The Worlds Greatest Samurai

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The world's history is filled with iconic, influential and legendary warriors. They have left a mark in time for some remarkable moments; when hearing about such things you are left to wonder if their actions are even humanly possible or are of myths.

Miyamoto Musashi was born in 1584, Harima, Japan. He was raised by his uncle Dorin in a Shoreian temple and was educated in Buddhism. Reports suggest Musashi was trained by his father from a very young age and after the passing of his father his training resumed by his uncle at the age of seven-years-old. Musashi's first duel was at the age of thirteen-years-old against a travelling Arima Kihei who had issued an open challenge to anyone willing to accept it. Kihei was known for his arrogance and was not titled a great swordsman, nevertheless, this was still going to be a challenge for the inexperienced Musashi. Kihei accepted the challenge and headed to Dorin's temple to commence the duel with Musashi. His uncle begged Kihei not to go ahead with the battle but young Musashi had other ideas; he attacked an off-guard Kihei with a six-foot quarterstaff causing him to fall to the floor, Musashi repeatedly hit Kihei to the head causing him to eventually die. Musashi went on to be ronin (masterless samurai).

Musashi travelled to Japan and along his journey, he went on to have his second duel at sixteen-years-old against Tadashima Akiyama whom Musashi defeated swiftly; apparently in a matter of seconds. By the 1600 Musashi was involved in a civil war; Toyotomi clan vs Tokugawa clan. Musashi sided with the Toyotomi clan 'Army of the West'. The Toyotomi clan went on to lose the civil war and although Musashi was on the losing side he fought bravely and managed to survive the battle; he fled the area and went to Mount Hiko to resume his training.

Musashi began his pilgrimage by making his way to Kyoto at the age of twenty-one. He went on to challenge students at the famous Yoshioka Clan to build his reputation. His first bout was against;

Seijuro Yoshioka. The duel was ruled to fight with a bokken (wooden sword), both swordsmen agreed one direct hit would declare the winner in which Musashi went on to break Seijuros arm. Seijuro announced retirement from the head of Yoshioka Ryu and became a monk.

Denshichiro Yoshioka. Brother of Seijuro challenged Musashi to regain honour for his family but this time duelled to the death. Musashi still fought with a bokken and went on to kill Denschichiro leaving the Yoshioka Clan in shambles.

Matashichiro Yoshioka. A twelve-year-old boy who challenged Musashi to undo all the damage that this samurai caused his clan, but Matashichiro planned to ambush Musashi by commanding his men to hide with rifles and swords before the battle. The intelligent Musashi rose to his suspicions and hid at the venue before the planned time of the duel. Realising the set-up, he waited for the right time and pounce out cutting Matashichiro's head off. This also marked a pivotal moment whereby Musashi went on to battle the remaining men with his trademark two swords and escape, ending the Yoshioka clan.

The most famous fight of Musashi's life was against a well-renowed samurai, feared and respected by many; Sasaki Kojiro in 1612. They both agreed to meet at an isolated island to battle. Kojiro arrived on time in well-dressed clothing and had the finest swords money could buy. Kojiro also custom built his swords so they were an extra bit longer to gain the reach advantage over his opponents. Musashi, on the other hand, arrived late knowing this would anger and frustrate his opponent and throw-off his focus of the battle. He also dressed in rags and decided to battle with a bokken once again; one which he built on the boat ride up to the island making it extra long in length to beat Kojiro at his own game. The two fought and it ended within two strikes; one in which Kojiro was cut on his head and Musashi's clothing was cut and the second ended the life of Kojiro as his throat was sliced open.

Musashi had over 60 duels, during which he never lost one.

In later years Musashi went on to teach and still duel but none that would end in death. As he became older he became ill and he banished himself to a cave where he wrote his masterpieces 'The Book of Five Rings' & 'The Way of Walking Alone'.

Miyamoto Musashi's influence on the martial arts world is a force to be reckoned with. He later became known as Kensai (Sword Saint) in Japan. Many try, many fall, but only a few will leave their legacy of an iconic life.

'The purpose of today's training is to defeat yesterday's understanding.'

- Miyamotot Musashi

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©2018 by Abdul-Ahad Patel.