Miyamoto Musashi

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Miyamoto Musashi was one of the greatest swordsmen in Japanese history and is the source for Masamoto's character in Young Samurai.

Miyamoto Musashi was just 13 years old when he participated in his first single combat against the samurai Arima Kigei. Musashi defeated Arima and actually killed him during the duel.

At 16 years old, Musashi began his Musha-Shugyo (warrior pilgrimage), a samurai tradition in which a warrior would become a ronin (masterless samurai) and travel the land, fighting in duels to establish and perfect his skill as a warrior.

Musashi fought many duels and battles (including the battle of Sekigahara) and never lost. He defeated many opponents including the Yoshioka family in Kyoto, Shishido Baikin, a noted master of the sickle and chain, and Sasaki Kojiro in one of his most famous duels on a beach using a weapon carved from a wooden oar (this story has been adapted for The Way of the Warrior).

Musashi went on to found his own sword school, the Niten Ichi-Ryu, 'Two Heavens As One School', after his style of fighting using both the samurai swords as one weapon.

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In later life, Musashi devoted himself to the perfection of the other arts practised by the samurai, including ink painting, calligraphy, wood sculpture and metalworking.

Musashi wrote two great treatises on the art and the way of the sword, including Heiko Sanjugokajo - the 35 Articles on the Art of Swordsmanship - and Go Rin No Sho - The Book Of Five Rings, the most famous of all Japanese works on martial arts.

Musashi is also known for his scarred and pock-marked skin, the result of eczema as a child, from which arose the rumours of his refusal to wash, shave or even undress!

To this day, Musashi's legend survives and is often known to the Japanese as Kensei, the sword-saint.

© Chris Bradford 2016