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A Book of Five Rings: The Classic Guide to Strategy

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'When you attain the Way of strategy, there will not be one thing you cannot see.'
- Miyamoto Musashi, Book of Five Rings

Shortly before his death in 1645, the undefeated swordsman Miyamoto Musashi retreated to a cave to live as a hermit. There he wrote five scrolls describing the "true principles" required for victory in the martial arts and on the battlefield. Instead of relying on religion or theory, Musashi based his writings on his own experience, observation, and reason.

192 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 1645

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Miyamoto Musashi

114 books842 followers
Miyamoto Musashi (宮本 武蔵, c. 1584 – June 13, 1645), also known as Shinmen Takezō, Miyamoto Bennosuke or, by his Buddhist name, Niten Dōraku, was an expert Japanese swordsman and rōnin. Musashi, as he was often simply known, became renowned through stories of his excellent swordsmanship in numerous duels, even from a very young age. He was the founder of the Hyōhō Niten Ichi-ryū or Niten-ryū style of swordsmanship and the author of The Book of Five Rings (五輪の書 Go Rin No Sho), a book on strategy, tactics, and philosophy that is still studied today.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,284 reviews
Profile Image for Adil.
94 reviews16 followers
August 20, 2011
I read a translation by Ashikaga Yoshiharu and Rosemary Brant. This book puzzled me in that at first glance I seem to have learned nothing else from it than how to hold a sword and attack and enemy, and obvious things like never let your enemy have a chance to recover. I'm definitely missing something, either due to the translation or my inability to read between the lines. I guess I'm supposed to reflect on it and come back to it until I "get it" if there's any wisdom in here. The book is full of lines such as "research this well," "study this thoroughly," "I cannot elaborate on this in writing" and I'm not sure how these are supposed to evoke any insight in me into anything. Furthermore, the topics are elaborated on very little in this book. I have a suspicion that all those people who rated this book highly have filled in the gap with their imagination. The edition I read presents the book as "the cornerstone of Japanese Culture" and I have absolutely no idea how this book played any significant role in Japanese culture; it baffles me. But I guess, as the book says, "these things are not explainable in detail." I can say one positive thing about my experience reading the book: It left me using sword battle as an analogy for human relations and that might be useful somehow.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,566 reviews56k followers
April 15, 2022
五輪書 = Choyaku Gorin no Dho = A Book of Five Rings: The Classic Guide to Strategy, Miyamoto Musashi

The Book of Five Rings is a text on Kenjutsu and the martial arts in general, written by the Japanese swordsman Miyamoto Musashi around 1645.

Refer to the idea that there are different elements of battle, just as there are different physical elements in life, as described by Buddhism, Shinto, and other Eastern religions. The five books below are Musashi's descriptions of the exact methods or techniques which are described by such elements.

The Book of Earth chapter serves as an introduction, and metaphorically discusses martial arts, leadership, and training as building a house.

The Book of Water chapter describes Musashi's style, Ni-ten ichi-ryu, or "Two Heavens, One Style". It describes some basic technique and fundamental principles.

The Book of Fire chapter refers to the heat of battle, and discusses matters such as different types of timing.

The Book of Wind chapter is something of a pun, since the Japanese character can mean both "wind" and "style" (e.g., of martial arts).

It discusses what Musashi considers to be the failings of various contemporary schools of sword fighting.

The Book of the Void chapter is a short epilogue, describing, in more esoteric terms, Musashi's probably Zen-influenced thoughts on consciousness and the correct mindset.

عنوانهای چاپ شده در ایران: «ک‍ت‍اب‌ پ‍ن‍ج‌ ح‍ل‍ق‍ه‌ ق‍درت‌: ه‍ن‍ر واق‍ع‍ی‌ م‍دی‍ری‍ت‌ ژاپ‍ن‍ی‌»؛ «م‍دی‍ری‍ت‌ ژاپ‍ن‍ی‌: ک‍ت‍اب‌ پ‍ن‍ج‌ ح‍ل‍ق‍ه‌ ق‍درت‌»؛ «کتاب پنج حلقه: کتابی کهن برای مدیریت بر خود و دیگران»؛ «کتاب پنج حلقه»؛ «کتاب پنج حلقه: طریقت جنگاوری سامورایی‌ها»؛ نویسنده: م‍ی‍ام‍وت‍و م‍وس‍اش‍ی‌؛ تاریخ خوانش روز هشتم ماه آوریل سال2007میلادی

عنوان: ک‍ت‍اب‌ پ‍ن‍ج‌ ح‍ل‍ق‍ه‌ ق‍درت‌: ه‍ن‍ر واق‍ع‍ی‌ م‍دی‍ری‍ت‌ ژاپ‍ن‍ی‌؛ نویسنده: م‍ی‍ام‍وت‍و م‍وس‍اش‍ی‌؛ ت‍رج‍م‍ه‌ ک‍ام‍ران‌ پ‍روان‍ه‌؛ رش‍ت‌: ت‍ال‍ش‌، سال1375؛ در160ص؛ شابک9649146814؛ ع‍ن‍وان‌ روی‌ ج‍ل‍د: ه‍ن‍ر واق‍ع‍ی‌ م‍دی‍ری‍ت‌ ژاپ‍ن‍ی‌ ک‍ت‍اب‌ پ‍ن‍ج‌ ح‍ل‍ق‍ه‌ ق‍درت‌؛ موضوع: فنون قدیمی جنگ و شمشیربازی از نویسندگان ژاپنی؛ سده17م

عنوان: م‍دی‍ری‍ت‌ ژاپ‍ن‍ی‌: ک‍ت‍اب‌ پ‍ن‍ج‌ ح‍ل‍ق‍ه‌ ق‍درت‌؛ ن‍وی‍س‍ن‍ده‌ م‍ی‍ام‍وت‍و م‍وس‍اش‍ی‌؛ م‍ت‍رج‍م‌: ک‍ام‍ران‌ پ‍روان‍ه‌؛ ت‍ه‍ران‌: اردی‍ب‍ه‍ش‍ت‌‏‫، سال1385؛ در160ص؛ شابک9641127658؛ چاپ دیگر سال1397؛ شابک9789641713609؛

