Miyamoto Musashi was born in 1584 in the village of Miyamoto, near Tokyo. His ancestors came from the powerful Harima-Clan and were all samurai. Musashi grew up in stormy times when Hideyoshi was busy reuniting the country after many years of civil war.
At the age of seven, Musashi’s father disappeared and an uncle who worked as a priest took care of the young boy. It was said that he was a tall, willful and rapidly learning child. Whether his uncle or his aggressive nature brought him to Kendyô—sword fighting—is not known.
The first time he killed an opponent in a duel, Musashi was only thirteen years of age. When he was about sixteen he left his homeland and went on a warrior’s pilgrimage to perfect his sword fighting skills. More than sixty duels and six wars followed, in which he went without defeat. His unique fencing style with two swords, his bravery, and his courage were already legendary in his lifetime.
According to his written notes, he finally came to fully understand the essence of swordfight at the age of fifty. This same year he and his adopted son Lori settled down on the island of Kyûshû, which Musashi wouldn’t leave until his death in 1645. From 1634 to 1643 he lived there as a guest at the castle of Hosokawa Chûri, where he spent his time teaching, painting and writing poems.
Musashi spent the last two years of his life as a hermit in the cave Reigendô where he wrote his famous “Book of the Five Rings,” Gorin-no-sho. He finished this unique work, in which he wrote about the art of the sword fight, strategy, and the method of hand to hand combat only a few weeks before his death.
With this work of art Musashi became a real Kensei, the wise man of the sword. To this day, he remains a symbolic figure of the Samurai’s art of Japanese sword fighting.