Few warriors have ever reached the wisdom, prowess, and fame that 15th century Samurai Miyamoto Musashi has attained. Nearly five centuries after his death, and we’re still reading the works that he wrote while still alive.
Yet, far too many men can’t even name a handful of Miyamoto Musashi quotes. Even fewer still have ever read his timeless piece, the Book of Five Rings.
An ancient Japanese warrior who prided himself on courage, strength, and honor, Musashi has written down his wisdom for all the world to see.
Modern warriors of all kinds stand to benefit from his work, so whether you’re an artist, an athlete, or just a man trying to be his best, here’s my 13 favorite Miyamoto Musashi quotes, guaranteed to blow you away.
“There is nothing outside of yourself that can ever enable you to get better, stronger, richer, quicker, or smarter. Everything is within. Everything exists. Seek nothing outside of yourself.” -Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings
In the self-improvement world, it’s common for people to look for a “simple trick” or “outside solution” to their problems. We live in a society of instant gratification, magic pills, and surface-level-solutions, but the fact of the matter is that nothing will change until you change.
You want a better life? Then you’ve got to get better. You want to make twice as much money as you’re currently making? Then you’ve got to figure out a way to provide twice as much value. You want to get an incredible girlfriend, who makes your life 10x better? Then you’ve got to improve yourself as a man.
Nothing in this life comes without self-improvement, and for those of us who are “gifted” things like money, success, or fame, actually end up hurting. When you’re given something, and you don’t fulfill the necessary prerequisite of inner change, you aren’t capable of handing the external success.
“From one thing, know ten thousand things.” -Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings
In medieval Catholic philosophy, there’s a concept known as the particulars and the universals. As a philosophy major (before I dropped out), I won’t bore you with the details, but the idea is something like this. My pet “Rover” would be an individual, whereas “dog” as a concept would be a universal.
Extrapolating this idea to self-improvement, what we come to find is that when you get really good at one area in life, often times it spreads to other areas. The same skill set of responding to negative feedback, integrating new improvements, ignoring external influences, and cultivating discipline, that is built from lifting weights, can be applied to anything else.
There’s similarities all across the board—from relationships in business and your personal life, to financial success, to physical fitness, to emotional intelligence and even spiritual fulfillment. In mastering one skill, you develop the skill set that you need to master any skill. In knowing one thing, you can know ten thousand things.
“Today is victory over yourself of yesterday; tomorrow is your victory over lesser men.” -Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings
Grinding through life, day in and day out, is often a chore—yet when we look at how far we’ve come compared to ourselves of yesterday, the results are astonishing. Any man who can improve by just 1% per day, will be over 1,000% better in just under a year. This is the power of the slight edge; compounded improvements over time.
Today is when we fight against ourselves and when we strive to become greater than we think is possible. We overcome the external barriers, the mental obstacles, and the physical limitations that were incredibly real to ourselves of yesterday—only to find that when we get better, our lives get better.
Do not compare yourself to other people. Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, who you were a week ago, who you were a year ago, and who you were a decade ago. It matters not where you are, but where you’ve started, and how far you’ve come.
“You must understand that there is more than one path to the top of the mountain.” -Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings
Often times in self-development, people get hung up on having to do things a certain way. I can certainly be like this sometimes, and it’s a lesson that I continue to learn and re-learn over and over again. The mind gets locked into a certain way of doing things, and it becomes nigh impossible to do things any other way.
Yet, there is more than one path to the top of the mountain—this is one of the most common obstacles that men face in the world of health and fitness. They’ve been told that there’s only “one way” to do things, and if they deviate from that “one way” (defined by internet marketers and salesmen, of course) then you won’t get jacked.
The fact of the matter is that you can get jacked in many different ways. Just as there is more than one path to the top of a mountain, there is more than one path to building wealth, improving confidence, and building muscle. For some, intermittent fasting might be ideal—for others, following a full ketosis diet may be necessary. It all depends on you.
“The ultimate aim of martial arts is not having to use them.” -Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings
Recently I was listening to a podcast by Joe Rogan, in which he was talking with Dr. Jordan B. Peterson about some pretty deep philosophical concepts. Dr. Peterson has been embroiled in a gigantic media scandal lately, for protecting freedom of speech, and wrote a book on what he believes can solve our “cultural crisis” of existentialism.
