Miyamoto Musashi is an absolute legend on the level of folklore status. However, he was a real living and breathing human. When it comes to skills, battle tactics, and psychological warfare, tons of martial artists incorporate his ideals. It’s insane how he started his journey at the age of 13 and really applied himself all his life to creating a perfect system that even tipped over to being reciprocated into life lessons.
He did things other fighters did not do such as develop a two-sword style he dubbed: Hyoho Niten Ichi-Ryu. Before this came about, the two handed one sword style was the norm especially for samurai warriors. His double sword technique was ahead of its time and perfect for fending off multiple foes. His greatest weapon was his mind and how he read every situation clearly. Here are some of these moments:
1. Musashi vs. Yoshioka Seijuro
After his participation in the war of Toyotomi and Tokugawa, Musashi challenged Seijuro to a duel that was to be scheduled in front of the Rendaiji Temple at a certain time, but he purposely showed up to have Seijuro become quite irritated and restless. It was a good form of psychological warfare that actually helped Musashi take the match.
While Musashi did not kill Seijuro, the blow to his shoulder was enough to disable his left arm and definitely take the match. Whoever landed the first strike, took the match. Apparently, Seijuro relinquished his warrior position because he felt disgraceful in his defeat. Musashi implemented a great element of surprise that got the best of his opponent. Take a look at the reenactment below which is slightly different than the story:
2. Musashi vs. Yoshioka Denshichiro
This was a battle to truly defend the honor of the Yoshioka School. Musashi was purposely late again to throw his opponent off. Not only that, he added insult to injury by only bringing his wooden sword again while Denshichiro had a staff reinforced with steel rings. This was no friendly bout or a test to simply see who’s better like the last duel. This was a bout to the death. Denshichiro was obviously thrown off due to Musashi very lackadaisical nature of showing up hours late and arming himself with a simple wooden sword. Musashi still had a great advantage by his speed, skill, and smarts. He was able to kill Denshichiro in a fatal blow to the head in a matter of seconds after the duel started.
3. Yoshioka School
After this battle, the whole Yoshioka clan was shocked and surprised this could happen. 12 year old, Matashichiro was the only rightful heir to the clan. Of course, he doesn’t have the experience to go up against a formidable opponent like Musashi, but this was all apart of an ambush. The Yoshioka School requested a nighttime duel, which is practically unheard of as far as bouts are concerned. Musashi sensed something fishy and actually hid out in the designated duel area many hours before it began to see what type of plan was in motion. He saw that Matashichiro was not only in full armor but he had a group of archers and swordsmen whose sole purpose was to execute Musashi.
Musashi actually took out Matashichiro in a quick head on strike. Also, he was armed with two swords instead of one to even his own playing field a bit. This is where he started to develop his two sword style. He was able to create a path and find an escape route. The way he used two swords actually help him gain an edge and keep his opponents at bay rather than all of them attacking at once. By outsmarting his enemies using his skills, intuitive thinking, and battle tactics, he was able to escape this potential ambush. Take a look at a few of the battles below. Note: Matashichiro actually rushes toward Musashi in this scene.
4. Miyamoto Musashi vs. Sasaki Kojiro
This was an incredible duel because both men acquired great respect for each style they represented. Kojiro had a long two handed sword style which was unusual for Samurai because of the heaviness of the blade. However, Kojiro had a great agility and strength with this style of Kenjutsu, which allowed for quick and potent strikes. Of course, Musashi showed up late again in this duel to throw off Kojiro. The rumor was that Musashi was afraid of Kojiro. However, the rumor laid to rest once he set forth on Ganryu Island.
Musashi knew Kojiro was upset because the duel was early. Kojiro threw away his scabbard and Musashi let him make the first move which became a good read. Musashi was able to counter the attack by hitting the ribs and puncturing Kojiro’s lungs, which resulted in death. Random note: I wonder if the inspiration of this story helped create the Ganryu character in the fighting game Tekken 2.
5. Sickle and Chain
This was a great scene captured on Miyamoto Musashi that showed how well Musashi adapted to situations. It seemed that the sickle and chain Shishido Baiken wielded was a bit too much, but Musashi was able to get his other blade to even the match. Now he was able to close the gap and his still have another weapon for striking. Even though Musashi spared Baiken’s life in this scene, you could tell that he was on the verge of creating a stellar two weapon system that had priority, purpose, and range in combat for both weapons.
Musashi is well known for over 5 centuries on how he used his weapons (shurikens, swords, aand daggers), his philosophy on the battles, and even life in general. A lot of people do not know he was quite well versed in the arts. He had great penmanship in his calligraphy and could articulate his thoughts to be read by the masses. His work The Book of Five Rings is an excellent account into strategies, tactics, and philosophy that’s relevant to today. Samurai is a documentary on Miyamoto Musashi that Mark Dacascos narrated as he went to Japan to learn some of the principles of Musashi.
Musashi definitely set a precedent for battle engagement that not many people have reached. One of my favorite quotes from him is “It may seem difficult at first, but everything is difficult at first.”
What are some things you’ve applied to your own life with Musashi’s tutelage? Drop a comment below!