This was a book that was recommended on one of the Budo forums on the internet. I have had it for a number of months now and after a number of aborted attempts I have finally began to tackle the book in earnest. The title is Rediscovering Budo - why rediscovering Budo? This is because the author tries to show that despite the modern trend to transform Budo into sport to make it more acceptable to foreigners, much of the classical background and cultural underpinnings can still be found by a dedicated practitioner.
The reason it took me so long to get into the book was the rather dry academic style and the way the writing drifts from topic to topic, like a series of small articles that had been woven to form a book. The tone ranges from a gentle condescension at the latest developments of sports budo and the bewilderment of foreigners at all the rules and etiquette to full blown descriptions of certain historical personages and ryu where we are overloaded with numerous archaic names and minutiae. Indeed Knutsen himself concedes that it is very difficult to get the names of all these people who are long dead (and whose names are quite different from those of modern Japanese) but it is an important part of studying Budo to have a familiarity with the tradition.
Thus for the first half of the book, I felt I was reading material that had been covered more clearly by other authors. For example, for some of the sections : Background to Budo, Book or Dojo learning, A Proper Attitude to Budo and Respect and Discipline in Budo, these topics have been covered in greater Depth and with greater humor by David Lowry. Indeed I would recommend absolute beginners to pick up David Lowry's book "Budo" as it is a much easier introduction from a first person perspective. Similarly when dealing with The Kashima Tradition, I would recommend the book Legacies of the Sword: The Kashima Shinryu and Japanese Martial Culture by Karl Friday.
However, for those who have a solid grounding in some of the literature available in English, there is much in this book that rewards a closer reading of the text. There are a number of historical vignettes that Knutsen uses to good effect especially to illustrate the use of the Heijutsu or Arts of war (Strategy) and also on the esoteric underpinnings of Budo - its connection with Shinto and Mikkyo. Coincidentally or not, these are topics that Knutsen would later devote whole books to namely Tengu and Sun Tzu and the Art of Medieval Japanese Warfare. The whole section on art of Kiai and the training of Kiai was also worth the price of the book (and dovetails well with some of what Ellis Amdur writes about the power of Kiai in his book "Dueling with Osensei").
Thus I would recommend this as somewhat of an intermediate reader, for those with some knowledge but want to broaden their horizons and find out more on specialized topics.
Roald Knutsen (1933 - ) was born in Hertfordshire of Anglo-Norwegian parents and educated at The Perse School, Cambridge, and Watford Grammar School. After studying Art and Design he served as a regular in the Intelligence Corps and followed with a successful career in graphic design, choreographing complex medieval combat sequences for a computer film project in England and the USA, and writing. For the past half-century he has practised traditional Kenjutsu (Kashima Shinto Ryu), Kendo, Iai-jutsu, and So-jutsu under a succession of famous Japanese masters, having menkyo-kaiden, (senior master's licence), in one of the oldest transmissions of Iai-jutsu (Muso Jikiden Eishin-ryu Iai), and the rank of 6th dan Renshi in Kendo. Searching on the internet, it seems that he is one of the people who introduced Kendo and Iaido into Britain.