"The school of the strategy of two heavens as one" - on the Death of the Swordmaster Miyamoto Musashi

13 June 1645, ronin, swordmaster, painter and author Miyamoto Musashi died at the age of 61 in a cave named Reigando on Kyushu.

“It is said the warrior's is the twofold Way of pen and sword, and he should have a taste for both Ways” (Miyamoto Musashi)

Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1798 - 1861): Miyamoto Musashi plunging his sword into a giant whale

Best known today as author of Go Rin No Sho, the “Book of Five Rings”, a book on kenjutsu, swordmanship, he finished in Reigando during the last years of his live that is viewed today as a primer on Eastern philosophy and a certain type of management style.

Having, after his own account, fought his first duel to the death at the age of 13 and slew more than 60 warriors in single combat before he was 30, Musashi developed the combined fighting style with the Daisho pair of swords, the long katana and short wakizashi to perfection. Actual fighting with the two swords was not unheard of during the Muromachi period of Feudal Japan, but was not deemed as effective as the two-handed slashes with the katana and using the short sword only in confined spaces or as emergency weapon.

A contemporary image of Musashi wielding two bokken

Musashi founded a koryu, the Niten Ichi-ryū ("the school of the strategy of two heavens as one") that still exists today, teaching his style and complementing it with the Dokkodo "The Way of Walking Alone") a set of 21 rather ascetic precepts, deeply rooted in Buddhism.

When Musashi embarked on his “warrior pilgrimage” to perfect his fighting style, the creation of legends already had begun. Being technically a ronin, a masterless samurai, the pilgrim quickly became a thorn in the side of various local princes, threatening their authority by simply defeating everything they sent against him. After his death, men became various monsters and single combat was exaggerated into overcoming supernatural threats, a trend that exists today as well, in mangas, films and novels , making the superior swordsman, teacher and artist a fantasy hero of Robert E. Howard-like proportions.

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