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on 24 July 2008
This is a very well written and entertaining account of Tesshu, one of the last samurai, a retainer in the Emperor's service who lived during the period of Japan's transition from feudalism to a modern, industrialized state.

Tesshu was a man of great martial skills and equally great compassion who was always poor because he gave away most of his considerable stipend to support his poor and starving relatives, friends, and innumerable homeless (human as well as animals) that he took in and fed, often saving them from almost certain starvation.

As a result, he often went without food one or two days a week, preferring to give it to those in even greater need. He was a devout Buddhist at a time when most Japanese had long since adopted Shinto. Tesshu was also an accomplished calligrapher and poet.

Overall, it's a very readable account of a great man who remained loyal to the old ways and traditions even as they were crumbling around him.
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on 27 August 2009
This book is a fascinating read, recalling a life that was both spiritually deep and light-hearted. Tesshu was clearly a true master of life, which translated into his swordmanship. I recommend this book for anyone, but especially sword practitioners seeking a greater spiritual understanding of themselves and the world, and how kendo or kenjutsu can guide you along that path. For those interested in the life of an enlightened Zen master, then this book is also bound to impart great insight. And for those interested in one of the key political figures in the turbulent times of early Meji-era Japan, then this is also an important read.
If you practice kendo or kenjutsu, this may well be the most important book on your art that you will ever read.
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on 2 July 2007
This is a very well written and entertaining account of Tesshu, one of the last samurai, a retainer in the Emperor's service who lived during the period of Japan's transition from feudalism to a modern, industrialized state.

Tesshu was a man of great martial skills and equally great compassion who was always poor because he gave away most of his considerable stipend to support his poor and starving relatives, friends, and innumerable homeless (human as well as animals) that he took in and fed, often saving them from almost certain starvation.

As a result, he often went without food one or two days a week, preferring to give it to those in even greater need. He was a devout Buddhist at a time when most Japanese had long since adopted Shinto. Tesshu was also an accomplished calligrapher and poet.

Overall, it's a very readable account of a great man who remained loyal to the old ways and traditions even as they were crumbling around him.
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on 18 August 2001
No matter what impression you form of Tesshu through reading this book, it is impossible to deny that he was a remarkable man. A master swordsman, artist, poet, teacher and philosopher. He had a profound influence on the lives of many and we can all learn a lesson or two from what he had to say. He was clearly fallible like all humans, but his skill, dedication and humanity make for a compelling text.
Once again John Stevens has produced an excellent book, combining extensive research and just the right mix of text and graphics to bring Tesshu to life. I don't think anyone is going to learn any specific techniques from the book but it will certainly influence your approach to martial training, if you are open to the lessons contained. I come from an aikido background rather than kendo and it had a lot to offer me.
I would recommend this book to anyone broadening their reading of the history and practice of the martial arts, or calligraphy, zen, modern Japanese history, or just incredibly interesting biographical accounts.
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on 31 March 2016
Over the years I have bought a couple of copies for myself including the kindle version as well as other copies for friends.
This book is a definite must read for all martial artists who pursue the martial way of living and are interested in developing their spirit, not just technique or wanting to be the 'best fighter'.
It will not teach you specific things but rather inspire you to improve yourself and make you think.
Tesshu is rightly revered in Japan but is not so well known in the West - perhaps because too many martial artists are not as interested in developing themselves and making the world a better place by starting with themselves.
If you have a deeper side, read it - you won't be sorry!
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on 8 August 2015
I have always enjoyed John's books and this is another good read. My only issue is, some of it reads like a hagiography - you get the sense he's in awe of the guy and there are some pretty wild claims. I suppose they're hard to verify either way. A good read though.
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on 12 December 2003
I'm not particularly a fan of John Stevens. However I think this is the best book he has ever written, if not the best book for martial artists I have ever read.
Tesshu was a remarkable man; a zen buddhist, master swordsman and calligrapher. He also comes across as honest in his pursuit of understanding.
The book is beautifully presented, and will have you laughing in parts. Tesshu's message is maybe reflected by this famous zenrin
'to live one must destroy life completely, once destroyed one dwells for the first time in peace'.
Absolutely amazing - buy it.
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on 21 September 2014
An OK book, Master Tesshu is hard to understand and the book itself is a little disjointed in my opinion.
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