Miyamoto Musashi, The Sword Saint

Miyamoto Musashi is a legendary warrior. He is a prodigiously skilled swordsman who dominated duels against the highest calibre of opponents and fought in battles, laying waste to all who challenged him.

Early Years of Miyamoto Musashi

The early years of Musashi’s life were tough

His mother passed early on and his father who was considered to be one of the finest swordsmen in Japan was obsessively focused on running his small Dojo.

Eventually, when Musashi was young, his father either died or the two fell out and this resulted in Musashi being raised in isolation by his uncle from the age of seven onwards.

There can be no doubt, that during the early years of his life Musashi trained in the martial art of Kendo (sparring with bamboo swords), because within no time he demonstrated his prodigious skill and his life suddenly got an injection of awesomeness, a legend was born.

When Musashi was merely 13 years old, an overconfident warrior came to his region, laying out the hazels as it were and challenged anyone who dared fight him to a duel. Young Musashi jumped at the chance and accepted the challenge. This young boy armed with a wooden stick, fought the samurai named Kihei, who was armed with a katana, comfortably beating him to death with a stick, a kid armed with a fracking stick.

For the next few years of his life, young Musashi travelled Japan, competing in duels and honing his swordsmanship, defeating renowned warriors and Samurai. Musashi fought as a mercenary sword for hire in various clan wars and eventually got his first taste of a major field battle.

The Battle of Sekigahara, 1600, only the largest battle in Japanese feudal history.

Miyamoto Musashi
Miyamoto Musashi

At just 16 years old, Miyamoto Musashi fought during this chaotic cluster frack of a battle, that had some 160,000 combatants. By all accounts, the young man fought well, but his side still lost, badly.

Musashi survived, fleeing the battle while all-around men fell. Now on the run, he wandered the forests and mountains, rigorously training for the next four years, cue epic montage, perfecting his own unique style of combat wielding two swords, instead of the traditional single Katana.

Emerging from his self imposed years of training at 21, our exiled Ronin was now on a mission, he arrived back on the scene in the city of Kyoto in 1604, home to one of the greatest martial arts schools in Japan, ran by the Yoshioka clan.

This young somewhat scruffy warrior proceeded to challenge the head of the Yoshioka clan to a duel, likely insulting the man’s small manhood, or something along that line, as whatever he said during that challenge resulted in the beginning of a short, but very savage blood feud between the young Musashi and the famous martial clan.

First Musashi fought the oldest brother, the head of the Yoshioka family, whooping his arse with a wooden sword so badly that the clan leader shaved his head and lived out the remainder of his life as a peaceful monk.

Karate kid ain't got shit on me. - Musashi.

Just to irritate the Yoshioka clan, Miyamoto Musashi chose to stay in the city, which inevitably resulted in the second oldest brother, now head of the clan, challenging our prodigiously skilled young swordsman to another duel.

The result will come as no surprise, our young swordsman was indeed something special, he defeated the second brother with a single strike to the head with his wooden sword, killing him instantly and enraging the once-famous martial clan, even more, he was making a mockery of the Yoshioka martial school.

The Yoshioka clan issued a final challenge, but this time they attempted to assassinate Musashi. However, Musashi, being a rather intelligent chap, figured their predictable plan out and so hid in the bushes at the agreed site for the final duel.

When the clan arrived, with a party of armoured samurai to butcher Musashi, they found the wooded clearing empty and in the moonlight, their target was nowhere to be seen.

Miyamoto Musashi, The Sword Saint

‘Suprise cockface, take that you little weasel, Oi have some of this you spineless jellyfish.’

Musashi leapt from behind cover wielding his two razer sharp swords, taking his would-be assassins by complete surprise and proceeding to engage the entire party, using his own unique style that worked wonders against multiple opponents. Musashi slaughtered the final clan leader and dispatched some of his immediate guards, before fighting his way to freedom and escaping into the night.

Musashi having single-handedly taken down one of the most powerful and famous martial clans in Japan, embarrassing their Dojo and fighting style, moved on to find more worthy opponents.

