April 2022 Book Survey
Welcome to the April 2022 book survey.
In April 2022, I (Richard) continued my reading plan that prioritized print books that have been on my shelf for months, or years. This post describes print books I read in April. Read on to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Forza, The Samurai Sword Workout: Kick Butt and Get Buff with High-Intensity Sword Fighting Moves, Ilaria Montagnani, 2005
I bought Forza, The Samurai Sword Workout after pursuing certification in a competing system called Jungshin Fitness. I was curious if any other "sword fitness" systems existed, and I found Forza. The author claims to have a black belt in Shōrinjiryū karate, and reports having trained in aikijujitsu and iaido. "Forza" means "strength" in Italian, which is the author's native land and language.
As far as technique books go, this is strictly for exercise. It features clear black and white photos showing fundamental fitness-styled movements. Having trained for my Jungshin certification, I can attest that a workout like this, even with a lighter bokken, is excellent for the upper body.
Dynamic Stretching and Kicking, Bill Wallace, 1982
I bought Dynamic Stretching and Kicking in the mid-1990s when I was training Kung Fu, and few books were available on the market. I tried to implement the author's stretching and kicking techniques, but they were beyond my capabilities. The book itself is a great snapshot of Superfoot's concepts and exercises just after his kickboxing career ended in 1980.
Kyusho-Jitsu: The Dillman Method of Pressure Point Fighting / Advanced Pressure Point Fighting of Ryukyu Kempo / Advanced Pressure Point Grappling: Tuite, George Dillman and Chris Thomas, 1992/1995 / 1994/1996 / 1995/1996
I bought Kyusho-Jitsu: The Dillman Method of Pressure Point Fighting, Advanced Pressure Point Fighting of Ryukyu Kempo, and Advanced Pressure Point Grappling: Tuite in 1995 or 1996 after taking a pressure point seminar with Leon Jay, one of Mr Dillman's students. I'm including all three in this one set of notes as the books are all very similar.
Each book begins with many pages of "promotional" material showing Mr Dillman with famous or semi-famous people, teaching, training, traveling, and so on. Each book includes diagrams of supposed pressure point locations, sometimes annotated on a person. Each book then offers a variety of techniques, often within the movements of a karate kata.
Mr Dillman describes "Tuite" as "joint manipulation," "but not like jujutsu." I believe he applied the "grappling" label to his third book to capture some of the Gracie market that was exploding in the mid-1990s due to the first few UFC events. He states that "Kyusho" means "pressure point fighting." Mr Dillman claims that instructors like Itosu Anko (specifically mentioned in at least two of the books) "watered down" karate, originally "Okinawan Kenpo," in order to teach Japanese children and American soldiers.
I noticed that in the third volume that Mr Dillman credited Seiyu Oyata as "a very important teacher of George Dillman." This prompted me to track down information on Mr Oyata, which I will share in a future book survey.
The original paperback editions are massive 9 inch by 10 1/2 inch black and white books. The Kindle editions appear to be print replica scans of these books. I believe the Kindle version is a PDF of those scans, which may be difficult to read. If you're interested, I would pursue the paperbacks.
My personal opinion of these systems is the following. If you hit someone hard enough in certain locations, you will injure them or knock them out. Whether that is a pressure point or not, I don't know. As far as chaining together pressure points, say on the wrist or arm, to induce a knockout -- that appears to be fantasy.
The Book of Five Rings: The Classic Text of Samurai Sword Strategy, Miyamoto Musashi, translated by Ashikaga Yoshiharu, edited by Rosemary Brant, 2014
This is one of many editions of The Book of Five Rings in my library. This volume, The Book of Five Rings: The Classic Text of Samurai Sword Strategy, is a 8 1/2 inch by 7 1/4 inch color hardcover with beautiful illustrations. Ignore the foreword, as it repeats common Musashi myths derived from fictional accounts. The translation does not deviate in any meaningful way from the reliable versions I've covered previously.
I wish the book's notes appeared on the same page as the section they reference. Although there aren't that many notes, it's difficult to turn to the end to track them down. I would also like to have the illustrations annotated and sourced.
Five Rings: The Classic Text on Mastery in Swordsmanship, Leadership and Conflict, Miyamoto Musashi, translated by Maisy Hatchard, 2020
I bought Five Rings: The Classic Text on Mastery in Swordsmanship, Leadership and Conflict simply because I like the traditional Ming binding method. This is a 7 3/4 inch by 10 1/2 inch hardcover. The text is primarily black with subdued red illustrations and Kanji on the sides of the pages.
