Godai & Miyamoto Musashi – A Comprehensive Overview — The Book Of Five Rings By Miyamoto Musashi

Your day to day life is governed by certain principles and philosophies. These are mainly dependent on your country of origin. The Japanese greatly believe in The Five Elements philosophy, otherwise known as Godai.

Derived from Indian and Buddhist cultures, this philosophy was popularized when a renowned swordsman and martial artist, Miyamoto Musashi, wrote a book about its uses in the field of Kenjutsu. All five elements are thoroughly discussed in the book, which is entitled The Book of Five Rings (Gorin-no-sho).

This book continues to help a lot of people worldwide. Although written by a famous swordsman, with the book being mainly about martial arts and Kenjutsu, this book is also often used by those with other interests outside the field of martial arts.

Introduction to Godai: The Five Elements

The five elements in Japanese belief are Earth, Water, Fire, Wind and Void. These elements possess different powers with a variety of uses for each person.

In Japanese culture, life basically involves every element. Each of these 5 elements plays certain roles on the life of an individual. Here is a brief discussion on the five elements:


  • Earth, also known as tsuchi, signifies all the rigid and solid things in the world. Objects associated with the Earth element hardly budge despite being moved or modified. One of the most fitting objects that’s considered as a symbol of the Earth element is stone. This object is hard and seldom breaks.
  • Sometimes, the Earth element can also be related to human emotions and traits. It is said that if a person is born under the Earth element, then he or she usually has a stubborn nature and is also confident. This is why most people born under the Earth element are physically and emotionally tough. Earth persons are also known for being decisive.
  • Miyamoto Musashi connects the Earth element to his strategy in dealing with opponents during a duel. Written in his book is if you master the strategies taught by this element, then you’ll be able to easily defeat more than one opponent at once.


  • The Water element, otherwise known as Sui or Mizu, represents the free-flowing objects of the world. This element is directly connected to flowing water and other things that do not take any form or shape. Objects under this element are highly flexible and are usually very adaptive to any situation. Rivers are the most common example of this element, but plants are also categorized as a significant part of the Water element. This is because plants have certain abilities of adapting to a wide variety of climates, seasons and weather changes. Their unique abilities help them survive and flourish.
  • In Miyamoto’s book, the Water element is associated to one’s temperament and flexibility while being faced with arduous battles in life. Miyamoto tries to explain how you should quickly adapt to fast changing situations. He also proposes some strategies that can help you deal with difficult situations.


  • Fire, or also known as Ka/Hi, is often associated with high-energy objects and things in motion. This element is extremely powerful since it can be beneficial and dangerous. Fire is usually connected to heat, an energy that comes from within.
  • For Miyamoto, Fire can be linked to the step by step strategy of defeating an opponent. Since fire could also mean passion in the human mind, Miyamoto clearly wrote about converting this energy into making wise decisions in life and in any situation. For instance, if you are faced with an enemy, then you aren’t expected to always attack first. You can be in defense mode if you trust your defense skills more. Miyamoto also explains how you can use this passion to strive more to become a better warrior, a warrior that can defeat thousands of enemies in the battlefield.


  • Kaze or the Wind element is the fourth in this list. This element is characterized by objects that have the absolute freedom to move. Objects under this element are often open to expansion and growth. As such, the human mind is the perfect example of the Wind element. The human mind has the ability to freely think about everything, in the most literal sense. There is no limit as to how much a human mind can imagine. Another thing about the human mind is that it absorbs knowledge and new ideas as you continue to grow as an individual.
  • Usually, people born under this element tend to have an attitude of open-mindedness. This means they’re capable of understanding circumstances as they come along the way.


  • The last element is known as Void, or oblivion. This is the most powerful among the five elements according to Buddhist beliefs. The Void element is often referred to as the Sky or Heaven. Admittedly, there are things that a human mind cannot fathom. There are worldly experiences that cannot be explained by science and is beyond what the human mind can imagine.
  • This element is associated to human spirit and creativity. There is no limit as to what the human mind can imagine, but there are things beyond that which no one knows about. This element can sometimes be terrifying for others because its depth can never be measured by anybody.
  • Miyamoto also believes that Void is the highest element in terms of power and directly associates it with a specific technique in martial arts, combining magic and human strength.

True enough, the five elements, also known as Godai, can significantly affect the human persona. Guided by these philosophies, one can truly become an effective warrior, physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally. By understanding these elements, you will come to know more about yourself and find the inner peace that you deserve.