He would fight many duels in the following years, but because he was without a lord, Musashi was looked down on as an unknown swordsman with little to no known lineage or pedigree, yet he kept beating everyone who dared to face him, more often than not utterly humiliating them by wielding a wooden sword during the duels.

Eventually, this unknown warrior who had emerged from the forest and defeated everyone who dared to duel him with ease, began to make waves in Japanese society and while many of the details of his duels in the following years have been lost to the sands of time, what is for certain is he continued to win and hone his skills.

Finally, Musashi learned of a worthy opponent, a famous Samurai who had mastered a difficult style and made a reputation going undefeated.

His name was Sasaki Kojiro, defeating such a master would cement Musashi as the greatest swordsman in all of Japan, so he wasted no time and journeyed to the seat of Kojiro’s lord and petitioned for a duel to establish who’s style was the greatest, in other words, the title for who was the best swordsman in Japan was on the line.

Musashi vs Kojiro, 1612.

Kojiro was known to wield an extra-long sword called a Nodachi, an exceedingly long version of a Katana, his skills were phenomenal and his style based on range and countering was lethal. Yet Musashi remained unphased, he challenged Kojiro to the duel, they both agreed to fight at sunrise on a small island nearby.

This is where Musashi engaged in psychological mind games, intentionally sleeping in late on the morning of the duel, before casually having a full breakfast and then eventually boarding a boat to the island, all the while Kojiro waited, growing angrier by the minute.

While on the boat ride to the small island, an idea came to Musashi, who started to whittle down one of the boat’s oars, fashioning it into an extra-long wooden sword. When he reached the island Kojiro was beyond enraged, furious having been left waiting like a chump, he rushed to the shore and started shouting insults at Musashi.

Kojiro stood in the shallows and drew his long sword, flippantly throwing his scabbard aside and hurling abuse at Musashi for being late. Cool as a cucumber-like, Musashi retorted — ‘If you have no more use for your sheath, you are already dead.’ This brutal barb, coupled with the fact that Musashi didn’t even have a sword on him, instead carrying only some crude wooden oar, sent the master Samurai into a fit of rage.

Miyamoto Musashi, The Sword Saint

You brought an oar to our duel, am I a joke to you? I’m so going to chop you into Sushi!!

Miyamoto Musashididn’t need to goad his opponent into attacking, that work had already been done, the Samurai master of the impressive long katana counter form, wasted no time going on the attack and so fell into Musashi’s trap.

Musashi had carved his oar to be even longer than his opponent’s long sword, having taken his enemy’s strength from him and tricked him into taking the offensive, Musashi countered his opponent’s opening strike and landed a blow from a range that stunned the Samurai master, before dodging a desperate slash and stabbing at the fallen master’s chest with the crude oar, breaking the master’s rib and penetrating the lung below, killing the skilled swordsman.

Musashi showed endearing respect for the fallen master, he bowed deeply and his sorrow was real, for Musashi could see himself in the master swordsman and this duel would mark the very fibre of Musashi, he would never be the same after defeating the great Kojiro.

‘You should not have any special fondness for a particular weapon, or anything else, for that matter. Too much is the same as not enough. Without imitating anyone else, you should have as much weaponry as suits you.’ — Miyamoto Musashi, the book of five rings.

Musashi went on to write two books, take up painting at a high level and even adopted four young boys, who he trained and cared for greatly.

While he no longer actively sought duels, having learned all he could from that aspect of his life. That is not to say that others didn’t come looking to test their mettle against perhaps the greatest swordsman to have ever lived.

Musashi didn’t disappoint his many challengers’, in fact, he once fought four different Samurai in a single year, as a fracking old man and you can be sure Musashi defeated them all with ease.

Musashi won more than 60 duels in his life, he never lost and his record was never equalled. He killed hundreds of men in combat, fighting in 6 battles, he was arguably the finest swordsman to have ever lived, however, Japan’s greatest warrior was never a Samurai, having known no master.

Musashi won more than 60 duels in his life

There is a beautiful statue of Musashi and Kojiro standing on the little island where their legendary duel took place, four hundred years ago.


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