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Angry White Pyjamas: An Oxford Poet Trains with the Tokyo Riot Police

Angry White Pyjamas: An Oxford Poet Trains with the Tokyo Riot Police [Kindle Edition]

Robert Twigger
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)

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Amazon Review

Only at one point did I suddenly think: What the hell are you doing here? Why don't you just walk away? I banished the thought quickly. I knew I couldn't afford the luxury of such thinking if I was going to stick it out for the whole year.
When Robert Twigger found himself training alongside the Tokyo Riot Police, he realised two things: He'd never been fit and he'd never been tough. In fact, as a student and poet in the relatively cosseted world of Oxford, he had done nothing to uphold the family's military reputation established by his grandfather.

But once he joined Japan's most famous Aikido "dojo", (academy) he came up against all the challenges a life of tough physical action had to throw at him: Sadistic teachers, even more sadistic friends, repetitive training, broken limbs and the ominous "nobbies".

At more than one point throughout the year-long course that would change him from pondering intellectual to "bodyguard" for two elderly Japanese women, Twigger thought of quitting. So what kept him going--his friends in Fuji heights, Chris and Fat Frank? Sara, his Japanese girlfriend? A Zen belief in overcoming the will of the self? It was more to do with sheer grit and determination-- a refusal to be beaten.

Though winner of the William Hill 1998 Sports Book of the Year, this is no ordinary sports book. Intelligent, witty, and downright compelling, the story of a self-confessed "softie" who took on some of the world's toughest and made it through, is one of the best books you will read this year. Peppered with insight into the exclusive Japanese culture and ex-pat life, Twigger's book will make you want to get off your couch and travel to the land of the rising sun straight away-- or at least, once you've finished the book. --Lucie Naylor


A frantic, very funny, urban quest. (Simon Garfield Mail on Sunday)

A book of unexpected brilliance. It is subtle, funny, stimulating and original - a rites-of-passage story, an explanation of an alien culture, and an inspiring work of philosophy (Patrick French)

His fine eye for eccentricities makes this an entertaining travelogue (The Observer)

A rattling good yarn and very funny into the bargain (Tim Hulse Independent on Sunday)

This is a splendidly written adventure, something sane at last on the craziness of martial arts (Independent on Sunday)

His explanation of how to come to terms with intense pain should be read to every footballer who has ever writhed about in agony after a kick on the shin... It is a clever, enthralling book (Ian Wooldridge Daily Mail)

Brilliant ... everyone should read it (Tony Parsons Late Review)

Wonderfully oddball ... Here is a cult book all right, which could do for Japan and the martial arts what Hornby did for Highbury and the football terraces (Frank Keating Guardian)

Poetry in motion (Sue Townsend Sunday Times)

Communicates the existential purity of his elective regime with irrepressible passion ... it also has the unmistakable stamp of authentic experience (Daily Telegraph)

Twigger vividly captures the wince-inducing physical and emotional trails endured by those who would wear the black belt. But he also offers a rare insight in aikido's peculiarly Darwinian group dynamic and how it fits into modern Japanese society. After this marvellously insightful account I will snigger no more at Steven Segal's po-faced chop-sockey (Ben Farrington Literary Review)

The most intriguing sports book ever to win the William Hill Sports Book of the Year award (Daily Mail)

