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The Life-Giving Sword: Secret Teachings from the House of the Shogun    by Yagyu Munenori order for
Life-Giving Sword
by Yagyu Munenori
Order:  USA  Can
Kodansha International, 2004 (2004)
* *   Reviewed by John Kalaidopoulos

Yagyu Munenori was a revered master swordsman and teacher, the official sword instructor to two Tokugawa shoguns. His style of swordsmanship - known as the Shinkage-ryu style - is still taught today, hundreds of years after his death. His book - which the cover dubs 'the classic text on Zen and the No-Sword by Musashi's great rival' - covers his life in its historical context, and also includes the three books of his school of swordsmanship.

As a martial artist I found The Life-Giving Sword extremely useful in its philosophical aspects, in particular the teaching and influence that reflect Zen priest Takuan Soho's relationship with Munenori. Those teachings can be applied to any martial art as well as to many aspects of ordinary life.

This classic text is very informative. However, the three books on the teachings of Munenori's sword style were hard for a non-practitioner of the sword to read and comprehend. Though Yagyu Munenori himself states that if you understand one art you understand them all, I could not relate most of his teachings to my own (karate) training. However, I plan further readings to get more from the sword master's three books.

If you have read others of William Scott Wilson's excellent translations of classic Japanese works - such as The Book of Five Rings, Hagakure, or The Unfettered Mind - then The Life-Giving Sword too is a must read.

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

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