In order to write the book, 12 Rules for Life, he had to spend hours researching different texts, including the bible—that’s when something interesting came up. Anyone who’s been even remotely associated with Christianity knows the famous beatitude: “Those who are meek shall inherit the earth,” yet something doesn’t sit right about this.
Those who are meek shall inherit the earth? How is being weak, shy, and timid a virtue? Yet it turns out, according to Dr. Peterson’s research, that this phrase has been wildly mistranslated. The original meaning is something more like this: “Those who can fight, yet sheath their swords, shall inherit the earth.”
This takes on an entirely new meaning. It’s better to be a warrior in a garden, then a gardener in a war—we study martial arts, we study self-defense, and we study the art of war, not so that we can perpetuate the same violence that has run past generations, but so that we can understand it, and stop it.
“Think lightly of yourself and deeply of the world.” -Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings
Do you think you’re important? Do you really think you matter? On some level, of course you matter—you’re only one human being, and yet the decisions you make will ripple out into eternity. The things you do while still alive will impact thousands, millions, maybe even billions of people, completely unbeknownst to you.
Yet to think of yourself too much is folly. Stop thinking, start acting. Every day I get emails from men who cannot seem to take action, and it’s all because they think far too deeply of themselves. I hate to break it to you, but you’re really not that important. You’re one human being out of literally billions. Stop focusing so much on yourself.
Focus on others. Focus on what you can learn from other people, on what you can teach them, on what you can leave behind, and on how you can make the world a better place. Approach every new person you meet with the belief that they may know something that you don’t, and learn to see in the world what most cannot see.
“All men are the same except for their belief in their own selves, regardless of what others may think of them.” -Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings
When you’ve been at self-development long enough, you begin to wonder just how many of your limiting beliefs are self-imposed. I’m sure you’ve heard the story about how animal trainers in Africa will train elephants to stay put, right? If not, here’s a brief summary. When the elephants are young, the trainers wrap a rope around their leg to keep them from running away.
The baby elephants struggle and try to get away, but after days, and sometimes even weeks, they eventually give up. Yet, years later, when the elephants are 10x the size they once were, this little rope still keeps them in place. They could easily break it off their leg and charge through the jungle, so why don’t they?
The fully grown elephants don’t break through the tiny rope, because they don’t believe that they can. They don’t even try. The belief that they can’t escape, and that trying to break the rope is useless, has been ingrained in them since they were a baby—and while you may think they’re foolish for acting this way, look at yourself.
What beliefs do you still have from your childhood that are holding you back? In reality, the only difference between the highly successful and the wildly unsuccessful is that those at the top of the dominance hierarchy, at the peak of the pinnacle of human function, they don’t set limiting beliefs on themselves. They believe anything is possible. Do you?
“The only reason a warrior is alive is to fight, and the only reason a warrior fights is to win.” -Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings
A man needs a purpose, because without a purpose a man is lost. We are beings of intent; no amount of philosophizing or existential reasoning will remove our need for meaning. The warrior’s meaning is to fight. He draws purpose from the fight, and the only reason he fights is to win.
When you follow the 13 Rules of the Relentless, you understand that your sole purpose in life is to fight, grow, conquer, and win. Yet not only do you understand this, but you actually do this. You embody your purpose.
“Step by step walk the thousand-mile road.” -Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings
One of the biggest problems that I see men struggling with nowadays is “analysis paralysis.” We live in an incredible age, where literally millenia of research and compiled knowledge can be accessed at our fingertips.
You have a question about something? Simply type the question in Google, and voila—you’ve got thousands of answers you can sift through. However while the internet has done wonders for decentralizing knowledge, it has also created a society of passive eggheads.
Nobody takes action anymore. They think that they need to know exactly what to do, with 100% certainty, before they can even take the first steps…but do you know what? Nobody is ever fully ready. They just act, learn, and improve.
In the words of the immortal Mark Twain: “The secret to getting ahead is getting started.” When I started Masculine Development, working out, or anything for that matter, I didn’t feel “ready.” I just took the first steps, slowly learned from my results, and improved myself. Just get started.
