Miyamoto Musashi’s Personal Development Tips

Few of us can match Miyamoto Musashi’s single-minded devotion to the pursuit of excellence in martial arts.

In fighting over sixty duels, many to the death, Musashi demonstrated great courage. And in winning every one, he showed superior skill and technique. Musashi attributed his outstanding swordsmanship to unrelenting practice of self-reliance and self-discipline.

In his final years, Musashi retired to a cave for a life of quiet contemplation. It was during this time that he composed his famous guide on strategy, The Book of Five Rings.

In his very last days, this Kensei (Saint of Swords) further distilled his insights on self-discipline and personal development into 21 points. Musashi bequeathed this lesser-known work, Dokkodo, to his senior student before passing away.

Dokkodo (The Way to be Followed Alone)

Miyamoto Musashi holding two swords
  1. Do not stubbornly rebel against the ways of the world.
  2. Do not seek pleasure for its own sake.
  3. Do not rely upon any half-hearted feelings.
  4. Think lightly of yourself and think deeply of the world.
  5. Remain detached from desire.
  6. Do not regret what you have done.
  7. Never be jealous of others.
  8. Never let yourself be saddened by a separation.
  9. Abandon resentment and complaint.
  10. Do not let yourself be guided by the feeling of love.
  11. Disregard your personal preferences.
  12. Accept your dwelling and living conditions.
  13. Do not pursue the taste of good food.
  14. Do not hoard ancient treasures intended for future generations.
  15. Do not mindlessly follow the ways of the world.
  16. Do not become obsessed with weapons or fighting.
  17. Do not run from death.
  18. Do not accumulate goods and riches for your old age.
  19. Respect the gods, without relying on their help.
  20. You can abandon your own body, but never let go of your honor.
  21. Never depart from the way of strategy.

Which of these guidelines are you able and willing to follow?


  1. #1 and #15 are basically the same as the Bible’s sayings of “being in the world,but NOT of it.”

  2. Hi Caleb,

    respect, these two are my favorites (two?), but all of them has to be practised of course. Maybe you call me crazy, but I think it’s the TIME to get all the samurai together to “fight” the LAST war… (war of words) cause the sword of the samurai in our times is speech. What do you think… I’m from Germany by the way, xcuse my language


  3. I have a follow up to my version of “The Five Rings” entitled “The Lady of the Rings,” Musashi’s strategy interpreted for women. I will personally autograph all books ordered thru my website. Thank you and best regards.
    Hanshi Stephen Kaufman

  4. I am one of countless enthusiasts who have enjoyed Musashi’s words.
    It is said he refined this list and left out #4 and #20.

    I find the translation “the book of the five elements” makes a great deal more sense than “the book of the five rings” Considering his sections were named for the “scrolls” of the 5 elements.

  5. Miyamoto Musashi is the greatest warrior who ever lived in my book. His biography written in Go rin no sho is amazing!

  6. Musashi’s philosophy along with the Taoists classics has shaped my life for the better , we are all blessed to know of these works

  7. thank you to musashi for his kindness, and grief to those who profit from the art which he lived.

  8. Look at Ben Franklin’s “Thirteen Virtues”, all great men have striven to reach a high standard according to those things that they are well aware makes for a better life.
    I personally have my own ‘lists’ that I meditate upon when time makes fit that as best I can I map my failings, attempts, and successes to preview if I am making any progress. It is a terrifying thing to strip yourself from falssvpride and become naked in the self-bearing reflection of wisdom as she hides no blemish nor increased value of growth.

  9. One of the things that seems off is his 19th way of thinking. In religions like Christianity, we have to rely on God. I don’t know why Musashi-san would say something like that.

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