Books on Japan: Japanese Martial Arts
by Masaaki Hatsumi
Advanced Stick Fighting is an excellent book for anyone interested in the art of stick fighting. For professionals in the field as well as for first-timers, this book is sure to grab your attention. With every move carefully explained in words and in pictures, the author creates the right atmosphere needed to read such a book. Once engrossed in the content you may just find yourself wanting to try out some of the movements. However, the book is not just about stick fighting. The author makes it a point to go into the history behind the use of a stick as a weapon and its power and charm are also very well documented. A must-read for anyone into stick fighting and even for thos eof you who wish to know what stick fighting is all about. The language used is also very easy to understand and that makes it easier for those not familiar with the subject as well. Read it to know more.
by Takuan Soho
Translated by William Scott Wilson
William Scott Wilson has made a name for himself translating the martial-philosophy classics of 16th-century Japan. He is best known for his version of Hagakure, also available in this Kodansha series, which reached new heights for product placement in Jim Jarmusch's film Ghost Dog. Not only did Kodansha's handsome red-on-black binding feature in Forrest Whitaker's samurai/hitman hands, but extensive quotations from Wilson's lyrical text are a key framing device throughout - making it the literate person's Kill Bill.
While Hagakure is little more than a quirky compendium of samurai etiquette, The Unfettered Mind provides a coherent series of insights into the timeless Zen Buddhist principles that underlie the samurai ethic. The monk Takuan Soho (1573-1645) was a polymath, as adept at calligraphy, painting and cooking as he was at advising the Shogun on political affairs. While not a swordsman, he understood the art of the sword equally well: as with all arts, it involves the dissolution of the notion of self, unfettering the mind from the ego so as to be able to perform any action effortlessly and smoothly. This book contains the letters he wrote to his prot Yagyu Muneyoshi, one of the greatest swordsmen of his time (see his own work, The Life-Giving Sword). Their influence on the samurai's book is obvious.
Takuan tackles the great mysteries of life such as the mind and spirit with down-to-earth analogies involving plenty of fruit (that's the gardener side of him coming out there). He is even comfortable to explain ghosts as an equally real part of the continuum of existence. Swordplay is the pivot for his discussion, because it is such a clear interplay of life and death. Even those with no interests in the martial will find a distillation of wisdom here that can be applied to everyday life. While there are moments of obscurity that even Wilson cannot retrieve, overall his fluid prose helps elucidate Takuan's masterpiece and keep it relevant for our age and culture.
Translated by William Scott Wilson
One of the greatest of the samurai swordsmen, Yagyu Munenori (1571-1646) lived a Last Samurai-esque existence as a child, growing up in a mountain-ringed kakurezato (hidden village) that bore his family name of Yagyu. They must have taught 'em well in those villages, as his swordsmanship grew to rival that of the greatest swordsman Miyamoto Musashi (see his work The Book of Five Rings in the same series), though the two never met.
The Buddhist idea (or non-idea!) of No-Mind which informed the writings of his mentor, the Zen priest Takuan Soho (see his work The Unfettered Sword in the same series), became in Munenori's hands the concept of No-Sword - defeating your opponent in combat whether you have a weapon or not, by using the unfettered mind as the ultimate weapon. The Life-Giving Sword appears to be an oxymoron, but for Munenori the samurai's signature weapon was an instrument for good, enabling the just to eliminate the unjust, and thereby prevent further bloodshed. While it is filled with references to Japanese and Chinese literature, his book remains essentially a practical guide to swordplay, complete with beautiful drawings, which are reproduced at the back of this edition.
Wilson provides a robust translation of the original that is accessible and should genuinely enhance the training of martial artists, though it remains an interesting example of philosophy in action for the general reader. An essential text for the samurai-phile.
Masaaki Hatsumi explores the venerable history of Japanese sword fighting in this book. Hatsumi is the 34th Grand Master of Togakure-ryu Ninjutsu. He attained this after 15 years of study with his mentor, Takamatsu Toshitsugu.
He is a legendary teacher, author of many books, and Chairman of the International Department of the Japan Literary Artists' Club. Finally, now he shares his vast knowledge - in English - with the general public.
He covers a variety of classical techniques including ninja kenpo, kage-ryu, Yagyu Shinkage-ryu, and two-sword techniques. In addition, he goes through practical applications involving the art of the stick, spear, naginata, kusarigama, and jutte.
He then demonstrates each. Practical and informative.
by Jigoro Kano
In 1882 Jigoro Kano founded Kodokan Judo at Eishoji Temple in Tokyo. It was the culmination of a life of devotion to judo, the "soft way." Staying true to the jujutsu of the past, Kano opened the path from merely jutsu (skill) to do (way). In so doing he broadened the horizons of judo to encompass seiryoku zenyo (maximum efficiency) and jita kyoei (mutual prosperity).
