Miyamoto Musashi: How To Build Your Self Discipline

Miyamoto Musashi: How To Build Your Self Discipline

Miyamoto Musashi was a legendary Japanese swordsman, philosopher, and artist who lived during the late 16th and early 17th centuries. His life and teachings have profoundly influenced various forms of Japanese arts and culture, from martial arts to calligraphy, and his fame has endured through the centuries.

Musashi is primarily renowned for his undefeated record in 61 duels. His unique double-bladed swordsmanship and strategy, known as Niten Ichi-ryū, is still studied today. He was known to fight simultaneously with two swords—a katana and a wakizashi—which was quite unconventional for his time.

His book, “The Book of Five Rings” (Go Rin no Sho), has been widely read and studied by martial artists, business leaders, and strategists worldwide. The book provides insights into martial arts strategy and philosophy, but these teachings have been applied in various contexts, including business and personal development.

The enduring legend of Miyamoto Musashi is not only due to his exceptional skill as a swordsman but also due to his deep and philosophical approach to life and strategy. His principles have transcended his life and era, offering timeless wisdom applicable to many modern life areas. This is why he continues to be revered as a legend.

“Dokkōdō”: The Way of Walking Alone

Musashi’s life philosophy is captured in his work “Dokkōdō” – 21 precepts penned in the twilight of his life. These pearls of wisdom guide self-discipline and, if embraced, can pave the way to success.

Let’s look at each one.

1. Accept everything just the way it is.

This principle encourages us to see the world in its raw form, without sugar-coating. It’s about resilience and the courage to face reality – the first step towards self-discipline.

2. Do not seek pleasure for its own sake.

We often get entangled in instant gratification. But natural self-discipline springs from focusing on essential tasks, not merely pleasant.

3. Do not, under any circumstances, depend on a partial feeling.

Relying on half-baked thoughts can lead us astray. A disciplined person makes decisions grounded in complete understanding, keeping whims at bay.

4. Think lightly of yourself and deeply of the world.

Humility is the key here. By placing the world above ourselves, we open our minds to learning, leading to self-improvement and discipline.

5. Be detached from desire your whole life long.

Desires can be blinding. Detaching from them gives us the freedom to act based on what’s truly important, reinforcing our discipline.

6. Do not regret what you have done.

Regret can pull us back. We can move forward with conviction and discipline by accepting our past actions.

7. Never be jealous.

Jealousy clouds judgment and distracts us from our goals. By shunning jealousy, we stay focused and disciplined.

8. Never let yourself be saddened by a separation.

Separations are challenging, but they shouldn’t break us. Embracing this principle, we develop emotional strength, a key component of self-discipline.

9. Resentment and complaint are appropriate neither for oneself nor others.

By avoiding resentment and complaint, we foster a positive mindset, enabling us to stay disciplined even in adversity.

10. Do not let yourself be guided by the feeling of lust or love.

Letting emotions guide our actions can lead to chaos. Balanced judgment is crucial to maintaining discipline.

11. In all things have no preferences.

Preferences can lead to biases. By not favoring, we stay neutral, make fair decisions, and maintain our discipline.

12. Be indifferent to where you live.

By not getting attached to a place, we foster adaptability – an essential quality in maintaining discipline regardless of our surroundings.

13. Do not pursue the taste of good food.

This teaches us not to be driven by sensory pleasures. Discipline often requires foregoing immediate pleasures for long-term benefits.

14. Do not hold on to possessions you no longer need.

Letting go of unneeded possessions teaches us to value necessity over luxury – an essential aspect of disciplined living.

15. Do not act following customary beliefs.

Breaking free from blind traditions allows us to act based on reason and understanding, which fosters self-discipline.

16. Do not collect weapons or practice with weapons beyond what is useful.

In modern terms, this teaches us to focus on valuable skills and discard unnecessary ones, leading to efficiency and discipline.

17. Do not fear death.

By not fearing the inevitable, we learn to focus on the present. This approach enhances our discipline by keeping us engaged in the now.

18. Do not seek to possess either goods or fiefs for your old age.

This principle teaches us not to be obsessed with material security but instead focus on building our character and abilities, strengthening our self-discipline.

19. Respect Buddha and the gods without counting on their help.

Respecting higher powers while knowing that our actions determine our outcomes cultivates self-reliance and discipline.

20. You may abandon your own body but you must preserve your honor.

This principle tells us to uphold our honor and integrity, even at high personal costs. This reinforces self-discipline as we prioritize principles over personal comfort.

21. Never stray from the Way.

Staying true to our path, irrespective of obstacles, is the pinnacle of self-discipline.

Key Takeaways

  • Embrace reality, and cultivate resilience.
  • Prioritize tasks that are crucial over those that are pleasurable.
  • Base your decisions on thorough understanding, not fleeting thoughts.
  • Keep your focus outward, nurturing humility.
  • Detach from desires to act on what’s truly necessary.
  • Accept past actions, and move forward without regret.
  • Shun jealousy to stay focused.
  • Develop emotional strength to handle separations.
  • Foster positivity by avoiding resentment and complaints.
  • Maintain a balance between emotions and judgment.
  • Avoid biases by not having preferences.
  • Cultivate adaptability by being indifferent to your living place.
  • Forego immediate pleasures for long-term benefits.
  • Value necessity over luxury.
  • Break free from blind traditions for reasoned actions.
  • Focus on valuable skills and discard the unnecessary ones.
  • Don’t fear the inevitable; focus on the present.
  • Prioritize building character and abilities over material security.
  • Cultivate self-reliance while respecting higher powers.
  • Uphold honor and integrity at all costs.
  • Stay true to your path, no matter what.


Musashi’s 21 precepts serve as a timeless guide to self-discipline. They teach us to focus on internal discipline rather than external things. These precepts teach us to stay true to our path so we can walk the path of self-discipline and success, just like Miyamoto Musashi did.