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The Best Life Lessons From Vagabond Manga You Can Learn From

Originally published via Fictional Approach by MourningStar.

Inoue Takehiko recently stated that he’d like to continue the Vagabond manga.

This has been my favourite manga recently, and I love the character writing for the main character Miyamoto Musashi.

So strap in for a SPOILER-FREE analysis of his character journey and what I’ve learned from reading his story.


The Origins of the Vagabond Manga

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Based on the life of Miyamoto Musashi, who lived until 1645 in Japan, the Vagabond manga depicts a journey of understanding.

Originally an intense and hot-headed young man, the protagonist Miyamoto Musashi desires to become strong.

He is fueled by a twisted past relationship with his father, who was renowned for his skills in swordsmanship. Musashi desires to be ‘invincible under the sun’ just as his father was.

As Musashi journeys from town to town in search of strong opponents, he learns a great deal. Venturing into the world opens the door to many opportunities.

Musashi quickly faces off against many powerful opponents and as a result, improves his skills as a swordsman.

Though what sets Musashi’s story apart is not the opponents he fights or the physical skills that he gains. Rather, it is in the way that his understanding of strength changes as he learns and grows.


Vagabond life lessons:


1. A Vagabond’s True Strength

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As Musashi grows and learns throughout his journeys, he understands what strength means. He remembers his father, known across the land for his strength and capabilities with the blade.

Though his father was physically strong, did he embody true strength?

Musashi begins to develop his own understanding of strength as he meets many experienced swordsmen. As he grows stronger with the blade, his mind’s strength also grows. He learns to treasure the relationships he’s built or lost.

Most of all, he learns that true strength lies not in physical expression but rather in mental suppression.

To be truly strong is to be capable of violence, but most importantly, to be capable of controlling your physical strength.


2. Capability and Control

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To be capable of violence and to be capable of controlling yourself. These two equally necessary concepts together form the definition of true strength. Musashi begins his journey as a man capable of violence yet incapable of control.

As he learns and grows as a person, he begins to gain self-control and thus begins a journey to become truly strong.

Though at first, it may seem counterintuitive, one who is capable of control but not violence doesn’t embody true strength either.

If you’re incapable of violence, there is no value in controlling something of which you’re not capable of in the first place. Musashi’s childhood friend Matahachi demonstrates this as a mirror image of Musashi.

Matahachi is a man incapable of violence yet capable of controlling himself physically in violent situations.

Though his self-control may be lacking in other aspects, when it comes to violence, Matahachi is extremely capable of avoiding resorting to violence. Both parts are of equal importance. If you’re incapable of violence, there is little moral virtue in refraining from harming others.

Related: 52 Powerful Anime Quotes About Pain That Will Make You Think


3. Strive to be Truly Strong in Life

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In this day and age, our situation is very different from Musashi’s.

There’s little opportunity for violence in our daily lives, and I’m not saying we should seek it out. In fact, I’m not saying we necessarily need to be capable of physical violence to be truly strong.

What I am saying, however, is that to be truly strong, we must be capable in whatever facet of life we value or endeavour we make.

As Musashi grew and learned of the meaning of true strength, he did not give up on his journey for physical strength. We should be equally driven and, just like Musashi, strive to grow our abilities and capability for restraint in tandem.

We should be hungry for more. Constantly seeking out ‘opponents’ that challenge us. To become truly strong in whatever facet of life it may be, we should never take shortcuts. Musashi’s character and abilities were sharpened through constant challenges.

Just as Musashi did, we should set high goals. Our goals themselves should scare us and present a challenge as well. The way to true strength requires that we pass through trials and tribulations.


4. Challenge

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It has been said that in life, hard times create strong people. So make life hard. Set goals that challenge you, and then put in the work to achieve those goals.

Give yourself an uphill battle, and rise to the occasion.

Work to become capable of both strength and restraint. For there is value in the strength of a swordsman who first seeks to avoid violence.

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