Book Review : “The Warrior's Path" Trade Paperback, 176 pages
Author : James Sidney
Canadian Publisher: Key Porter 2003 $29.95 ISBN : 1-55263-478-7
USA Publisher: Shambhala 2003 $18.95 ISBN: 1-59030-074-2
Review by Kim Taylor
This book is published in Canada by Key Porter and in the USA by Shambhala so there's a good chance that you'll see it in your local bookstore. It's worth picking up. James Sidney is a photographer by profession, a martial artist by avocation, and a teacher of both. He's also a pretty nice guy. The Warrior's Path is a book of interviews with 15 senior instructors in several different "gendai budo" or modern martial arts. These included kyudo, karate-do, naginata-do, iaido, kendo, judo, aikido, and shorinji-kempo.
In writing the book Sidney wanted to preserve the thoughts and impressions of a unique generation of martial artists, those who were present when the arts changed at the end of the Second World War, and as they spread to the rest of the world. Underlying that, he wanted to examine why some people take the martial arts as a life-long pursuit while so many others drop out after a very short time.
At the very start, Sidney confronts the question of the militarism present in the pre-war and wartime martial arts in Japan. He recognizes the post-war generation's commitment to budo as a method of self-cultivation and poses the question of whether or not that ideal will continue as the wartime instructors pass on, and as we forget the lessons of war. With the current fascination of "realistic" and "combat effective" martial arts I too have asked that question. I suspect though, that the fascination with "no holds barred" fighting and "battlefield proven" martial arts has more to do with the fantasy world of video games than the real world of military/political power, and those kids who want to learn how to beat people up will, if they remain in the arts, come to understand them as those who speak in this book understand them.
James Sidney also claims that this book is not a technical manual. I beg to differ, it most certainly is! There is more in any one of these chapters on the real "how-to" of the martial arts than you'll find in just about any martial arts book published in the last 10 years. Mind you, if you want to see some jumped-up ni-kyu in a fancy uniform doing a photo series on "how to get a killer reverse punch", you might be better advised to pick up a copy of one of the pulp martial arts magazines, but this book is the heart of the matter. Here you find the techniques of living from some of those who have practiced it the longest.
An interesting by-product of reading this collection of interviews is the realization of just how similar all these arts are at heart. It's also interesting to see just how little difference these instructors see in the various arts. They have, over the years, practiced each other's arts and quite obviously shared after-practice beers with each other.
So, do we find out why people stay in the arts for a lifetime? After reading this I suspect it has little to do with learning how to beat people up.
The book has a short introduction, 15 interviews with photos, a short explanation of the various arts and a glossary. Highly recommended.
From the publisher:
The Warrior’s Path
Wisdom from Contemporary Martial Arts Masters
The Warrior's Path presents the timeless wisdom of contemporary masters of the Japanese martial arts – men and women who brought martial arts into the modern era and whose lives have been defined by their devotion to training. At the end of World War Two, when so many elements of Japanese culture began to spread throughout the world, these masters were pioneers of globalizing the martial arts, and maintaining the purity of their disciplines.
James Sidney travelled the world to gather the personal stories of the world's most notable and revered living Japanese martial arts masters – two women and thirteen men, representing the disciplines of karate-do, judo, kyudo, kendo, iaido, aikido, atarashii naginata and Shorinji Kempo. Sidney introduces us to many legends in the martial arts world, including Keiko Fukada, the highest ranking woman judo-ka in the world, Mitsuske Harada, the founder of the Karate-do Shotokan Brazileo; Hidetaka Nishiyama, who organized the first international karate competition; and Hanae Sawada, the first president of Tokyo Naginata Federation.
Accompanied by James Sidney's suggestive, interpretive style of photography that captures the aesthetic of the classical martial arts and pays tribute to the elegance of these masters, The Warrior's Path brings us the wisdom of an important part of Japanese culture. It offers a revealing look at the remarkable men and women who have defined and been defined by the martial arts.