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 523 KB
  • Print Length: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Orion; New Ed edition (3 Jun 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #86,999 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Robert Twigger writes about extreme experiences and extreme places. He has written about several expeditions to remote parts of the world he has taken part in. He writes in sometimes memoir, sometimes fiction formats.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Take that - and zen some! 3 Feb 2004
I train in Ju Jitsu at a London club and I can relate with many a wry smile to Robert Twigger's experiences in A.W.P. Although not training to the same punishing level, I see all his dojo types in any martial arts clubs; the sadists, the wimps, the show-offs and all us in-betweens - sliding between fear and fascination, bravado and dejection.
Twigger keeps the specifics of Aikido technique to a minimum which is just as well as textualising any complex martial art is pretty redundant - you have to see or even to feel it to understand what a move is really about.
Instead he concentrates on his feelings, which range between a sense of enlightenment and achievement through dedication and perserverence to the detachment of an Englishman abroad doing silly foreign things.
At times it feels that although he has an eye for reporting the superficial oddities that make Japan the most estranged Western country, he fails to really understand or empathise with the Japanese spirit that he clearly believes is at the root of Aikido. The centre portion of the book also seems to suffer from the reptitiveness of the training itself.
If the way of exploding fists and arthritic knees is dear to you or an exotic source of curiosity AWP is a good read.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
This is the account of Robert Twigger, an expatriate English teacher living in Tokyo who, with two friends, decided to enrol on a martial arts course run by one of the foremost Aikido Dojos (academies) in the world. Challenging as that might seem in itself, Twigger quickly goes one better when he learns of, and enrols on, the full-time, year-long specialist course run for officers of the city's elite Riot Police. A complete novice, if he passes the course he will graduate as a black belt, and a qualified martial arts instructor in the space of a year - which gives some measure of the intensity of the course. This seems analogous to sending the school rock climbing club up the north face of the Eiger, with the promise of life-long membership of the Alpine Club and an instructor's certificate for the survivors. But this is compelling stuff, and like those ghastly nature programmes in which a field mouse blunders around blindly over the loops and coils of a watchful Fer de Lance, you just can't look away even though you know it's going to be very grisly.
Twigger writes evocatively about the external, everyday aspects of life in Tokyo and in the Dojo, and he can describe abject pain with a facility that will have you grinding your teeth. But all this serves as only a backdrop to the real story of the book, which is his inner, emotional journey. He offers fascinating insights into the complex and sometimes very unsettling psychology of the relationship between the Senshusei (the name given to pupils on this fearsome course) and their instructors. Senshusei train unremittingly, day in - day out, and must obey the instructors immediately and unquestioningly.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars seriously readable with some sharp insights... 16 Nov 2002
I've just finished reading this book, which is good because my life has been on hold since I bought it yesterday morning! It is one of the most readable books I have picked up in a long time, mainly I think due to the excellent characterisation of the author's friends and instructors and some sharp observations of life.
Furthermore, as someone who has lived in Japan and savoured pretty much the same ex-pat experience of teaching English as the author has, I can tell you that his recreations of the country and the people are spot on. I was really itching to get back to Japan by the end of the book, the images and memories he was triggering were so strong. Angry White Pyjamas is 'real', which is about the strongest compliment I can think of to give to a book. Go and buy it now.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The most honest martial arts book I've ever read 14 Aug 1999
By A Customer
This is a book to be thoroughly enjoyed by anyone who has come back from a martial arts class bleeding and sweating and thinking "Why the hell am I doing this", and then going back for more the next day. The locker-room stories of comparing injuries and competing for the biggest bruises brough a wry smile to my face, as I remembered what I did in my own mis-spent youth. Twigger is a very entertaining writer, and is particularly good at evoking the emotions and pain that he and his comrades went through.
I suspect that people who have read this book and been disappointed about the lack of commentary on the techniques, or believing it to be 'self-indulent twaddle', are missing the point. In one sense, it's not even about martial arts; it is a book about achievement (in which martial arts happened to be the driving force and ultimate goal); about accepting a course of action that you know will be extremely physically and mentally demanding, and coming out a year later knowing that you completed it successfully, and that you will always have that amazing feeling with you. That's why they all seemed to delight in the injuries, the passing-out, even the vomiting. It's a way of saying to yourself "Look at me, look what I can put up with without giving up!". If you have ever had that feeling, you'll find that Twigger manages to evoke it wonderfully.
I found this book entertaining, funny and inspiring, and would recommend it to anyone, whether or not they are interested in the subject matter. I also found it refreshing, in that it is the only book that I remember reading which correctly states that, if you want to learn to do martial arts properly, it can bloody well hurt!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it
A lot of authors write but don't really have decent story to tell because there experience isn't that intriguing. This is.
Published 1 month ago by Jules
5.0 out of 5 stars Well-written memoir of an Englishman doing extreme martial arts in...
The author, and Englishman working in Tokyo, took up the martial art of Aikido. His dojo ran an intensive and brutal aikido course which is used to train the Japanese riot police. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Chris Baker
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic book, not only for Martial Arts freaks
Fantastic book, not only for Martial Arts freaks. It is a story of an unfit and over-chilled-out poet living in Japan, who decides one day, after having read some samurai's... Read more
Published 2 months ago by SKK
3.0 out of 5 stars Angry White Pyjamas
An easy read with some interesting insights to a very different lifestyle and culture. It's worth getting hold of a copy.
Published 2 months ago by Triumphant
5.0 out of 5 stars Makes you want to pack your things and move to Japan to train Aikido...
Join Twigger and his flatmate in his cramped apartment in Tokyo as they embark on the remarkably life-altering journey toward Akido hell and Aikido blizz. Read more
Published 3 months ago by fffree
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Book, Well Worth Reading
I had heard about this book from some other Aikidoka at the club I train at. It is well worth a read and is really well written, it definitely increased by interest and drive to... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Shawn
5.0 out of 5 stars its great
I love it, it is just what I wanted in my life right now. God bless you all. Good night.
Published 6 months ago by michael Adamson
5.0 out of 5 stars Good firm
Great service. Great value .I had read read this myself and bought a copy for my old Karate training pal. Robert Twigger did it the real hard core way !
Published 9 months ago by Gina Garner
5.0 out of 5 stars Brutality & Humility in one easy read
This is a very enjoyable book and gives an interesting insight into training in a martial art in the country it was born in - the mysterious and exotic lands of Japan. Read more
Published 10 months ago by A. Martial Artist
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
It gave a introduction in to Japanese culture as well as aikido. The book has a lot of helpful tips for any one learning aikido. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Ian Tarrant
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