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The Life-Giving Sword: Secret Teachings from the House of the Shogun

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  619 Ratings  ·  25 Reviews
This is a translation of an important classic on Zen swordfighting. Yagyu Munenori was so widely renowned that he was appointed official sword instructor to two Tokugawa shoguns. (The position was always coveted by Miyamoto Musashi, but he never succeeded in gaining the post). Yagyu's style is known as the Shinkage-ryu style, for centuries the official style of the Tokugaw ...more
Hardcover, 191 pages
Published December 18th 2003 by Kodansha (first published 1632)
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Ali Reda
Jun 02, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: japan
The Life-Giving sword, melts Zen teachings with sword fighting. Munenori found the middle ground between technique and spirituality. He had inherited the ideals of no-sword from a long line of ancestor priests and samurai, the sword being a medium for life rather than death. He teaches how to overcome opponents mentally by achieving the state of No-Mind. By freeing your mind from attachments (sickness), your mind can only act without even thinking of this action. This state is called Emptiness, ...more
This beautiful book by Musashi's contemporary, Yagyu Munenori, is like a box. It contains three distinct things:

1) A brief 6-page chapter listing the learnings of the school of sword fighting that the author inherited, mastered and later taught.

2) Two chapters, "The Death-Dealing Sword" and the "The Life Giving Sword", which form the heart of this book. Munenori uses Swordfighting as a metaphor but he is really talking about Zen and the mental techniques that one needs to master for any martial
Jon(athan) Nakapalau
A glimpse into the mind of a master...better than most 'self-help' books put out today.
Rahmat Romadon
Nov 22, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: every sword art fans
Hey I found this book is very useful for additional training. It's like cuts people in two pieces!!! I really love this book its explains more than just slice enemies but also teach us that sword is not only tools that we can depend on againts enemies. You can use another for it.
Ivy Reisner
A little strange at points (the hidden is manifest and the manifest is hidden; existance is non-existance and non-existance is existance) but it's very good.
Aug 25, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Martial artists and those interested in mind training.
Shelves: already-read
May be this book is for the hard-core martial artists only. I would not recommend it for the faint-hearted. Well, may be for someone who is very interested in Zen and Vipassana (mindfulness) meditation, this will also be a great, eye-opening book. And may be some history buff. To be read together with The Unfettered Mind and other books by Musashi because they are all contemporaries and you'll get a better picture that way. One other great point about this book is it provides you with Kanji char ...more
Jul 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing

'The past dying out like the wake of a boat, not lingering at all... the turning point is truly recondite.'

'Learning is the gate not the house. When you see the gate, do not mistake it for the house.'

'The mind is like raw silk; dye it red it becomes red, dye it violet and it becomes violet.'

Varun Dave
Feb 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book highlights the ethical and spiritual insights of Taoism and Zen as they apply to the way of the warrior (As written on the back cover)

[This book is clubbed with THE BOOK OF FIVE RINGS by Miyamoto Musashi and translated by Thomas Cleary].
Arthur Rosenfeld
Jan 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Miyamoto Musashi regarded Yagyu as the finest swordsman in Japan for a reason. Another of Wilson's wonderful translations.
James Tyrrell
Jul 08, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: philosophy
When the title tells you secret teachings it is being absolutely accurate in its description. There is a great deal to be learned here for the martial artist and especially those involved in swordplay. Zen and mindfulness, along with the mental nature of the sword wielder are all covered in detail. Different methods of drawing in an enemy to strike are reminiscent of highly localized form of Sun Tzu's The Art of War.

As such there are explicit moments where methods are discussed that the non mar
May 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Reviewed as an amateur philosopher and student of Japanese history, not as a practitioner of kendo, this was not my favorite text but was pretty good. It's quite thick to get through at times, especially when the meat of Munenori's philosophy is seamlessly blended with the chewy gristle of swordplay technique that makes a non-practitioners' eyes glaze over. However, I could not think of a better guide to the text than William Scott Wilson, whose extensive introduction, footnotes, and afterward e ...more
Feb 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A brilliant instruction manual by one of the most legendary warriors in Japanese history, 'Life Giving Sword' will speak to any Martial Artist, Soldier, Warrior, Freedom Fighter, Peacemaker, or Monk. Speaking not of death and chaos, but of the Zen of being able to give life with ones sword, to preserve with ones sword is a central message in this work.

