The five elements – gorin-no-sho |   | TRB

The five elements

The grades and colours of belts in Tatsu-Ryu-Bushido are based on the five elements in the book “Gorin-no-sho” by Myamoto Musashi. Each colour represents a different element.

White to green

In the beginning you learn the basics in the element Earth (Chi). The earth is hard and therefore hard techniques are to be learned. The scholar learns to walk.

Green to blue

The second element is Water (Sui). Now the techniques become more fluent and softer. Water finds its way. By doing this, throwing techniques become essential.

Blue to brown

The element Fire (Ka) is hot and explosive. You learn to predict an attack of the opponent to sabotage the attack and attack first.

Brown to black

The element Wind (Fu) works with the energy of opponents to redirect it and use it against them, as well as familiarizing yourself with other martial arts.


The last element is the Void (Ku). It comprises nothing and everything at the same time. Nothing has to be, everything can be. Within those Principles is no beginning and no end.

Individual and varied

Rediscovering old paths

The goal is the right path

Experience sport and culture without barriers

Entry also possible without prior knowledge

On the trail of the samurai

Myamoto Musashi, whose full name was Shimmen Musashi-no-kami, Fujiwara no Genshin, lived from 1584 to 1645 and ended his life of natural causes. He spent much of his old age living in seclusion in a cave and writing his book and legacy: Gorin-no-sho, the Book of Five Rings. In addition to the memory of his martial art, Musashi has kept the Gorin-no-sho in his memory to this day. The book has become a must-read for many martial artists as well as lawyers, business people and executives, and also for interested private individuals. A book does not achieve this by stubbornly listing and explaining fighting techniques; Musashi’s book achieves this because his instructions for learning his fighting style are universal in character, i.e. they can also be applied to a variety of situations in life that have nothing to do with sword fighting. He calls his style, which Musashi outlines in the book, Niten-ichi-ryu, the two-heaven school, whereby heaven is synonymous with sword for him in this context.

In the book Earth (Chi), the first book, Musashi deals with martial arts in general and outlines the foundations of his thinking in relation to combat. Firstly, the author makes it clear that for him, man-to-man combat or battle, army against army, follows the same principles and laws. Musashi insists on using every available weapon, which consequently results in his two-handed fighting style with katana and wakizashi. If both hands hold a weapon, the body would be restricted in its freedom of movement to the right and left, which is why Musashi recommends swinging the weapons freely with one hand. He does not limit this to the path of the sword; in his opinion, long weapons such as naginata or yari should also be wielded with one hand. Musashi also emphasises the inner or character aptitude of the students who follow his path of martial arts; he declares the following rules for his students:

Chi Erde Element

  1. Never be deceitful in your thoughts
  2. Be diligent in the practice of the Way
  3. Study also the other arts
  4. Familiarise yourself with the path of all professions
  5. Distinguish the advantage and disadvantage of each thing
  6. Form a just judgement about everything
  7. Recognise also that which remains invisible to you
  8. Pay attention even to the little things
  9. Do nothing useless
Sui Wasser Element

The next is the Book of Water (Sui), which, according to Musashi, symbolises the attitude of the heart. It describes both the inner and outer attitude of the warrior. Again, it makes no difference whether the warrior is in an everyday situation or in battle, the behaviour is always the same. General information is given on the posture of the body and the sword, and Musashi always demands calm movements of the sword, not rapid or hectic ones. The five basic postures with the sword are then explained, followed by several instructions on technical methods and fighting tactics, each of which is designed for duels or battles.

Ka Feuer Element

The book Fire (Ka) illustrates the fight as such, the necessary exercises and the inner attitude in a fight to the death. It deals with the individual choice of position on the battlefield. It also deals with suppressing the opponent’s actions and being proactive, recognising what the opponent plans to do next before he does it. You should learn to assess your opponent’s methods and sabotage his plans. The book is also about going your own way and not letting your opponent push you into something.

Fu Wind Element

In the book Wind (Fu), Musashi refers to other martial arts teachings and the importance of the inner attitude, the heart, in order to follow the path of martial arts. However, this book is mainly a critical appraisal by Musashi of the other martial arts schools of his time. He is particularly scornful of the proponents of the oversized longsword, as the desire to stay as far away from the opponent as possible cannot, in his opinion, coincide with the right path of martial arts. It discusses other positions in other schools, wonders about schools that only fight with the wakizashi and think “you could finish off whole troops with the shorter longsword by jumping around among them at will” (p.110) and comments on written vows and monetary sacrifices, among other things.

Ku Leere Element

His work ends with the book Leere (Ku). This comprises only two pages, which everyone should read for themselves and take as food for thought. I would just like to refer here to Musashi’s basic attitude in which he portrayed himself (CRAIG 109), Musashi stands in Happo Biraki, a very neutral basic attitude that is open in all eight directions. In this almost reduced stance, the fighter is ready for everything and nothing, no direction is favoured, both swords can be swung freely in any direction. You are ready, nothing must, everything can, there is no beginning and no end to the principles.

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