عنوان: کتاب پنج حلقه: کتابی کهن برای مدیریت بر خود و دیگران؛ نویسنده: میاموتو موساشی؛ ترجمه از ژاپنی قدرت‌ الله ذاکری؛ ‏‫‏تهران‬‏‫‏: مثلث‬‏‫‏، سال1387؛ در116ص؛ شابک9789648496475؛

عنوان: کتاب پنج حلقه؛ نوشته: موساشی میاموتو؛ ترجمه انگلیسی ویکتور هاریس؛ برگردان و تالیف به فارسی مسعود حایری؛ تهران؛ شب‌قره‏‫ سال 1393؛ در100ص؛ مصور؛ شابک9786006670690؛

عنوان: کتاب پنج حلقه: طریقت جنگاوری سامورایی‌ها؛ نویسنده: میاموتو موساشی؛ ترجمه به انگلیسی: ویکتور هریس؛ ترجمه فارسی: حسین میرشکرایی؛ تهران، نشر ورا‏‫، سال1396؛ در152ص؛ شابک9786009823154؛

میاموتو موساشی (زادهٔ سال1584میلادی - درگذشتهٔ روز سیزدهم ماه ژوئن سال1645میلادی) که با نام‌های «شینمِن تاکِزو»، «میاموتو بنوسوکه» و «نیتن دوراکو (نام بودایی‌ ایشان)» نیز شناخته می‌شوند، رونین و سامورایی افسانه‌ ای «ژاپنی» بودند؛ ایشان برای مهارتش در شمشیرزنی و نیز پیروزی‌های چشمگیرش در نبردهای دونفره با شمشیر، شناخته شده‌ هستند؛ ایشان نخستین مبارزه‌ ی خویش را در سن سیزده سالگی انجام دادند، و پیروز شدند؛ «موساشی» بنیان‌گذار سبک شمشیرزنی «نیتن‌ریو (هیوهو نیتن ایچی‌ریو)» و نیز ...؛

میاموتو موساشی رهبری نظامی و موثر، با استراتژیهای بزرگ بودند؛ هنرهای ایشان از جمله «نقاشی»، «مجسمه سازی»، و «خطاطی»، در تاریخ «ژاپن» بیهمانند هستند؛ به دلیل مهارتی که در شمشیرزنی داشتند، در «ژاپن» از ایشان، به عنوان «قدیس شمشیر» یاد میکنند؛ کتاب «پنج حلقه»ی ایشان، که در باب راه و رسم جنگ آوری «سامورایی»ها است، هنوز هم در کشورهای گوناگون تدریس میشود؛ «موساشی» به طبقه ی «سامورایی» وابستگی داشت؛ خوانشگر میتواند، ریشه ها و مبادی طبقه ی «سامورایی» را، در «کوندی (پهلوانان برومند)» بیابد، که عمدتا در بردارنده ی پیاده نظام نیزده دار، بوده است؛ و به واسطه ی شکلگیری سلسله مراتب نظامی، با گردآوردن افسران تمام وقت؛ که از میان پسران جوان خانواده های بالادست، برگزیده میشدند، پدیدار گردید؛ این افسران بر اسب مینشستند، زره بر تن داشتند، و با کمان و شمشیر میجنگیدند؛

در سال782پس از میلاد؛ امپراتور «کامو» به ساختن «کیوتو» برخاستند، و در آن شهر، تالاری برای تمرین نظامی، با نام «بوتوکودن» بنیاد نهادند، که تا به امروز پایدار است؛ «بوتوکودن» به معنای «تالار فضیلتهای نبرد» است؛ سالیانی اندک، پس از آنکه امپراتور در کالبد نیروی نظامی خویش، جان بردمید، مردمان تندخوی «آنو»، که ساکنان بومی «ژاپن»، و در حفظ سکونتگاه بکر خویش، کامیاب بودند، تا جزایر شمالی «هوکایدو»، باز پس رانده شدند؛ و...؛

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 01/03/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ 25/01/1401هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Mike (the Paladin).
3,145 reviews1,805 followers
November 19, 2014
This is one of those books I've been "meaning to read" for years. There's a lot that could be said here, more than can be included in a "review".

How can one review a book that has stood the test of 5+ centuries? I think there is much of value here, I think there is much that can be learned and then misapplied by those not wise enough to understand application as well as process.

The book assumes that the one reading will have already spent much time in learning and study and plans to move on with the learning. The book's 5 rings can in many ways be looked at as "headings" or "reminders". These are in many ways outlines of much larger subjects. (1000 days of practice equals 10,000 days or instruction.)

There are subjects and views that on the surface seem to to be contradictory. Musashi speaks of "venerating" the gods and the Buddhas he then speaks of total self reliance especially not appealing to or depending on the "gods or Buddhas". The most commonly used phrase (in translation) is "this should be investigated thoroughly".

An interesting book that does not claim to supply truth but to help in your finding what is the truth (Musashi would probably add) "for you".

A book to think about and approach with consideration and hopefully wisdom.
Profile Image for Greg.
1,574 reviews79 followers
February 20, 2009
I first read Miyamoto Musashi's The Book of Five Rings many years ago, while I was a Ph.D. candidate in California. I was intrigued by how his nine principles seemd to apply to life in general and leaders in particular, in addition to his intended audience of swordsmen. While it is not as in depth as Sun Tzu's The Art of War, he certainly added to my understanding.

His nine principles, from the translation I prefer, are as follows:

1. Do not think dishonestly
2. The Way is in training
3. Become acquainted with every art
4. Know the Ways of all professions
5. Distinguish between gain and loss in worldly matters
6. Develop intuitive judgment and understanding of everything
7. Perceive those things which cannot be seen
8. Pay attention even to trifles
9. Do nothing which is of no use

As a set of core principles, these are not a bad way to lead one's life.
Profile Image for Jonathan.
699 reviews75 followers
August 16, 2021
Study, consider, train, examine, observe. The list goes on. This book is a practical guide to life, whether you are in the military or a business person or just an average joe looking to get a handle on life.

Musashi lays out in plain language an idea he calls 'The Way.' The purpose of this 'Way' is simple, to ignore all pomp, circumstance, distractions, grandiose displays of prowess and close with the enemy and kill them. Swiftly, without rancor, without a second thought.

"Do nothing which is of no use."

Whether this enemy is a real live one, a competitor, or an obstacle/struggle within your own life, the point is to take control through practice, hard work, perseverance, study, and master that which opposes you through any means necessary.