I was pleasantly surprised to see the author list 1582 as Musashi's birth date. Most sources use 1584, but authorities like Dr Alexander Bennett justify the 1582 date. The introduction states that Musashi started writing the book in 1643, and translates a key early passage as "I have 60 years behind me," referencing a Japanese tradition of reaching 60 years as a milestone. This is in contrast with other translations which say "I am 60 years old."
As with the previous title, the translation appears reliable. I did note one deviation which I thought was interesting. The fifth book, often called "void" or "nothing," appears here as "expanse." I like that imagery.
The Art of War Illustrated, Sun Tzu, translated by James Trapp, 2018
I also bought The Art of War Illustrated because I like the Ming dynasty binding. I have several versions already, but this was a nice addition to my library. It turned out to be an over-achiever, for several reasons.
The book is a Ming bound hardcover measuring 7 3/4 inches by 10 1/2 inches. Each chapter is 4 to 6 pages in length, and each contains a case study by a variety of authors illustrating the principle of war from the text. The cases range from Granicus in 334 BCE and Zama in 202 BCE to the first Gulf War in 1991 and Somalia in 1993. I did not expect these minicases to be such a great addition to the book.
The introduction attributes the book to Sunzi, the pinyin version of Sun Tzu. It says the "author [is] traditionally believed to be Sun Wu, known later as Sunzi... in the 6th century BCE" (p 6). The author notes that many scholars date the book to a collection written later in the Warring States period, or 475-221 BCE.
The author uses a Song dynasty (960-1279 CE) edition of the text as the basis for his translation. The book features the Chinese text on the left side and the English on the right. Footnotes appear on the same page as the text. I liked how Mr Trapp admits when certain sections are tough to translate, like on p 51. He also points out where some text is corrupted, as on p 73 and p 83. I also liked how Mr Trapp wonders why new material from another book makes a sudden appearance on p 75.
Overall, this book is simply excellent, and is probably the best buy of the lot. Note the ISBN for this edition is 9781782747017. I bought my copy through eBay.
Judo: A Sport and a Way of Life, Michel Brousse and David Matsumoto, 1999
I bought Judo: A Sport and a Way of Life by Michel Brousse and David Matsumoto through Fighting Films. This is a small International Judo Federation publication, with chapters on rules (as of 1999), etiquette, professor Kano, the spread of judo globally, women's judo, and culture. The technique chapters offer an assortment of photographs from competitions, often in color.
I made a few notes about how this book addressed judo in Brazil. On p 95 the authors write that Tatsuo Okoshi practiced judo in Brazil in 1924. Mitsuyo Maeda appears as a judoka who travelled abroad in 1915, but is not credited with teaching judo in Brazil. On p 115 we see another mention of "judo develops in Brazil" thanks to Tatsuo Okoshi.
Most interestingly, p 135 mentions the appearance of "omote sangaku" or the "front triangular choke with legs" from judo in the 1987 classic Lethal Weapon, without saying that BJJ pioneer Rorion Gracie was the stunt coordinator who taught the technique to Mel Gibson in the movie!
It would be nice to see a modern version of this book published at double the size or so.
Shaolin Long Fist Kung Fu, Jwing-Ming Yang, Jeffery A. Bolt, 1982
I bought Shaolin Long Fist Kung Fu by Dr Jwing-Ming Yang in the mid-1990s when I was practicing Kung Fu. This book features the typical Chinese blather one finds in many "traditional" books, like "No other society of people has supported and endorsed a system of martial arts as have the Chinese" (p 3). That sentence and the rest of the paragraph ignores the historical disdain that elite Chinese have had for the martial arts, as well as the more recent purges of Chinese teachers during the chaos of the 20th century.
We read more false statements like Kung Fu being "over 3,000 years old" (p 4), typical myths about Shaolin, the overhyped role of "Chen Yuan-Yen" and how he supposedly invented judo, and even the crazy statement that "around 1860 the Chin army first began to use the gun on a wide scale" (p 7). This is only about 300 years too late, as generals like Qi Jiguang used firearms in his army in the 1560s. Discussions of so-called "death points" on pp 71-74 don't help either.
That said, this was one of the earliest books in English on Kung Fu, so it has historical interest for me. I would ignore all of the "background" material and focus on the techniques.
