Miyamoto Musashi’s Dokkōdō: A Ronin’s 21 Laws of Life

Miyamoto Musashi’s Dokkōdō: A Ronin’s 21 Laws of Life

Updated on January 24, 2019

21 Lines Of Wisdom


In the final days of his life, the mythical Japanese samurai Musashi Miyamoto retreated to a cave called the Reigandō. (Spirit Rock Cave) In that cave he spent the final months of his life meditating and writing his views on the world. While secluded in the cave he wrote two works. The Go Rin No Sho (Book of Five Rings) and the Dokkōdō. The Go Rin No Sho he imparted with all of his samurai martial arts. The Dokkōdō contains his very own soul. Each of these books are the result of years of his life spent as a samurai and ronin. While the works themselves speak of Japanese culture and sophistication, especially in the warrior class, he also speaks of strategy, combat, and of the arts.

Both of these works are dedicated to his favorite disciple Terao Magonojo.

Lines of Wisdom

The Dokkōdō means “The Path of Aloneness” or “The Way to be Followed Alone” . Musashi wrote this work a week before his death. It is 21 lines long, each line containing a different idea one would live by.

  1. Accept Everything Just The Way It Is.Beautiful advice. Rather than worry or fret about what’s going on around you, accept it. The time you’ve spent dwelling on it is better spent improving yourself.
  2. Do Not Seek Pleasure For It’s Own Sake.I’ve seen many men not heed this warning; just hit the lobby at MGM. Anyone who has lived a few years understand the pains of losing friends to addictions and watching the problems that come with them. If it makes you happy; go for it. Just make sure that when the feeling fades you’re a couple steps farther ahead.
  3. Do Not, Under Any Circumstances, Depend On A Partial Feeling.You must be sure of where you put your foot before you step. The meaning here is not to get confused, to keep your head clear, and only act when you’re certain.
  4. Think Lightly Of Yourself And Deeply Of The World.Being humble. How are you to hear wisdom if you only hear yourself? If you only walk around with eyes for yourself, you’ll miss the details of the world around you. Paying attention to the world let’s you better appreciate the results of your actions, as well as giving you insight into things you would otherwise miss.
  5. Be Detached From Desire Your Whole Lifelong.If you spend your life chasing a dream you may be running forever. Live your life to be content, have goals but don’t let them rule you. Don’t dwell on what others have when you can make your own.
  6. Do Not Regret What You Have Done.Understand your actions. If you disprove of how you are, don’t constantly regret the past and be bitter. Work to understand yourself, put it past you, and live your life how you should.

Many people don’t realize, but aikido is a battlefield martial art.  Many of the philosophies, culture, movements and techniques originate from those of the samurai.  Miyamoto Musashi is almost universally viewed as the best and most successful samurai in history.  He authored the Dokkōdō, or 21 laws of life and wisdom.  Many of these laws focus on letting go of the past, accepting life as it is, and separating yourself from emotion, excessive pleasures, attachment and biased feelings.  He asks you to think lightly of yourself and deeply of the world, and while respecting your creator and having beliefs, to not depend on help from them, as well not fearing death or transition to the next life.  He chose a life of training and development, like us at the Martial Way, and ironically ends his 21 laws of wisdom asking us to never stray from the way.  Enjoy.


Duel between Miyomoto Musashi and Tsukahara Bokuden