Musashi's "The Way of Self Reliance" (Wilson translation)

Japanese swordsmanship has been a hobby of mine for almost 35 years, and the most famous of all Japanese swordsman is Miyamoto Musashi, author of The Book of Five Rings.

One week before his death, he wrote "The Way of Walking Alone" (Dokkodo). I read the translation written by William Scott Wilson, which like all of Wilson's work, was carefully constructed from primary documents. Then I looked online to see if there was a version of it that I could link to. Instead, I found an awful alternative translation that has been repeated ad infinitum.

So on Veterans Day and to honor the memory of one of the world's greatest swordsmen, I've reproduced what I believe is the superior translation of "The Way of Self Reliance", found in William Scott Wilson's translation of Miyamoto Musashi's The Book of Five Rings.


Shrike on a Withered Branch
by Miyamoto Musashi
THE WAY OF WALKING ALONE (or The Way of Self-Reliance)

  • Do not turn your back on the various Ways of this world.
  • Do not scheme for physical pleasure.
  • Do not intend to rely on anything.
  • Consider yourself lightly; consider the world deeply.
  • Do not ever think in acquisitive terms.
  • Do not regret things about your own personal life.
  • Do not envy another's good or evil.
  • Do not lament parting on any road whatsoever.
  • Do not complain or feel bitterly about yourself or others.
  • Have no heart for approaching the path of love.
  • Do not have preferences.
  • Do not harbor hopes for your own personal home.
  • Do not have a liking for delicious food for youself.
  • Do not carry antiques handed down from generation to generation.
  • Do not fast so that it affects you physically.
  • While it's different with military equipment, do not be fond of material things.
  • While on the Way, do not begrudge death.
  • Do not be intent on possessing valuables or a fief in old age.
  • Respect the gods and Buddhas, but do not depend on them.
  • Though you give up your life, do not give up your honor.
  • Never depart from the Way of the Martial Arts.

Second Day of the Fifth Month, Second Year of Shoho [1645]
Shinmen Musashi


  1. You should update the wikipedia article with these precepts translated. I've been a fan of Musashi for a long while as well.

  2. I've never tried to edit content in Wikipedia but if you know how to, Rob, that sounds like a very good idea.

  3. Please don't update the Wikipedia article. The translation may be truer to the original, but it's harder to understand and not as likeable. There are many situations when a more simple translation is more appropriate, especially for the general public, and wikipedia is that exact place. This other translation is easily found for anyone interested. Most would prefer the other one.


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