Far from utilitarian or defeatist in its philosophy, 'Life Giving Sword' is a beneficial read for any follower of the Way.
Neeraj Shukla
Jul 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is similar to "The Book of five rings" by Miyamoto Musashi but has more focus on philosophy of why one should fight and how sword, which was the primary weapon for the warriors of past, is both life-taking and life-giving.

The book gives meaning to the life of warriors and war and has heavy emphasis on Buddhism.

Jakub Zahumensky
Jun 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
This book came as the second part of Musashi's Book of Five Rings. While dealing with the same or very similar topics most of the time, this book (at least to me) feels much more comprehensive and more easily applicable to aspects outside of martial arts. Definitely a worthwhile read that I will return to at some point for sure.
Noah Clark
May 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
Fairly limited
Ryan Dewan
May 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great intro into Zen, Buddhism and its link to martial arts strategy. Can be applied for all arts and paths in life.
Christian Grobmeier
Es handelt sich hier um ein hervorragendes Werk eines Zen-Studierenden und Schwertkämpfers. Obwohl ca. 20% des Buchs so speziell für Schwertkämpfer geschrieben sind, dass ich daraus kaum Nutzen ziehen konnte, waren die anderen 80% jede Minute wert.

Munenori versteht, auf sehr praktische Art und Weise Zen in den Alltag - sprich Schwertkampf - zu übertragen. Für den Nicht-Schwertkämpfer ist dies aber so gut erklärt, das man es leicht auf seine eigene Lebensweise übertragen kann.

Der deutsche Titel "
Dec 29, 2014 rated it it was ok
Unfortunately I read this right after reading Zen at War. Because of this, Yagyu's book had no romance for me, and seemed like what it is: a kenjutsu manual hidden inside an amateur's esoteric zen treatise. If you want to learn zen, there are better zen treatises (e.g. ones written by actual zen clergy and scholars), and if you want to learn how to sword-fight from a book (which is not a good idea anyway), a manual that isn't couched in seventeenth century mystical religious terms might be easie ...more
Aug 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Buku ini yang selalu menarik saya untuk membacanya lagi dan lagi.
Kisah kehidupan Yagyu Munenori, ajaran Tanpa Pedang, dan ajaran Zen ini benar-benar mengajarkan kita untuk menjadi lebih bijak. Pada jamannya, pedang memang menjadi segalanya. Sehingga, dengan pedang pulalah saya rasa Munenori mengingatkan, dan mengajari kita perihal kehidupan. Bagaimana menghadapi masalah, mengalahkan pikiran, cara pandang, strategi, dan lainnya. Dan tentu saja, soal seni bela diri juga.

Dan sepertinya hari ini pun
Apr 18, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
الكتاب يتكلم عن طريق المحارب مستلهما معم الافكار و المبادئ من الطاوية و البوذية الزينية و الكونفوشية. من غير إلمام بالمذاهب الدينية و الفلسفية في اليابان, يصعب فهم المصلحات مثل "العقل العادي" و "العقل الصحيح" , و التي تختلف تفسيراتها عن الفلسفة المعاصرة. المترجم توماس كليري قام بعمل جيّد في الهواش لتوضيح هذه المصلحات و معانيها.
Timmy Fenning
This book was certainly ahead of its time. Here we find early explanations of the phenomenon that is now known as Flow. To operate with a free mind is to operate at your highest potential. My only complaint is that it repeats the same thing over and over again.
Jul 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book is a great after first reading the "The Art of War" to get an deeper understanding.
Gary Mendez
Jan 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Man Solo
Aug 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Saved my ass......
Hilda Ellis-Davidson
Sep 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: japan
Quite dense in parts, and not recommended as a introductory text or for beginners.
rated it it was amazing
Feb 14, 2015
Andrea Rheaume
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Jan 28, 2017
Will Newsome
rated it it was amazing
Sep 14, 2012
Max Filipsson
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Jan 06, 2016
Nathalie Andrews
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Nov 16, 2013
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“The continually moving mind is philosophically symbolized by the avatar Fudo Myo-o, the Wisdom King, often depicted holding a sword in one hand for cutting through ignorance, and a rope in the other for tying up passions.” 0 likes
“You should strike at the moon in the water.” 0 likes
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