Those looking for free handouts need not apply; those looking for the Western romanticized (Therefore erroneous) view of Bushido need not apply. Musashi explicitly states that in a fight, there is no honor beyond victory. You do whatever you can to throw your opponent off balance, onto their weak hand, blind them, use every advantage you know to utterly remove them from the equation.

If you can accept this, you'll never fear a thousand fights.
Profile Image for Florencia.
649 reviews1,897 followers
January 26, 2018
I do not know how I got here. I did not even know I had this book. But I am glad I read it.
This book was written by Miyamoto Musashi, a Japanese swordsman that had his first duel when he was 13 years old. It is divided into five “rings” (earth, water, fire, wind, void) that describe strategies and principles of martial arts, with a touch of philosophy that kept me interested.

Among all the tactics that can be used, he shared his insightful thoughts on several matters. Martial arts are not just about technique. There are some principles to follow; there is a clarity of mind to be reached. You have to be able to find a balance between a world of war and a world of peace.
The last "ring", the Book of Void... what a way to finish a book. Outstanding.

Nov 17, 13
* Also on my blog.
Profile Image for Jon Nakapalau.
4,826 reviews651 followers
November 19, 2022
The classic book on strategy that transcends martial-arts. Read this book before I went to boot camp; it really helped me get through it. This book helped me focus on the process of facing adversity in a way that would facilitate personal growth. I tried to reflect on this when I felt like just giving up. Highest recommendation.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books3,910 followers
April 22, 2020
I can't believe I never read this before now, but damn, HAVING read it now, I also appreciate it more.

Huh? Am I learning the way of the blade, wanting to defeat my foes from first principles and needing someone from many hundreds of years ago to tell me to EXPLORE THE PRACTICE DEEPLY? Yes? Practice it a LOT?

No. I'm not picking up a blade, and I'm not reading this from the PoV of some modern businessman wanting to get one-up on my competition, but I sure as hell got a LOT out of this.

You can say that it can be distilled down into a version of Buddhism, or you can say the essence is Fire, Wind, Water, and Stone, plus The Emptiness. But saying so doesn't explain a damn thing, nor does it teach anyone what is really beneath the words in this very clear text.

It does, however, lend itself WONDERFULLY to metaphor. Analogy.

I mean, of COURSE you're supposed to aim for the face. It always makes them flinch.

Of course you're supposed to dominate the battlefield with your own timing, never losing momentum, and always face your opponents with courage.

Pay attention to everything. Use everything.

But above all, heed the path of the Emptiness. Stop assuming shit! Learn your lessons well, always be honest with yourself, and never stop facing -- absolutely everything.

I think I'm going to buy this in a very nice edition and place it within my reach everywhere I go. It's that good. After all, minds ARE blades.
Profile Image for John Scott.
15 reviews5 followers
February 23, 2013
The Original Bad Ass MoFo ... in a Zen kinda way.

Bad Assedness
Profile Image for Jokoloyo.
449 reviews269 followers
February 10, 2017
I have different expectation when l looked at the cover book. There was a modern-day white collar person mimicking ancient Japanese samurai pose. So, I have expectation there was some modern interpretation in business management based on Miyamoto Musashi's teachings.

Then I found the book's content was basically translations of ancient text, without much interpretations into modern management style. That's why I rated it only 3 star. The philosophy value itself beyond my own judgment.
Profile Image for Kristi.
419 reviews
November 2, 2012
Despite Musashi's many admonitions to "investigate this thoroughly," I fear that I have not done so enough to truly understand or appreciate the profundity of The Book of Five Rings; however, it was interesting to read this work about swordsmanship and strategy and to think about the ways that it has been applied to business and perhaps other aspects of Japanese life. I'm not going to deny the fact that it was hard to see beyond the direct references to sword fighting and martial arts at times--fundamentally, that's what this book is about, although defeating one's opponent is a profoundly psychological and spiritual task as well for Musashi. But particularly in The Fire Chapter where he begins to delve into the art of defeating many foes, the application to the market was much easier to divine. The emphasis on initiative and rhythm and true observation are all very pertinent to many aspects of competition and negotiation.

Still, I have a feeling I would need to read this book carefully a few more times in order to really grasp it. In that sense, it's different from Bushido The Soul of Japan, which is much easier to see as a guide to one's way of life. (Bushido The Soul of Japan was also written in English, which may aid its portability.) It was harder for me to jump from the literal battle strategy elements of The Book of Five Rings to larger themes.

I'd recommend this to people interested in martial arts, the Japanese "way," Japanese history, "traditional" ideas of Japanese culture, and maybe business strategy. But those interested in the latter are going to have to wade through a lot of tall about stances and swords before you get your kernels of wisdom.

This book was read for a session of the Nitobe Kokusai Juku.
Profile Image for Ali Reda.
Author 3 books178 followers
October 27, 2015
Swordsman Miyamoto Mausashi had written The Book of the Five Rings with a practical approach to swordsmanship, on how to use the sword, where to stand and use the sun or shadows. For him, the point of battle was not showmanship it was winning, That's why he never lost a duel.


It is said the warrior's is the twofold Way of the pen and sword, and he should have a taste for both Ways.

The Way of the warrior is resolute acceptance of death.

In short, the Way of my school is the spirit of winning, whatever the weapon and whatever its size. This is the practical result of strategy.

This is the Way for men who want to learn my strategy:
1.Do not think dishonestly.
2.The Way is in training.
3.Become acquainted with every art.
4.Know the Ways of professions.
5.Distinguish between gain and loss in worldly matters.
6.Develop intuitive judgement and understanding for everything.
7.Perceive those things which cannot be seen.
8.Pay attention even to trifles.
9.Do nothing which is of no use.


With water as the basis, the spirit becomes like water. Water adopts the shape of its receptacle, it is sometimes a trickle and sometimes a wild sea. Water has a clear blue color. Be neither insufficiently spirited nor over spirited. An elevated spirit is weak and a low spirit is weak. Do not let the enemy see your spirit.

You should not have a favorite weapon. To become over-familiar with one weapon is as much a fault as not knowing it sufficiently well. You should not copy others, but use weapons which you can handily properly.

