The Book of Five Rings

The Book of Five Rings
Miyamoto Musashi; translated by William Scott Wilson
Kodansha International, 2002
Purchase from Amazon (paid link)

What? Another translation of Book of Five Rings? Why on earth do we need another? Well, the short answer is that William Scott Wilson’s translation is the best one out there for practitioners of Japanese classical swordsmanship. While this new edition is not as copiously illustrated as Ochiai’s Way to Victory or the Victor Harris translation, it is nicely designed and provides another example of Wilson’s excellent work as translator. More than just about any other translator of Japanese warrior texts today, Wilson has immersed himself in the study of their cultural context (see, for example, his biography of Musashi, which grew out of the research he did for this translation). His understanding of the subject matter results in a painstakingly accurate translation. If that weren’t enough, he manages to present it in readable English prose.

If you aren’t yet training in Japanese swordsmanship, or if your background is primarily modern Japanese martial arts, the Ochiai translation and commentary may provide a better starting point. But if you are training in a koryu, then this is the translation for you. Highly recommended.

Diane Skoss

Copyright ©2004 Diane Skoss. All rights reserved.