Monday, February 19, 2018
The Book of Five Rings
I often write about Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” one of the most influential books on strategy in the world. This ancient Taoist classic is the foundation of my Urbanology Strategic Management System. Miyamoto Musashi’s Go Rin No Sho better known as ”The Book of Five Rings” also played a major part in my study of the art of strategy. Unlike Sun Tzu’s concept of winning without fighting, Musashi assumed doing battle to be a way of life; he thus focused on the psychology and physic of the lethal assault and considered decisive victory the essence of any battle
While I prefer winning without fighting, Musashi helps in the understanding of how to win if you must fight. I was introduced to “The Book of Five Rings” while studying Kendo with Grand Master Lamarr Thornton. Kendo is the art of Japanese fencing. It was a difficult time in my life both personally and professionally when Master Thornton suggested that I study Kendo as a strategy to best address the physical and psychological battles I was having with myself.
Miyamoto Musashi was considered one of Japan’s greatest samurai fencers. He never lost a duel. To prove that strategy, not strength or skill, was the most important element to achieve victory, Musashi midway in his life as a fencer, began using only wooden swords to win his many battles. To understand kendo, you must understand the mind of the samurai, which is why “The Book of Five Rings” is considered required reading in the study of Kendo.
Business executives in Japan and now throughout the world use Musashi’s strategic philosophy as a guide for their daily decisions. Understanding the relationship between battle strategies of fencing and everyday conflict maybe difficult for some, but it is important information to have when developing a strategic plan for battle.
According to the teachings of Musashi the most important element in strategy is timing he states that “There is timing in everything, timing is important in music and dancing for they are only in rhythm if the timing is good, timing is important in the military arts in all martial skills and abilities there is timing. Similarly, there is timing in the way of the merchant who most understand the rise and fall of capital”.
The following statement by Musashi is in my view a major reason he never lost a battle and while it may be complex, learning to understand it will give you a competitive advantage in any type of winning strategy. “All things entail rising and falling timing. You must be able to discern this. In strategy there are various timing considerations”.
“From the outset you must know the applicable timing and the inapplicable timing, and from among the large and small things and the fast and slow timings find the relevant timing, first seeing the distance timing and the background timing. This is the main thing in strategy. It is especially important to know the background timing; otherwise your strategy will become uncertain”
I truly believe that it is best to learn how to win without fighting, but if you must do battle, fight with the heart of a samurai, study “The Book of Five Rings”