The Mysterious Power of Ki: The Force Within, Kouzo Kaku, translated by Roger Machin and Mami Nakamura, 2000
I bought The Mysterious Power of Ki: The Force Within after reading a book by Ellis Amdur on internal power. This is a small hardcover that would make a decent Kindle edition. The author claims to have studied Togun-ryu kenjutsu and now aikido with Ueshiba Morihei's grandson Moriteru. The author also claims to be an historian, yet his book has no listing of sources. In the text he mentions old books and provides some excerpts and samples.
The book makes some odd claims, including that Ueshiba "suffered from autism" (p 56). On pp 58-59 the author asserts that Ueshiba met Takeda Sokaku after the former had been felling trees. Takeda apparently threw Ueshiba around, so Ueshiba decided to become a student. This is not consistent with other stories I have read. Finally, the author claims that Ueshiba "did not join his [Onisaburo Deguchi's] religious group [Ōmoto]" (p 64). That makes no sense and is historical revisionism.
I see no need for anyone else to read this book.
Aikido with Ki, Koretoshi Maruyama, Koichi Tohei, 1984/1990
I bought Aikido with Ki while continuing my search for resources on internal power. I acquired a 4th printing from 1990, which indicates this book (first published in 1984) might have been popular decades ago. It is a larger-size paperback with a distinctive lime green/yellow color. You can't miss it on my shelf! The book features clear black and white photos of many techniques. Unfortunately they are all posed as being "effortless," which means they are generally ineffective.
There is repeated talk of "violence in schools" and issues with raising children. I wonder if this was a problem in Japan in the 1980s? The book also includes advice like "as long as [person] A [doing a technique] thinks and believes [that] his mental energy is rushing out from his fingertips infinitely, then it really is rushing out" (p 19).
You can avoid this book unless you want a good dose of "aikido woo."
Transparent Power: A Secret Teaching Revealed, Tatsuo Kimura, 1995/2009/2017
If I rated books based on production value, then Transparent Power: A Secret Teaching Revealed would be a winner. This is a beautifully made hardcover. My copy was a 2017 second printing of the 2009 translation of a Japanese text from 1995.
The book is about the person mentioned in the subtitle, "the extraordinary martial artist Yukiyoshi Sagawa," who was a direct student of Takeda Sokaku. Sagawa taught the author, Tatsuo Kimura (or Kimura Tasuo, if we want to retain the surname - given name format).
Once I got into the text, I found two big problems with it. First, the "woo" level is off the charts. The author writes on p 33 that "aiki is an instantaneous technique that renders an opponent completely helpless." On pp 50-51 he claims that a drunk Sagawa beat 30 thugs.
Supposedly Sagawa developed this amazing power, his own superior version of "ki," that has only been otherwise mastered by Takeda (although his was inferior) (p 81). On p 97 the author writes that Sagawa told him "you'll never catch up with me even after decades of practice." This is exactly the wrong attitude for martial arts instructors.
The second problem with the text was my utter disdain for Sagawa's character. One example should provide some flavor. Sagawa told Kimura that "I would grab anyone who looked the least bit strong, or seize a mean-looking laborer, with both my hands and shove him into a hole. I did it all for the sake of acquiring experience" (p 106). I think Mr Sagawa should have spent some time in jail based on his desire for "experience."
The ultimate irony of this book is that it absolutely fails to deliver on its title: there is no "Secret Teaching Revealed" here, only inflated stories about an old man who failed to pass his "ki" to his students. This is ultimately my problem with so-called "internal power" training: if so few people can "master" it (like two in all of daito ryu), then it's most likely fake. It's better to train judo or jiujitsu, which at least many people can practice and derive benefit.
The Book of Do-In, Michio Kushi, 1979/1996
I bought The Book of Do-In in the mid-1990s. I had no idea what it was about, other than it had an Eastern sounding title. My copy is a 1996 printing of the 1979 original. The author promotes "exercises for physical and spiritual development," and his "macrobiotic way of life." Of course I groan when he writes phrases like "over 10,000 years ago when Do-In exercises were actively developed" or that Do-In is the "origin of all physical, mental, and spiritual exercises" (p 10).
This is the author's third book. He experienced controversy for claims that his system could cure cancer. Unfortunately, both he and his wife died of cancer.
This book offers a lot of unsubstantiated philosophical "woo" about the creation and nature of the universe. It uses techniques like measuring the position and shape of the ears (!) to assess health. On p 125 it noted the importance of the "50 sounds." I had heard of this before, but I can't remember where.
April was a mixed bag. Only the books on Musashi and Sun Tzu are probably worth serious investigation.
Stay tuned for another book survey in about a month!