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There is perhaps no more potent symbol of the samurai era than the sword. By the seventeenth century in Japan, the art of swordsmanship had begun to take on an almost cult-like popularity. Swordsmanship was more than a mastery of technique; it was a path toward self-mastery. The Swordsman’s Handbook is the definitive collection of writings by men who saw the study of swordsmanship not only as essential to life and death, but as something that transcended life and death as well. Their teaching, that dealing with conflict is an art that requires grace and courage, speaks to us today with surprising immediacy and relevance. Included in this collection are writings by Kotada Yahei Toshitada, Takuan Soho, Yagyu Munenori, Miyamoto Musashi, Matsura Seizan, Issai Chozanshi, and Yamaoka Tesshu.
Western scholars are generally far less familiar with the samurai in his original role as warrior and master of arms than in his other functions as landowner, feudal lord, litterateur, or philosopher. Karl Friday examines samurai martial culture from a historical and worldview in this study.
An anthology of 12 samurai manuscripts showing the meaning and guiding principles of samurai life.
Miyamoto Musashi's Go Rin no Sho or the book of five rings,is 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.
Samurai tells the story of the courageous and highly disciplined fighting men of this time, showing how they evolved from the primitive fighters of the seventh century into an invincible military caste with a fearsome reputation. In the early seventh century, the samurai rose to prominence during the struggles between the emperor and the military leaders (shogun). They took part in the invasion of Korea, as well as helping to keep Japan free from foreign influence. From the Heian period through to the Onin wars, the history of the samurai is replete with tales of heroism and bloodshed. Although the samurai is most famous for his use of the sword, he also used a wide variety of other weapons, such as the crossbow, the dagger and the spear. Samurai armour and costume were constantly evolving, and by the twelfth century most samurai were wearing the box-like yoroi armour. Samurai examines samurai fighting tactics, as well as acts such as ritual suicide (hari-kiri) and the taking of enemy heads as trophies.
In the capital of the political power of feudal Japan, Kyoto, around 1540, a clan of formidable swordsmen who had previously dedicated themselves to trade and the production of colors for dyeing fabrics began to emerge. However, their exploits as master swordsmen lasted only four generations; they then died out or had to return to their previous economic activities. More than for their skills as instructors of the house of the shogun, they, in fact, went down in history for a number of battles lost against Shinmen Munisai, and his legendary son, Miyamoto Musashi. In the stories passed down to us, truth and myth are blurred, leaving the researcher and the reader with many unanswered questions and doubts. Who were the Yoshioka? When did their exploits as swordsmen begin? Where did their martial art come from? Who were their opponents? Were they really defeated or killed in duels against Miyamoto Musashi?

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