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Thread: Must Read books for Budoka

  1. #1
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    Default Must Read books for Budoka

    Good morning:

    It's been quite here for some time. This post might belong in "Budo Book Store," but maybe not since I don't have anything for sale.

    What do you consider "must reads" for the budoka? I post in this forum, as it's the one I look for most - but it could have as easily gone in some of the other forums.

    I know the topics vary, I have more interest in some areas than others, but for a full/well rounded, and informed budoka, which books do you think every practitioner should have?

    Some of the few I have:
    "Transparent Power" (Yukiyoshi Sagawa)
    "Hiden Mokuroko Ikkajo" (Katsuyuki Kondo)
    "Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere"(A. Westbrook & O. Ratti)
    "Dynamic Aikido" (Gozo Shioda)
    "Art of War" (Sun Tsu)
    "Code of the Samurai" (Thomas Cleary)
    "The Samurai Series" (compiled into a single volume) "Book of the Five Rings" (Miyamoto Musashi) / "Hagakure" (Tashiro Tsuamoto/ Yamamoto Tsunetomo) / "Bushido-The Soul of Japan" (Izano Natoe)
    "Shinkendo" (Toshishiro Obata)
    "Tameshigiri" (Toshishiro Obata)
    "Crimson Steel" (Toshishiro Obata)
    "Naked Blade" (Toshishiro Obata)

    Thanks.
    Joseph Dostie

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    I'd leave Hagakure off that list as it was the deranged ramblings of bitter middle-manager who led a frustrating, peaceful life in the Edo period. It was largely unknown until it was resurrected in modern times by nationalists to inculcate zeal based on a romanticized view of glory days of yore.

    It is interesting that quotes from Hagakure were used in the movie "Ghost Dog," where Forrest Whitaker played a disturbed street tough who saw himself as a modern samurai. Another famous role of his was in the movie "The Crying Game," where he was similarly enamored of something which was very different than how it was packaged.

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    Bushido is also best left off the list.

    My dad was a builder. I will write a book about building, even though I have never done it myself.
    This is fairly much the premise of Bushido. Nitobe saw some of the last samurai when he was very young, received a western-style education and was a Christian (which would have put him at odds with Momoyama and Edo era samurai). Rather, his brief was to write a PR package for Japan.
    Andrew Smallacombe

    Aikido Kenshinkai

    JKA Tokorozawa

    Now trotting over a bridge near you!

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    Thanks, for clarificaiton, I wasnt' intending to recommend these, rathere list what I have, and solicit input for what I "should have." ie, what I am missing...
    Joseph Dostie

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    Quote Originally Posted by jdostie View Post
    Thanks, for clarificaiton, I wasnt' intending to recommend these, rathere list what I have, and solicit input for what I "should have." ie, what I am missing...
    Hello,

    I recommend you read anything by the following authors: Karl Friday, Thomas Conlan and G Cameron Hurst III.

    Best wishes,

    P Goldsbury
    Peter Goldsbury,
    Forum Administrator,
    Hiroshima, Japan

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    In the spirit of actually adding something positive to the thread, let me throw this out there:

    George Sansom, A History of Japan.

    This is a trilogy of which I have read the first one twice, and have not finished the second or third. The first book gave me a very broad, general understanding of what Japan actually is and how it generated budo culture. I have no idea if my understanding is in any way correct, but it's better than nothing! Maddening lack of budo-related history in it.

    Juinich Saga, Memories of Silk and Straw

    I picked this up because Ellis mentioned it in some forum post. Apropos to this forum in particular, this book really gives you an idea of what Japan was like from the beginning of the 20th century to the period immediately before WWII. It is a work of folk lore - Dr. Saga interviewed his patients, who were all different types of people who lives in Tochigi - and transcribed their stories. Really fascinating to hear how people lived in simpler times with basically nothing.

    Katsu Kokichi, Musui's Tale

    This is a fairly short and extremely fun to read memoir written by Katsu Kaishu's father. He was a low ranked samurai who lived towards the end of the Edo period in Edo. The world he lived in was really different than what most people think of when they think of the Edo period, and Musui really thrived in this world. He bought and sold swords, always had some scheme, was always in and out of cash, and was the kind of guy you would talk to if you needed something taken care of. There is a good amount of budo color since Musui trained Jikishinkage ryu; he had been to a jujutsu dojo but things ended rather colorfully.

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    If you're interested in the role of religion and philosophy in Edo-era swordsmanship, then William Bodiford's various essays on martial art topics are certainly worth reading.

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    Where would one find those Joe?

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    Thanks very much. You've provided me some good suggestions. I'll see what I can add to my library...
    Joseph Dostie

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    Thanks a lot Joe - much appreciated.

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    I'd dump "Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere", although it has some great pictures.

    Also, I'd dump any books that are mainly technique oriented. Somehow, I ended up with a lot of them, rarely used them, and never really found them useful, except for historical technique books such as "Budo" and "Budo Renshu" (if you do Aikido).

    Also, you might want to think about broadening your range into some more Chinese texts, if you really want to get more well rounded.

