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Reading Group: The Book of Five Rings

DATE: Thursday, May 28 at 7:00 pm

Our reading group will meet on Zoom at 7:00 on Thursday, May 28. Please watch your email for a Zoom link. All RVTKD students are, of course, encouraged to join us. We also welcome former students and anyone else who has had a relationship with our school.

If you haven’t ordered a copy of The Book of Five Rings yet, there’s still time! You can download excellent eBooks, many of which are free, since the book is in the public domain. Check the right side of this page for recommended print editions and suggested downloads. If you have already have a copy, use it. Any edition is fine for our purposes.

Hope to see you on the Thursday evening Zoom session. Email bill@rivervalleytkd.com if you have any questions.

Because we can discuss a book almost as well via Zoom as we could while sitting around a table, I invite you to join a discussion of Musashi’s The Book of Five Rings. One of the best known martial arts books of all time, this classic is (like Sun Tzu’s The Art of War), of such general interest that it’s often read in business schools and other settings that have nothing to do with the martial arts but appreciate strategy. Musashi’s biography is fascinating, many consider him the most accomplished sword fighter of all time, and this book is a must-read for any serious practitioner of the martial arts.

The (Arguably) Best Edition

My favorite edition of The Book of Five Rings was published in 2006 by Weatherhill, and although it’s out of print, it can be found here. This beautifully illustrated version has two special things going for it:

  1. the text is a 1993 translation by the mighty Thomas Cleary, indisputably one of the finest translators of East Asian martial arts classics. his edition of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War is also definitive.
  2. the book was designed by Greta Sibley, a renowned local book designer who has a studio in Easthampton, Massachusetts.

Other Editions

  • If you want to read the Cleary translation but don’t need the lavish design, you can get a different edition that uses the same text
  • I haven’t seen it myself, but Apple’s iBook for iPad is probably nicely produced, and it costs just a buck
  • Since the book was written in the 1600s, it’s in the public domain, so if you do a quick search for “Book of Five Rings free ebook” you’ll probably find it for free in common eBook and .pdf formats

Note about translations: I’m sure there are many solid translations of this book, but since your enjoyment of the book will depend on the quality of the translation, if you get an edition by someone other than Cleary, I recommend that you look at a page or two first, if possible. Make sure your copy is written in a style you appreciate. If everyone gets the same edition, it’ll make it easier to follow a group discussion, but if someone gets an alternate translation, it might lead to interesting insights. Let’s see what happens!

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