“Truth is not what you want it to be; it is what it is, and you must bend to its power or live a lie.” -Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings
Ah, living in denial. We see a lot of this in self-development, don’t we? As we begin to uncover the lies we’ve told ourselves, the delusions we’ve entertained, and the false narratives that we’ve bought into, we begin to realize just how little we know.
Even more eye-opening, is we begin to see how often other people buy into mainstream lies about success. People will tell themselves whatever lies make them feel comfortable—and it should come as no surprise that every single one of us, even ourselves, strive to preserve these lies.
It’s painful to accept the truth, especially if you’re failing at life. Why? Because if you accept the truth, this means that you accept the fact that your life sucks because of you. There’s nobody to blame—not the government, not “rich people,” and not your parents. It’s your fault that your life is where it’s at.
“The path that leads to truth is littered with the bodies of the ignorant.” -Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings
Speaking about lies, as you begin to dig down deep into your mind and unearth these barriers to success, you begin to realize how few people have actually done the same work on themselves. It almost feels like you’ve “woken up” from the Matrix, and you’re walking around like Neo, seeing all of these people living in a fantasy.
The deeper you delve into self-improvement, the more people you leave behind, as well. As you go farther and farther, fewer and fewer people are willing to go with you—either because they can’t handle it, or because they don’t want to.
It’s lonely at the top, and sometimes you’ll have to leave behind old friends who aren’t willing to improve and grow with you. Their bodies will be strewn along the path to truth, but if you’re a man, you’ll continue down the path—even if you’re alone.
“Fixation is the way to death. Fluidity is the way to life.” -Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings
Have you ever noticed how people begin to fall into ruts when they hit their mid 30’s? They’ve got a relatively stable job, maybe a wife or a girlfriend, and maybe even a nice house in the suburbs—they unplug from reality, and just stagnate.
They do the same thing everyday. They go to work, talk to the same people, do the same boring tasks, come home at the same time, eat the same dinner with the same people, and watch the same TV shows every night.
…and while some order can be good, like in having a morning routine, you must constantly be changing and experiencing new things if you wish to stay vibrant and young. Rigidity is the way to death, and fluidity is the way to life. Be like water, my friend.
“Whatever your determination or will power, it is foolish to try to change the nature of things. Things work the way they do because that is the way of things.” -Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings
Decades ago, Dr. David Hawkins hypothesized that there are different “levels of consciousness,” each corresponding with how hard or easy life is. The higher up on this scale you go, the easier life is—because you understand power.
Those who are lower on the scale, however? They don’t understand power, and they have to use force. What’s the difference? Think of force as rowing a boat as hard as you can, and power as adjusting the sail to let the wind do the work.
Power is being present to the moment, and accepting reality. Force is resisting what is. Power is working with the Universe, and force is working against it. Power is effortless and easy. Force is…well, forced.
When you accept reality for what it is, and stop resisting it, you’ll begin to unlock all sorts of powers you never even knew existed. Alan Watts called this “getting out of your own way.” Eckhart Tolle calls it “presence.” The Buddhists call it “enlightenment.” It’s known by many words, but it’s all the same.
I could have written an entire article on each of these quotes, yet I believe this will suffice for most of us. Much of Eastern Philosophy is extremely abstract, woo-woo, and difficult to grasp—but if you can in fact grasp it, you’ll be amazed.
Lao Tzu, the Buddha, Sun Tzu, Miyamoto Musashi…all of these great men have something in common. They understood that the way to life is a profound simplicity, an effortless effort, and an acceptance of the present moment.
Miyamoto Musashi was a philosopher first and a warrior second. His sword was guided by his discipline and his wisdom, just as our actions in the modern world must be guided as such.
If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, feel free to leave me a note down below—and as always, I’ll see you next time.
Jon Anthony is a world renowned dating coach and the founder of Masculine Development, a website specifically dedicated to helping men improve their personal, dating, and financial lives. After years of training men how to attract women, build muscle, and make more money, Jon created the "7 Strategies" program to help kickstart your journey to success. Jon firmly believes that every man should have control over his own life, and he created Masculine Development to share his passion with men who want success in all areas.