. Samurai itself is an interesting word, coming from the classical

saburau, to serve. So when we understand that a samurai is one who serves, we see that the implications go much farther than simply being a soldier or fighter.

Also, it is important to understand that Confucian scholars had always reflected on what it meant to be true gentleman, and they concluded that such a man would be capable of both themartial and literary. The Japanese inherited this system of thought early on, so certain ideals were already

implicitly accepted.

The warrior class ruled the country for about 650 years, and their influence-political, philosophical and even artistic-had a long time to percolate throughout Japanese society.

Q.: The Samurai were very much renaissance men - they were interested in the arts, tea ceremony, religion, as well as the martial arts. What role did these interests play in the development of Bushido? How did the martial arts fit in?

A.: This question goes back to the Confucian ideal of balance that Japanese inherited, probably from the 7th century or so. The word used by both to express this concept, for the gentleman by the Chinese and the warrior by Japanese, is (hin), pronounc

"Synopsis" by , The life of Miyamoto Musashi (1584-1645), Japan's greatest samurai swordsman, is chronicled in this first authoritative, "lively and balanced" ("Library Journal"), English-language biography of the impressive warrior. Included is original artwork by Musashi plus Glossary, map, and Appendices.

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