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The Book of Five Rings is a classic strategy book written by Musashi Miyamoto. The Book of Five Rings is widely considered a classic treatise on military strategy, much like Sun Tzu's The Art of War and Chanakya's Arthashastra.
The five "books" refer to the idea that there are different elements of battle, just as there are different physical elements in life, as described by Buddhism, Shinto, and other Eastern religions. Through the book Musashi defends his thesis: a man who conquers himself is ready to take it on on the world, should need arise.
This graphic adaptation of Musashi's 17th-centurytreatise on the martial arts makes careful, effective use of imagery to emphasize both the narrative and instructional aspects of the original text. Musashi's work is divided into five books, which address each aspect of battle: "Earth," "Fire," "Water," "Wind," and "Emptiness." That structure is retained here, with scripter Wilson and artist Kutsuwada finding terrific visual and dramatic hooks as background for Musashi's alternately anecdotal and didactic text. Musashi takes a rational, pragmatic approach to his subject. In discussing his two-sword fighting style, he advocates practice, not mere reading. As a practical guide, the book has limited usefulness today, but Musashi's lessons, in their focus on preparation and mindfulness, can easily be applied to most areas of life. The final chapter, "Emptiness," is particularly intriguing, with its Zen-like call for awareness of what we do not know as a way to avoid detrimental confusion. Kutsuwada's art is delicate and clean, balancing the physiological dynamics of swordplay with a clear-eyed appreciation of Musashi's natural environment. An engaging, thoughtful update of what could be esoteric.