Throughout his career, Kano emphasized the correct meaning of judo. His guiding principles can be found herein. For those with an interest in judo or martial arts, this is a good place to go for understanding the roots of what is now an Olympic event and popular throughout the world.
by Yamamoto Tsunetomo, William Scott Wilson (Translator)
Hagakure, or "In the Shadow of Leaves", is a guide for samurai made up mainly of seemingly unrelated anecdotes and sayings that are intended to provide insight and guidance in how to live, in conduct. Not just in how to live, but rather in how to live in the spirit of Bushido - the legendary Way of the Warrior.
The text was prepared as the Period of Warring States was ending - and with it the raison d'etre of the samurai class. Peace and prosperity brought with it a need for merchants and administrators, not samurai and their ancient codes. And thus the existential dilemma: how to live in an era that lacked warfare.
Ivan Morris has called Hagakure "The most influential of all samurai treatises ever written." It is the samurai's answer to Pascal's Pensees - though without any of the logic or mathematical precision. The "philosophy" rejects the practical and convenient and material in favor of the intuitive, in favor of the Way. The Way, of course, is complete disregard for self, an embracing of death: "the way of the samurai is found in death." The only way to serve one's Lord was to be ever ready to die on his behalf. For many years, this text was known only to those who served directly under the author. The author himself wanted it thrown in a fire. In more recent times, Yukio Mishima counted himself a devotee.
by Kyuzo Mifune
This book, a classic work by a renowned master, provides the student of Judo with clear, step-by-step instructions for hundreds of techniques and variations accompanied by around 1,000 black and white photographs of the author and his students demonstrating them. It will be a valuable resource for judo practitioners looking for commentary from one of the true greats of recent times.
Of course, those without a background in Judo will not make progress with this book alone. Even the photographs will be of little help to those not already familiar with the basic movements of the art. All martial arts, being inseparable from regular practice, can only find partial expression in print. General readers will be able to appreciate Mifune's introduction to the history of judo and his thoughts on the philosophy of life that its practice entails.
Hiroku Kanazawa, president of Shotokan Karate, offers a systematic and logical approach to basic karate. The text provides photos and an intensive training course in three main areas: kihon (basics), kumite (sparring), and kata (forms). Each section comes with detailed explanations and action photos. The text can be used for self-study as a training course for even beginners and intermediate level.
According to the text, a black belt can be attainted within a year - if you practice "continuously and diligently over the course of a year."
Kanazawa is a disciple of Gichin Funakoshi, the father of modern karate and founder of the Shotokan school. Kanazawa founded the Shotokan Karate-do International Federation in 1979, following a stint as an official trainer for the Japan Karate Association. The Shotokan Karate-do International Federation now has branches in more than 90 countries throughout the world. He is the author of "Karate Fighting Techniques," which is also published by Kodansha. This is the first English translation of the classic work by Funakoshi's living successor.
An easy to use and accessible text for anyone thinking of starting karate.
by Gozo Shioda
Gozo Shioda was the Ichiro of aikido: a legendary master whose kinetic sense was considered other worldly. A student of the founder of aikido, the late Shioda presents in this text clear and detailed descriptions of the most important techniques.
This text also includes many photos that demonstrate the master's technique. Unlike many other - most other - martial arts, aikido emphasizes defense over attack, and can therefore be practiced by anyone, regardless of age.
by Toshiro Daigo
Judo is one of the oldest and most revered martial arts in Japan. Over hundreds of years, it has developed three primary areas of technique: throwing, grappling, and striking. Of these, throwing (nage-waza) can be counted among the most fascinating and thrilling of any martial art.
Due to the increased popularity of judo in recent years, there has been a corresponding increase in technique. Kodokan Judo: Throwing Techniques attempts to and does outline the basic maneuvers - on up to the most advanced moves. The book has over 1800 photographs. The text that accompanies this makes even the smallest point clear.
Toshiro Daigo was the chief instructor at Kodokan, which is a mecca for judo-ka. A must for fans and practitioners alike.
by Issai Chozanshi, William Scott Wilson (Translator)
The Demon's Sermon is a groundbreaking translation of a classic work in the pantheon of Japanese martial arts. William Scott Wilson, who has also translated Hagakure, does a brilliant job of rendering Tengu Geijutsuron into readable English.
Written by Issai Chozanshi, a samurai swordsmen with a deep understanding of Taoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism, the work is a series of fables based on Taoism.
In these tales, a long-nosed half-man, half-bird Tengu offers lessons that go to the heart and spirit of the martial arts. They show how the secrets of life are revealed through the secrets of sword fighting.
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