Miyamoto Musashi was born in 1584 in imperial Japan. He was the one of the last and certainly the greatest samurai, a group of skilled Japanese swordsman who followed Kendo (the way of the sword). People are fond of saying live by the sword die by the sword. Though Musashi lived by the sword in every way, he was never to be struck down by one. In fact, Musashi never lost in combat whether in war, duel, or ambush.
This is especially impressive considering he survived through two wars, sixty-three individual duels, and a handful of assassination attempts. He was a physically gifted warrior but often defeated enemies with his cunning. When ambushed while relaxing in a bath house he released a large amount of steam and cut his way out through the haze. On another occasion he was approached to duel, and arrived early to the spot of the duel because he suspected a trap. He was correct, and as his opponent approached with a host of armed men, he was able to spring out and strike down his opponent then escape.
Musashi was such an elite swordsman that he could not be defeated and he realized this was so. He retired to a cave for his final years to write down all he knew of Kendo into his life’s work, A Book of Five Rings. This is one of my personal favorite pieces of literature. To say it is a book might be a misgiving, rather it is divided into sections called books. These are Ground, Water, Fire, Wind, Void. Each describes an aspect of strategy essential to the way of the warrior. Though many see only violence in the way of the warrior the true goal of the way of Kendo is enlightenment. Musashi describes the end of the path as beyond mind and body, this is why he ends A Book of Five Rings with the Void text. I recommend A Book of Five Rings to anyone interested in history, strategy, or samurai.