Look at things from a high point of view. The commander must know natural rules, and the rules of the country, and the rules of houses. He should take into account the abilities and limitations of his men, circulating among them and asking nothing unreasonable. He should know their morale and spirit, and encourage them when necessary. You must cultivate your wisdom and spirit. Polish your wisdom: learn public justice, distinguish between good and evil, study the Ways of different arts one by one, so that you can understand the enemy's stratagems, his strength and resources, and come to appreciate how to apply strategy to beat ten thousand enemies. When you cannot be deceived by men you will have realized the wisdom of strategy. It is difficult to know yourself if you do not know others.


If you are thoroughly conversant with strategy, you will recognize the enemy's intentions and thus have many opportunities to win. See through the enemy's spirit so that you grasp his strategy and perceive his quality and his strong and weak points to defeat him. This is because, if you attack quickly and thoughtlessly without knowing the enemy's spirit, your rhythm will become deranged and you will not be able to win. If you advance too slowly, you will not be able to take advantage of the enemy's disorder, the opportunity to win will escape, and you will not be able to finish the fight quickly.

The important thing in strategy is to suppress the enemy's useful actions but allow his useless actions. It is bad to be led about by the enemy. You must always be able to lead the enemy about and make him obey your spirit. Attack in an unsuspecting manner, knowing his meter and modulation and the appropriate timing. Knowing the times means seeing right into things. You must force the enemy into inconvenient situations. Attack where his spirit is lax, throw him into confusion, irritate and terrify him.


Perception and sight are the two methods of seeing. Perception consists of concentrating strongly on the enemy's spirit, observing the condition of the battlefield, fixing the gaze strongly, seeing the progress of the fight and the changes of advantages. This is the sure way to win.


By Emptiness I mean that which has no beginning and no end. Attaining this principle means not attaining the principle. The Way of strategy is the Way of nature. When you appreciate the power of nature, knowing the rhythm of any situation, you will be able to hit the enemy naturally and strike naturally. All this is the Way of the Emptiness. There is no timing in the Emptiness.

There is timing in the whole life of the warrior, in his thriving and declining, in his harmony and discord. You win battles with the timing in the Emptiness born of the timing of cunning by knowing the enemies' timing, and thus using a timing which the enemy does not expect. We shout during the fight to get into rhythm.

When the enemy attacks and you also decide to attack, hit with your body, and hit with your spirit, and hit from the Emptiness with your hands, accelerating strongly. This is the No Design, No Conception cut. This is the most important method of hitting.

In the Way of strategy as a warrior you must study fully other martial arts and not deviate even a little from the Way of the warrior. With your spirit settled, accumulate practice day by day, hour by hour. Polish the twofold spirit heart and mind, and sharpen the twofold gaze perception and sight. When your spirit is not in the least clouded and your self is free, when the clouds of bewilderment clear away, there is the true Emptiness.
Profile Image for P.E..
746 reviews507 followers
April 13, 2020
Here is an edition littered with relevant subtext on the times Miyamoto Musashi has been living, and on his legacy. This makes for an entertaining and highly rewarding read. This is leisure at its best.

Complementary reading : 36 Stratagems: Secret Art of War

Matching Soundtrack :
Water Buddha - Zen Bamboo Relaxation Music


Une édition truffée de commentaires précieux sur le contexte du contemporain de Miyamoto Musashi et sur sa postérité. Une lecture tout à la fois renseignée et extrêmement divertissante.
Le loisir dans ce qu'il offre de mieux !

Lecture complémentaire : Les 36 Stratagèmes : Manuel secret de l'art de la guerre

Musique dans le ton :
Water Buddha - Zen Bamboo Relaxation Music
Profile Image for Robert.
816 reviews44 followers
August 23, 2008
This book, written by a famous Japanese duelist, tells one of his relatives how to win with the sword. It is divided into five "Rings" based on five "Elements". He concentrates on Strategy and does not talk about the best guard to take or other technicalities. Many people find this book to be immoral as it espouses winning at all costs in a deadly pursuit. I regard it more as a-moral. Musashi simply never considers the question. He is simply putting down his concept of Strategy. Perhaps the moral onus is on the reader of the book?

Students of Zen would do well to read the book, particularly the final Ring - entitled The Void. Afterward the perceptive student would take up an individual sport - not necessarily fencing, tennis would do just as well - and give up trying to solve koans. After all, even the Masters say that the more you study Zen the further from enlightenment you get and there can be little doubt that Musashi was a master.

This translation from the original Japanese also contains an insightful introduction.
Profile Image for Vaishali.
1,032 reviews258 followers
August 29, 2015
Called the Go Rin No Sho, this treatise is eye-opening, though at times gruesome. One of the great joys of experiencing older texts is the sheer regality of the narration, so it's overall enjoyable. There are sections which are decidedly male and archaic ... like Musashi's insistence on overwhelming an enemy rather than befriending him. (Quite different from Funakoshi's precept of nonviolence in shotokan karate.)

I've included here some striking quotes, and some lists of Musashi's principles.

“The way of the warrior is resolute acceptance of death.”

“Studying the way of strategy is based on overcoming men.”

“Immature strategy is the cause of grief.”

“The teacher is as needle, the disciple is as thread.”

“It may seem difficult at first, but everything is difficult at first.”

“You must study hard.”

“You should not have a favorite weapon. To be overfamiliar with one weapon is as much a fault as not knowing it sufficiently well.”

“You should not copy others, but use weapons which you can handle properly. It is bad for commanders and troopers to have likes and dislikes. These are things you must learn thoroughly.”

"There is timing in everything. All things entail rising and falling timing. You must be able to discern this."

"Develop a steady spirit."

"The gaze should be large and broad. This is the two-fold gaze, perception and sight. Perception is strong and sight weak. In strategy it is important to see distant things as if they were close and to take a distanced view of close things."

"Generally, I dislike fixedness in both long swords and hands. Fixedness means a dead hand. Pliability is a living hand. You must bear this in mind."

"Alternatively, advance with as strong a spirit as possible, and when you reach the enemy move with your feet a little quicker than normal, unsettling him and overwhelming him sharply."

“Before you embark upon something - before you start - fix your intention on the 4 Oaths, and put selfishness behind you, and you cannot fail.”
The 4 Oaths:
1. Never be late with respect to the way of the warrior.
2. Be useful to the lord.
3. Be respectful to your parents.
4. Get beyond love and grief; exist for the good of man.