    Best,

    Chris

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    "Transparent Power" (Yukiyoshi Sagawa and Tetsuo Kimura)
    Recommend for his style of Aikijujutsu and general budo- This is like a Pro Athlete's authorized bibliography. Language and contextual issues. The audience written for is strictly the Japanese public; applies to all Japanese martial arts. Many other book by other Modern Japanese budoka speak to same topics and culture found in this book. Many statements made by the author deputed in another book written by a Sagawa student - written in Japanese. If you have to ask which book it is, don't trouble yourself with an unnecessary concern.

    "Hiden Mokuroko Ikkajo" (Katsuyuki Kondo)
    Recommend- A fundamental text book of core techniques

    "Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere"(A. Westbrook & O. Ratti)
    Recommended textbook for Aikido

    "Dynamic Aikido" (Gozo Shioda)
    Simple Primer- Not recommended beyond beginners searching for explanation of very basic concepts related to aikijujutsu.

    "Art of War" (Sun Tsu)
    Very abstract - A hard read, language, culture, and contextual gaps; prefer "Mastering The Art of War (Zbuge Liang's and Liu Ji's Commentaries on Art of War"(translated and edited by Clearly)

    "Code of the Samurai" (Thomas Cleary)
    Abstract - A hard read, language, culture, and contextual gaps

    "The Samurai Series" (compiled into a single volume) "Book of the Five Rings" (Miyamoto Musashi) / "Hagakure" (Tashiro Tsuamoto/ Yamamoto Tsunetomo) / "Bushido-The Soul of Japan" (Izano Natoe) Recommended as survey reads, not books of a bible. Archaic and abstract, hard reads with major language cultural, contextual, and practice gaps. Much of the information is archaic and in terms of application can be found in more modern books and in good dojos. Information once decoded is universal. Note "Bushido-" was a book written as a refute to an argument the Japanese where barbaric. Argument presented in a Victorian format.

    "Shinkendo" (Toshishiro Obata)
    "Tameshigiri" (Toshishiro Obata)
    "Crimson Steel" (Toshishiro Obata)
    "Naked Blade" (Toshishiro Obata)

    Recommend only if you study his style of sword and Aikido

    MY SUGGESTED READING SAMPLE:
    "The Japanese Mind, Essentials of Japanese Philosophy and Culture" (Edited by Charles A. Moore) ISBN 4-8053-0361-1
    Purely academic read. Essential.

    "Japan, The story of a Nation" (Edwin O. Rieschauer or any of his books)
    Insights into traditional Japan written for the western reader

    "The Chrysanthemum And the Sword: Patterns of Japanese Culture" (Ruth Benedict)
    Critics say she had accurately described the Japanese of the time.

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    Ruth Benedict reasonably described US Issei perspectives circa 1943. However, by then, Issei had been out of Japan for at least 20 years and were moreover living in concentration camps ("relocation centers"), and therefore inclined to have a somewhat rosier view of Japanese life prewar than they might have had if interviewed two years earlier. Her filter was via Kibei, who themselves had their own issues, both with the USA and Japan. So, her book is very good for understanding how Japanese America developed, it is not necessarily so good for understanding how, for instance, Okinawan karate developed in Japan, or how judo developed in The Greater Co-Prosperity Sphere. (The latter is important, by the way, if only for its influence on for better understanding how the Indonesians and Vietnamese organized their anti-colonial resistance. Compare and contrast that to the Malaysian Chinese Communists, who had a different -- and less politically successful -- model.)

    If you're interested in aikido, I recommend reading Stan Pranin or Peter Goldsbury. Everybody else? Only if Stan or Peter recommend it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Joseph Svinth View Post
    Ruth Benedict reasonably described US Issei perspectives circa 1943. However, by then, Issei had been out of Japan for at least 20 years and were moreover living in concentration camps ("relocation centers"), and therefore inclined to have a somewhat rosier view of Japanese life prewar than they might have had if interviewed two years earlier. Her filter was via Kibei, who themselves had their own issues, both with the USA and Japan. So, her book is very good for understanding how Japanese America developed, it is not necessarily so good for understanding how, for instance, Okinawan karate developed in Japan, or how judo developed in The Greater Co-Prosperity Sphere. (The latter is important, by the way, if only for its influence on for better understanding how the Indonesians and Vietnamese organized their anti-colonial resistance. Compare and contrast that to the Malaysian Chinese Communists, who had a different -- and less politically successful -- model.)
    Exactly, and that is the reason it has value. When we read book on martial arts we rarely read those with the greatest insight into the marrow. We read them more often than not for the attractions of the adornments on the body. The things that look good that we can take from it, and adorn ourselves with them.

    Allot of people dismiss Nitobe's book for lacking the proper illustration and construct of the Samurai code. Be as it may, the value of the book is what lays between the lines, the insights that compose its very marrow. The candy coated Japanese code, as described by some, in its self speaks volumes to the insights of the Japanese mind- point of origin for all things martial in Japan then and now.

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