||The author states that when trying out
a new martial art, we should take what we need or want from it, and
discard the rest. That is also true of this book. Although describes the
process through which any person could become a true warrior, I think
there are things he is missing.
From the examples the author gives, which is all I have to go on, I
would say he is humorless, taking himself and everything around him way
too seriously. Even warriors should get to have fun. I understand that the
examples might even be exaggerated, casting him into a more serious
light than he might have wanted, but he comes across as a spoilsport.
There is a message here, though, as to
attain the heights the author describes is to know yourself the utmost
possible, and that takes dedication. This is the kind of dedication that
most people don't have, which is why he states that true warriors are
few and far between. Still, most of what he says is common sense with a
little extra packed in, and it gets you thinking that what he describes
can certainly be done. I don't know if I would want to spend an entire
day working nonstop with full focus, to the point of physical
exhaustion, but I can see the rewards it entails.
The first part of the book describes
how to be a good karateka, and how to develop martial arts to the
fullest, something most people, myself included, never do. This assumes
a person will thoroughly research the martial arts they want to perform,
and fully explore what they wish to gain from it, their objectives. I
think most people want to learn a bit of self-defense, get into shape,
mentally and physically. Young people get thrown into it for the same
reason, but chosen by their parents. This is how it happened to me. The
author would argue that now, being a lot older than when I started
karate, I should explore different arts. I would agree, except that it
takes more courage and time than I have right now, to give it the effort
it would require.
Still, I can do the exercise in
reverse, looking at the doctrine and strategies that my dojo uses, to
determine if and how it applies to me. To no great surprise, as this
dojo helped shape me, it all fits perfectly. And the fact that my sensei
loaned me this book shows that he is open to the ways described within.
In fact, reading about the methods this author would ideally employ to
get into shape and to become adept in the martial arts, I can see how
some of it has worked itself into our dojo, and I found myself
being inspired, too. That, I think, is the power of this book. How to
inspire myself and others. His description of practice and practice, kata and sparring, and other techniques, highlights the well-balanced
The second part of the book talks about
honor. There are a lot of good concepts and stories given in this
section, highlighting what the author believes to be honor. I never
thought of honor and loyalty as belonging to my country, but I suppose
it makes sense, especially coming from a military man. I am not exposed
much to events outside my country, but a military man would be,
especially an American one, and Americans are much more patriotic.
His sense of justice is also very
American, meaning an eye for an eye, which is another way of saying
revenge. While advocating this philosophy (witness his confrontation
with the people throwing rocks at his brother-in-law), he does stress
that all civil ways of resolving problems should be pursued first. But
essentially, defending honor would be about justice, honesty and
obligation. This is as opposed to saving face, which I would call pride,
which is how they describe honor in most movies. Mr. Miyagi of Karate
Kid II took the other extreme, in leaving Okinawa completely to avoid
fighting. But sometimes it is required, as also shown in that movie.
In the third part of the book, he deals
with various issues people might have coming from a society like ours,
and trying to fit in with the Martial Way. I liked the way he described
the Oriental Religions; in fact, it might have been my favorite part of
the book. Using a religion as a philosophy, rather than for worshiping
fits in with my views perfectly. A guide to life. The three eastern
religions given here have a history that was completely unknown to me,
and I was very happy to learn about them. It never even occurred to me
that a Christian might have trouble with karate because of all the
bowing, but now that the author has spelled it out, I can see how
fundamentalists might view bowing as an act of worship. Does realizing
that bowing is a form of respect, not worship, help?
The author's views on nutrition and
exercise show that he is probably not as rigid in personality as he
makes himself out to be. What he says is common sense. The last two
chapters, however, give me pause. Saying that the warrior always holds
himself distant from the general population implies that the warrior has
to make happiness a sacrifice in his life, and I disagree. I doubt the
author does this as much as he describes, but it can be a useful guide,
in reminding us how some sorts of behavior can be bad for us in the long
run. His definition of mastery also brings up some interesting points. I
don't have a problem with the tradesman view of mastery, and wonder why
it should be a problem applying it to martial arts, as well. Very few
people are actual masters of anything these days. As was intended by the
tone of the story, however, I did find the debate on lowering the title
of master to fourth Dan to be rather stupid.
The writing style was generally very
good. I found some of it too casual, like when he uses "well, ..." so
often to start a sentence, as if he were dictating, rather than writing.
But at other times, the style is a lot more formal. Except for the
aforementioned wells, none of this bothered me, but it was noticable.
Overall, I think this book did an
excellent job in describing what it set out to describe. In the first
part, I was inspired into thinking a little deeper into my own martial
arts. In the second part, it made me think about honor, and whether or
not I agreed with the author. In general, I do, especially about
fighting for pride versus actual honor. Justice and honesty are what
separate the great people from the others. The conflict of obligation,
such as to dishonorable people, shows how difficult this concept can be.
Finally, the lifestyle choices showcased by the author to demonstrate an
honorable life also made me think, and analyze what kind of life I
actually live. Living each day as if it was my last, however, would mean
never making any plans, which is what life is about. But as the author
says, take what you need or want, and leave the rest.
That is good advice for this book.
Fortunately, there is very little I would leave. Inspirational, is what
I would call this book.