There are 4 ways in which men pass through life:
1. Gentlemen, who master various strategies
2. Farmers, who produce items from the change of the seasons
3. Artisans, who become proficient in tool use
4. Merchants, who live by taking profit

Godai - 5 elements of universe
1. water
2. fire
3. wind
4. ground
5. void

Godin - 5 wings of human body
1. head
2. left elbow
3. right elbow
4. left knee
5. right knee

“The 9 Principles of The Way”
("It is important to start by setting these broad principles in your heart, and train in the Way of Strategy. If you do not look at things on a large scale it will be difficult for you to master strategy.")
1. Do not think dishonestly.
2. The Way is in training.
3. Become acquainted with every art.
4. Know the Ways of professions.
5. Distinguish between gain and loss in worldly matters.
6. Develop intuitive judgement and understanding for everything.
7. Perceive those things which cannot be seen.
8. Pay attention even to trifles.
9. Do nothing which is of no use.

"In strategy your spiritual bearing must not be any different from normal. Both in fighting and in everyday life you should be determined though calm. Meet the situation without tenseness yet not recklessly, your spirit settled yet unbiased. Even when your spirit is calm do not let your body relax, and when your body is relaxed do not let your spirit slacken. Do not let your spirit be influenced by your body, or your body be influenced by your spirit. Be neither insufficiently spirited nor over spirited. An elevated spirit is weak and a low spirit is weak. Do not let the enemy see your spirit."

"Small people must be completely familiar with the spirit of large people, and large people must be familiar with the spirit of small people. Whatever your size, do not be misled by the reactions of your own body. With your spirit open and unconstricted, look at things from a high point of view. You must cultivate your wisdom and spirit. Polish your wisdom: learn public justice, distinguish between good and evil, study the Ways of different arts one by one. When you cannot be deceived by men you will have realized the wisdom of strategy."

Profile Image for Vik.
108 reviews4 followers
September 27, 2007
This book actually has two translations by Thomas Cleary of two books from Japanese martial artists. My thoughts on both and a short comparison are below.

The Book of Five Rings is a pretty good insight into a disciplined mind and professional samurai from 17th century Japan. A lot of it is practical advice and there is some spiritual Zen leaning in there too but I would not go as far to say it is required leadership reading material in the same way as The Art of War by Sun Tzu but no martial artist should be without this book.

The second translation in the book is The Book of Family Traditions on the Art of War by Yahyu Munenori is far more flowery and makes more sense if you have an understanding of buddhism otherwise the section on existance and non-existance may (or may not be ;-)) be tricky to grasp.

In comparision the first book is plainly superior to the second in the manner in which it is written and executed. It's plain talkng and easy to grasp with none of the flowery language prevalent in the second.
Profile Image for Joshua.
18 reviews4 followers
December 2, 2022
This was a painfully slow and uninteresting read for me. Thankfully it was short.

I did enjoy Musashi’s explanation about the WAY of the warrior, that it is a “RESOLUTE ACCEPTANCE OF DEATH”. I interpret this as having the mindset to be able to overcome any circumstance. The confidence he had in his abilities to be able to defeat ten men in battle was impressive, but my interest was piqued by only a few paragraphs.

The bulk of this book covers Musashi’s sword-fighting and war strategies, which for me, was unrelatable.

I recommend this book to anyone planning to take up the practice of sword fighting, which is something I don’t have the time or inclination to do at the moment.
Profile Image for Canon.
602 reviews57 followers
July 23, 2022
You Too Can Be a 17th Century Sword Master

Earth | Water | Fire | Air | Heaven | Me Reading This:


No, in reality, I appreciated the translator's frank comment in the introduction: "Because of its concision, the Gorin no sho [Book of Five Rings] is a hard text for contemporary Japanese people to understand. The misunderstandings can only be greater for Westerners, who might draw the impression from the apparent clarity of the text that they are understanding it when in fact the author's essential ideas are eluding them."

As I ranted in my review of the Analects, I hate when translators of abstruse or ancient texts leave contemporary readers to their own interpretive devices to understand or draw something valuable from the text. Thus relying on my ignorance, I learn nothing new or valuable. And so in my estimation, this is a very good edition because the translator does give a lot of helpful yet non-obtrusive commentary throughout. I've no idea about the quality of the translation itself, but I've read it's a good one. I found it very enjoyable to read.

I have zero background in martial arts, nor do I anticipate overcoming my laziness to master the art of the sword. I'll sure as hell sit on my couch and watch Inagaki's Samurai trilogy, though. But perhaps I can use Musashi's strategies in my shit millennial life to destroy real world opponents, such as baristas who don't fill my black coffee to the top but instead leave two-thirds of it empty for cream I won't use, or people who doltishly meander in my way whenever I take my ass for a run.
Profile Image for Brian .
414 reviews5 followers
May 7, 2018
I take online instructions in Wing Chun Kung Fu (https://wingchun.online) and participate in a group on Facebook. I had posted a quote I found from Miyamoto Musashi from a different Wing Chun site. Someone recommended this, The Book of Five Rings, by the author. I responded, “I’ve read The LORD of the Rings; does that count,” to which I found no response, most likely because a humorous response contrasts with the spirit of the work (I guess).

The book, written in 1643, by the undefeated samurai, divides into five scrolls: Earth, Water, Fire, Wind, and Emptiness. He goes into details about sword fighting, which I don’t study yet, but found his teachings inspirational in my studies, with practical advice and wisdom.

I took away a few things from the reading. When you study a martial art, or anything for that matter (like writing), you should focus your mind into it so much that your mind in daily life becomes the way you do martial arts, and martial arts the way you go about daily life. I became more serious in my daily practice after this. I realized that the purpose could save my life, that the art becomes a mode of self-defense, for harming someone who intends to harm you, perhaps even to death. I now practice my “moves” and techniques imagining real people there. That’s not as good as being with a real person or a Wing Chun Dummy (Mook Jong, an advanced practice, with a form), but better than “playing” while watching the Matrix Trilogy again and again, and not getting my mind into the flow of the art.

The author advises to focus on the peripheral, to see everything, and not to be distracted by one focus-point. When I’ve been out in questionable areas, I’ve remembered this, and have kept the panorama of my vision before me, to watch and be mindful of potential threats.

He writes that when an enemy has a moment of shock or weakness, or stumbling, take them down, wail on them, don’t let up. This challenged me, provoking mercy in me, and helping me prepare in my heart for the real thing. If you fight, fight- finish it. Don’t hesitate because you may have a break of compassion in the heart. The feeling could cost your life.

I learned that martial arts schools will add fancy spins and things that look great, but they do this to make the art marketable, and it has no practical use for the real thing. The “real thing” should be the aim. I’ve thought of that in my practice. When I “freestyle,” a form of “shadowboxing” but with kicks and random attacks against imagined enemy scenarios, I have a habit of dancing, and doing random fancy stuff that makes me feel inflated, like I know something “special.” I’m not blaming my Tae Kwon Do training by any means. I took that art in high school and didn’t take it seriously as I should have. To us (took it with my best friend), we wanted to look like the guys on the movies, even mimicking them, pulling our pants up like them, making our faces like they do at certain times, hopping like they did.

The “real thing” narrows down to simplicity. Get the job done quickly. Survive. Be practical. Resist the urge to feel fancy or to inflate the ego. Get real. Musashi would say the martial arts come down to killing. That must be the focus – a serious matter.
Profile Image for Álvaro Arbonés.
254 reviews78 followers
July 12, 2018
Los clásicos lo son por algo. Y si bien lo anterior es obvio, que nada sobrevive el paso de los siglos si no cumple unos mínimos requisitos, a veces se nos puede olvidar por la clase de gente que reivindica los clásicos. No sólo los académicos tristes, grises, que parecen odiar todo lo que les rodea, sino también los coachs histéricos, de sentimientos finguidos, que quieren revelarte La Verdad®.

Porque si algo no se merece Miyamoto Musashi es ser reducido a la posición de conocimiento puro.

El libro de los cinco anillos trata de exactamente lo contrario que quieren vendernos los coachs motivacionales y los académicos. Es un manual de la espada, puede leerse como un manual sobre como vivir, pero es básicamente un tratado de filosofía. Y su principio es uno muy sencillo: aquel que atesora todo conocimiento sin aferrarse a ninguna verdad es capaz de derrotar la falsedad del mundo.

¿Qué quiere decir con eso? Que según Miyamoto, no existe algo así como la verdad. Eso lo explica a través de la vía de la espada. Ninguna técnica es absoluta, válida para todas las ocasiones, capaz de derrotar a cualquier enemigo. Para saber cómo derrotar a cada enemigo en particular hay que conocerle, saber sus estrategias, sus movimientos y sus vicios. Entonces, adaptándose naturalmente a él, hay que golpearle exactamente allá donde no pueda defenderse. En el punto exacto que no le permiten ver sus convicciones.

Esto es igual de válido para la espada, la escritura o los negocios. Pero creer que lo que propone Musashi es una mera exposición de utilitarismo es no haber entendido nada.

Para Musashi la verdadera técnica es como el agua. Se adapta a la forma de aquello que quiere envolver. Eso significa que ninguna verdad es absoluta, ni siquiera la del hecho de que el agua siempre se amolda; el agua se congela si se enfría, el agua se evapora si se calienta. Es decir, ninguna verdad es inmutable. Incluso el camino de la espada, lo absoluto e inmutable del hecho de que no existen verdades absolutas, es falso. Es una contradicción en sí misma afirmar que no existen verdades absolutas. Que no existe técnica invencible. Si no existe verdad absoluta alguna, ¿no estamos diciendo que la inexistencia de toda verdad absoluta es una verdad absoluta?, si no existe técnica invencible, ¿no estamos diciendo que la inexistencia de toda técnica invencible es una técnica invencible? Sólo tenemos que adaptarnos, conocer al otro y buscar su punto ciego para ganar siempre. Hay está la verdad absoluta que negamos, la técnica invencible que se supone no existe.

El universo es vacío. Nada. Por ello el verdadero guerrero es el que está vacío, es nada, está abierto a toda posibilidad. Aprende el camino y la verdad como si fueran absolutos, pero los aplica abiertamente, sin desechar nada, considerando siempre qué se aplica y qué no en cada circunstancia.

Es decir, Miyamoto no cree en la sacralidad de los clásicos. Tampoco en ningún maestro que diga poder conseguir que alcances el éxito. El universo es caótico, sin sentido, sin ninguna verdad absoluta. Sólo cuando se empieza aceptando eso, se puede empezar a andar el camino.
Profile Image for George K..
2,338 reviews286 followers
December 7, 2016
Ο Μιγιαμότο Μουσάσι ήταν ένας από τους καλύτερους Ιάπωνες ξιφομάχους της γενιάς του και ίσως ο θρυλικότερος σαμουράι στην ιστορία, πάντα νικητής στις τουλάχιστον εξήντα μονομαχίες που συμμετείχε, και δημιουργός μιας ιδιαίτερης σχολής ξιφομαχίας και πολεμικών τεχνών. Στο τέλος της ζωής του έκατσε και έγραψε το παρόν βιβλίο, έναν οδηγό για τις ξιφομαχίες και την τέχνη του σαμουράι, στο οποίο μπορεί να διαβάσει κανείς την στρατηγική σκ��ψη που πρέπει να έχει ένας ξιφομάχος ή σαμουράι ώστε να βγαίνει πάντα νικητής στις διάφορες μονομαχίες ή μάχες.

Υπάρχουν διαφόρων ειδών συμβουλές, που έχουν να κάνουν τόσο με το τεχνικό κομμάτι της υπόθεσης, όσο φυσικά και με το πνευματικό. Η τέχνη του σαμουράι απαιτεί μυαλό, οξυδέρκεια, υπομονή, επιμονή, προσήλωση, αυτοσυγκέντρωση, κουράγιο και καθημερινή άσκηση. Δεν είναι για όλους. Θα μου πείτε, τώρα, τι νόημα έχει ένα τέτοιο βιβλίο στην εποχή μας. Πρώτα-πρώτα, τα κομμάτια που έχουν να κάνουν με το πνεύμα και το μυαλό, ταιριάζουν με όλων των ειδών τι�� πολεμικές τέχνες. Δεύτερον, κάποιες στρατηγικές και συμβουλές, με τις απαραίτητες αλλαγές, μπορούν να χρησιμεύσουν και σε άλλα πεδία. Επίσης, με αυτό το βιβλίο παίρνει κάποιος μια ιδέα για τον τρόπο ζωής και σκέψης ενός σαμουράι.

Πάντως δεν μπορώ να πω ότι πρόκειται για φιλοσοφικό κείμενο ή ότι διαβάζοντάς το θα κατανοήσει κανείς τους λόγους για τους οποίους πολλοί Ιάπωνες έγιναν σαμουράι. Σίγουρα είναι ένα σημαντικό βιβλίο γι'αυτούς που γουστάρουν τους σαμουράι και την Ιαπωνική κουλτούρα. Κάποιες από τις συμβουλές/διδαχές θα τις ξαναδιαβάσω.

Υ.Γ. Όσον αφορά τον Μιγιαμότο Μουσάσι, υπάρχει ταινία για την ζωή και το έργο του, σε σκηνοθεσία Hiroshi Inagaki και με πρωταγωνιστή τον αξεπέραστο Toshirô Mifune, ενώ έχει γραφτεί και ένα ολόκληρο μυθιστόρημα 900+ σελίδων για πάρτη του, από τον Eiji Yoshikawa (δυστυχώς δεν υπάρχει στα ελληνικά)
Profile Image for Aditi Jaiswal.
115 reviews147 followers
April 10, 2020
"I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times” - Bruce Lee.

Mastery is far better than curiosity.

But what and how to practice? For that you need a mentor, and reading this book will definitely not help you in any way! Unless you know how to read between the lines and you can find the right place to research more on the basic strategic insights! But either way you won't need this book!

I couldn't appreciate it because I have already watched too many movies on martial arts, where I learned a lot about the basic strategies to defeat an opponent that the wisdom of this book seemed obvious to me, considering that the author wanted us to research more on these universal strategies!

I read it because Phil Knight ( the author of the Shoe dog) mentioned its name in his book since it helped him to survive the tough phase of his life.

But to my surprise, I wasn't able to comprehend the depth and wisdom of *His Way*.

So, like the author said, if you want to win a sword fight or defeat an opponent in any field. You have to fight with the spirit of "one cut". Though, it is difficult to attain if you do not learn the strategy well. But if you train well in the ways of this book, strategy will come from your heart and you will be able to win at will. But you must research on your own with the few principles mentioned in this book and then train yourself diligently.

P.S. - *Perceiving the ability of my pupils, I teach the direct Way, remove the bad influence of other schools, and gradually introduce them to the true Way of the warrior.* This line reminds me of my experience with Indian Coaching system
Profile Image for AiK.
469 reviews107 followers
May 6, 2021
Средневековое пособие по стратегии боя мечом. Недобросовестные книгопродавцы написали аннотацию, что это философский трактат (не в счет короткая глава о пустоте, но она исключительно для целей боя), или пособие по стратегии, которое можно применять в любых жизненных сферах. К чести данного сайта, аннотация отражает суть книги, как средневекового пособия по фехтованию. Между тем, в одном из сайтов есть такое описание, цитирую: «Многие поступки Мусаси, кажется, прямо противоречат всем законам Бусидо и самурайской морали. Он считался «великим и благородным Воином» – и нападал из засады, как правило, сторонясь открытого поединка. Он стал идеалом для тысяч самураев средневековья – и советовал «лучше ударить в спину и убить противника сразу, чем подходить к нему с лица и долго фехтовать». Он выступал как живое воплощение строгости и дисциплины Бусидо – часто ходил грязным, был неравнодушен к спиртному, выходя на поединки с глубокого похмелья.» Поскольку этот самурай жил в средневековье, с большой долей вероятности, его личность мифологизирована.
Эта книга может представлять интерес историкам самурайского периода, как бесценный письменный источник, и возможно, изучающим фехтование катаной. Поскольку выбор книги основывался на аннотацию, ставлю оценку не книге, а аннотации и практике книготорговли.
Profile Image for T.R. Preston.
Author 3 books97 followers
March 14, 2021
Another Middle-school favourite of mine. Musashi was one of my many historic heroes. I've never read the manga 'Vagabond', though I hear it is about him (and amazing). I have to get around to that one day.

Musashi was one of the world's greatest badasses. Who knows if some of his stories were simply embellished at the time; but where is the fun in questioning them? Besides, he wouldn't be able to write of his own detailed accounts if he wasn't a real master of swordsmanship. I buy it, if only because I love a good icon story.

Japanese history in general fascinates me to no end. They have such a truly deep and rich culture. japan might be the most interesting nation in the world. I think I could make that argument easily. I will never not be inspired by the Samurai way of life and the strict code they lived by. There is so much to admire about Japan's greatest heroes.
Profile Image for Cav.
638 reviews81 followers
January 14, 2022
"My name is Miyamoto Musashi. I have killed over sixty men in fights and duels. When I was sixty years of age I looked back upon my life and in a flash of wisdom, realized that all my victories were based on either great luck, an innate ability, or perhaps the fact that the methods of other schools were inadequate."

It was hard for me to properly rate The Book of Five Rings. Sadly, there were a few sizeable impediments to my full enjoyment of this ancient text...

Miyamoto Musashi, also known as Shinmen Takezō, Miyamoto Bennosuke or, by his Buddhist name, Niten Dōraku, was a Japanese swordsman, philosopher, strategist, writer and rōnin.

Miyamoto Musashi in his prime, wielding two bokken:

This one is on the recommended reading list of Dr. Michael Gervais's Compete To Create "Finding Your Best" course, which I just finished. [As a side note; I thoroughly enjoyed the course, and would recommend it to anyone reading this review.]
"If you wish to control others you must first control yourself."

As I found when I was trying to decide between an audiobook and PDF version of this one - there are many, many different versions of this book. It was originally published in Japan, circa 1645, and titled 五輪書, (or Go Rin no Sho). Wikipedia notes: "There have been various translations made over the years, and it enjoys an audience considerably broader than only that of martial artists and people across East Asia."

I found many of the concepts presented interesting, but sadly, I think quite a lot of the import and message of the original may have been lost in translation...

The writing in the original text is broken into 5 chapters: Earth, Water, Fire, Wind, & Void.
Here is a brief summary, taken from a Quora page:

1) Earth: Your base ground in everything. Knowledge of art, how martial-arts is not just about fighting. But, an art of everything in life. That requires creativity. Linked to a carpenter master and his tools in perfect order. Daily cleaning and essence check
2) Water: Mind and body must become one through rigorous practice and both should be a little step higher than yesterday, today. Tomorrow a step higher than today. Be like a gourd in the stream, contouring both(mind and body) like it would down a chaotic current.
3)Fire: Through daily practice in meditation and duels. Develop a mindset of fire. By wielding two-swords and using a no-mind technique. Can one come to conclude this chapter. In a match, to the death, with one or many opponents. The outcome is determined by the amiable and fixed deviant person can bring survivability to oneself. Like a fire in a timber yard. Cut down all in a position of high-ground and or manipulation of their offense by the actions mimicking theirs. Set fire to your soul and to all through precise yet chaotic attacks.
4) Wind: Wind has no form and can't be held by anything. Like a wind from heaven, smite and contort around enemies like a thunder from the sky. Even God's must fear your means. By breathing from ones stomach can one achieve most power. Become the rhythm of the surroundings and slice like a leaf bound for its final destination.
5) Void: Knowing and mastering everything. One must let go of everything to truly become a master. Let's say you really like a video game coming out in a few weeks. You read strategy guides, visit forums, chat with other players, etc.. Having found out all the means before launch. When the game arrives, the excitement makes you lose sense of time and place and with the knowledge tou have, you spend countless hours until achievements. That is the way of the this chapter. By understanding situation,time, and place. Musashi met many(if not all) the masters of their arts of that time in the area. Most preferred honor over anything. Musashi had placed an emphasis on wining at all costs with honor attached. In void sense, you master everything and let go of everything in a confrontation. Thusly, rewarding in a win-win situation.

I'm also going to include the book's description here, which I've taken from its Wikipedia page; mainly for my own future reference. I'll cover it with a spoiler, as it's fairly lengthy:


The Book of Five Rings is a book that pops up over and over again in many other titles I've read. It was only a matter of time before I got to it myself.
I wish I could say that I enjoyed it more...
Unfortunately, there have been a few hundred years, and a vastly fundamental language barrier between the original text, and that enjoyment.
3 stars.
Profile Image for Kinga.
607 reviews20 followers
September 20, 2019
“Today is victory over yourself of yesterday; tomorrow is your victory over lesser men.”

I expected this novel to be similar to The Art of War by Sun Tzu (which I absolutely loved and I need to reread it again soon), but instead I found other truths.

I quite liked how the Way was portrayed in five elements; somehow being the same and yet still differing in each of them.

“It is difficult to know yourself if you do not know others.”

I know that only as examples these attitudes and stances were described as man to man combats, but I would have appreciated a bit more description of large scale fights and strategies. However, I’m not going to argue with a samurai who lived about four hundred years ago.

“This is the truth: when you sacrifice your life, you must make fullest use of your weaponry. It is false not to do so, and to die with a weapon yet undrawn.”
Profile Image for Helena Hubert.
4 reviews
August 10, 2018
Ok so "It was amazing" is not exactly the correct reaction but it was entrancing. I read this because I was told Sister Sable is either based or borrows heavily from it. It is clear after reading that the author of Sister Sable has read A Book of Five Rings more than once and probably five stars thinks it's a-amen-mazing. But a lot of this you have to intuit because Miyamooto Mushashi was no poet and seemed to have more intuition for the sword than lucid understanding of it. But well worth reading.

A life lesson from Musashi: "The purpose of picking up a blade is to cut the enemy." And as Sister Sable adds, "Scaring them is discretionary."
Profile Image for tinalozanova.
6 reviews1 follower
December 10, 2021
Прекрасна книга, която със сигурност няма да бъде оценена от всеки, но за любителите на будистките вярвания и японската култура тази книга ще е безценна.
Миямото Мусаши, японски самурай...превърнал се в легенда и пример за подръжание, заради майсторството с меча което притежава. Пише книга за "Пътят на Стратегията". Главно изтъква темата и дава насоки за стратегията в бой.
Той описва боя, като неубяснимо изкуство, синхром между тялото и ума, както и психология за надделяване на врага и техники в битка.
Прекрасна книга за дзен будизма, за осъществяването на истинското Аз, въпроси за тайните на живота,отвъд разома и словото, постигане на баланс с теб и природата.
*(Не искам да звучи преувеличено, аз съм голям любител на азиатската култура, вярвания и религия. Приемам всичко много сериозно и философско.)
Profile Image for Sergio Zea Ramirez.
74 reviews2 followers
January 7, 2021
Hermoso libro lleno de frases con valor inmortal

"(al principio, al aprender a manejar con una sola mano) el sable largo le parece pesado e inmanejable a todo el mundo, pero cualquier cosa es así cuando se empieza" (aquí Miyamoto explica que precisamente ante la dificultad del aprendizaje de ésta técnica, un verdadero maestro dedicado y disciplinado podría obtener una ventaja insuperable en comparación a los demás)

"Hablando es términos generales, hay que evitar el agarrotamiento y la posición fija, tanto en el sable como en la mano. La posición fija es el camino de la muerte, la fluidez es el camino de la vida."(extraído del manuscrito del agua)

* Cada vez que vuelvo a visitar este libro vuelvo a sentirme como si fuera la primera vez. Es fácil pensar que este se trata de un libro de espadas y de guerra, error fácil de cometer, nada mas alejado de la realidad. Este libro trata de la vida, de tu oficio, de la relación con las otras personas, contigo mismo.
Me encanta, a medida que voy leyendo, tratar de sacar extrapolaciones a la vida cotidiana. Por ejemplo, en el libro de la tierra se hace evidente que todo cuánto se hace debería orientarse hacia el objetivo de la maestría, sea cual sea el oficio. Así de esta manera uno puede encontrar sentido no solo en la importancia del oficio sino en el de la vida en sí. Otra conclusión es, por ejemplo el uso de dos espadas larga y corta y la dificultad que denota ello. Esto puede asimilarse como la importancia de tener un arte complementario al de tu oficio y de la importancia de ser un maestro en ambas.
El libro del aire es genial en cuanto a la enseñanza de no tomar las cosas en la vida de un solo modo. El verdadero camino está en la flexibilidad y la adaptación. Un solo enfoque siempre lleva al fracaso.
Este libro debería leerse de manera obligatoria.
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