Shop now Shop now Shop now  Up to 50% Off Fashion  Shop all Amazon Fashion Cloud Drive Photos Shop now Learn More Shop now Shop now Shop Fire Shop Kindle Listen in Prime Shop now

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars93
4.5 out of 5 stars
Format: Paperback|Change
Price:£8.99+ Free shipping with Amazon Prime
Your rating(Clear)Rate this item


There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

on 27 November 2002
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. The instructors use alarming physical force in their demonstration of techniques, and serious injury is a dark and ever-present threat in the Dojo. Infractions of the rules are punished swiftly with excruciating exercises and remorseless stints of kneeling for the lucky ones. The less lucky are more likely to be injured deliberately in the next demonstration.
Twigger's relationships with the various instructors therefore become of central importance to his quality of life, and he becomes finely attuned to every nuance of their behaviour, comments and demeanour. Inevitably, he finds himself flung around as much emotionally as physically by these titans of his new world. You must understand - this isn't running ten more laps with the medicine ball for talking back to the football coach, this is more like a broken arm and smashed nose for being late for practice.
What I found so baffling is that a man as manifestly intelligent as Twigger (a poetry prize-winning graduate of Oxford University) could so completely place himself and his safety in the hands of these instructors and some of the Walter Mitty types with whom he was forced to spar. The instructors are not the zen-like, almost saintly ascetics of martial arts lore and Hollywood legend. There are no harsh-but-fair wizened old men here. They are instead on the whole an unpleasant bunch with some rather serious character flaws here and there. Some are brutal, arrogant nihilists, autocratic even when the situation does not require it. Some have filthy tempers. Some of the Japanese ones are overtly racist and contemptuous of westerners (which isn't a good start, as you might appreciate). These guys smoke and get drunk (not while training - but still, shouldn't they be home, balanced between two chairs, meditating?). They are also surprisingly emotionally immature in some places. In short, these are not men one would be inclined to trust with one's long-term health. Reading as Twigger and the other Senshusei are rounded on by these incomplete but lethal individuals is like watching a small infant playing with a loaded pistol: you have the same sensation of tragedy rushing to embrace the participants. You just know something awful is going to happen to someone. And then it does. But I won't ruin the book.
As a lighter, but no less compelling sub-text, Twigger writes very amusingly about his two flatmates and his various romantic dalliances and peculiar work-mates (he works one day a week teaching English to pay the rent and the course fees). His two flat-mates are Fat Frank and Chris. Fat Frank, a one hundred kilo Iranian on the lam from the immigration authorities, keeps his Whiskey bottle in the fish tank for want of storage space, and restlessly paces the streets rescuing consumer electronics from peoples' rubbish. Chris is intellectually brilliant and a mentor to the other two, dispensing wisdom and caution, arbitrating in all matters relating to the maintenance of good order in their tiny flat and putting food on the table. He also does modelling work through an agency that specialises in finding odd looking people. Twigger has two splendid friends and if I have any criticism of this book (though it's not a criticism as such, more a regret) it is that Fat Frank and Chris are not featured more. You will ROAR with laughter when Fat Frank unveils his Iranian mountain climbing technique and you will shudder with delicious dread at the mental game he and Twigger play to amuse themselves. It's absolutely toe-curlingly exquisite - I'm smiling now as I type this.
The Senshusei course is extremely arduous both physically and mentally, and the pressure on Twigger's body and mind mounts inexorably. You will find yourself wondering when the inevitable collapse in one or the other will come. Throughout, you suspect it may all end with a carefully crafted cop-out, the small-but-significant injury that forced the brave author to withdraw much to his chagrin and only weeks before the end. But it never comes. I won't ruin the end for you, but pass or fail, Twigger is still standing at the final bell. Put this one in your shopping basket and proceed to the checkout immediately.
33 comments|30 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 16 November 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.
0Comment|8 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 3 February 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.
0Comment|16 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 14 August 1999
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!
0Comment|3 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
`Angry White Pyjamas' follows an Englishman in Japan as he trains on the extreme Tokyo riot police course. It looks at his time and training in an Aikido dojo and makes for fascinating reading. The style of Aikido he learnt is Yoshinkan and isn't truly representative of Aikido in general, you don't tend to get the overly macho and violent teachers and philosophy in other Aikido schools. In fact this was the one aspect of the book I disliked the most, the cruelty in teaching methods and overall philosophy of some of the people involved in the school were highly dubious. Martial arts are tough and this particular course is renowned for it's strict methods and brutal training schedule, but in the main Aikido is a much more respectful art than what is portrayed here. Saying that, this is still an interesting read about one man's experience in a Japanese dojo and trying to make sense of Japanese society in general and for that alone it kept me reading. As you read you question whether you could handle such a tiring and hardcore course syllabus and by the end of the book you start to wince at every blow the students receive. This is an interesting book about life in one particular school of Japanese martial arts and if you are interested in martial arts it is worth a read. I personally didn't feel it to be as great as some other reviewers here though.

Feel free to check out my blog which can be found on my profile page.
0Comment|3 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 9 August 1999
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 Dojo's (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. The instructors use alarming physical force in their demonstration of techniques, and serious injury is a dark and ever-present threat in the Dojo. Infractions of the rules are punished swiftly with excruciating exercises and remorseless stints of kneeling for the lucky ones. The less lucky are more likely to be injured deliberately in the next demonstration.
Twigger's relationships with the various instructors therefore become of central importance to his quality of life, and he becomes finely attuned to every nuance of their behaviour, comments and demeanour. Inevitably, he finds himself flung around as much emotionally as physically by these titans of his new world. You must understand - this isn't running ten more laps with the medicine ball for talking back to the football coach, this is more like a broken arm and smashed nose for being late for practice.
What I found so baffling is that a man as manifestly intelligent as Twigger (a poetry prize-winning graduate of Oxford University) could so completely place himself and his safety in the hands of these instructors and some of the Walter Mitty types with whom he was forced to spar. The instructors are not the zen-like, almost saintly ascetics of martial arts lore and Hollywood legend. There are no harsh-but-fair wizened old men here. They are instead on the whole an unpleasant bunch with some rather serious character flaws here and there. Some are brutal, arrogant nihilists, autocratic even when the situation does not require it. Some have filthy tempers. Some of the Japanese ones are overtly racist and contemptuous of westerners (which isn't a good start, as you might appreciate). These guys smoke and get drunk (not while training - but still, shouldn't they be home, balanced between two chairs, meditating?). They are also surprisingly emotionally immature in some places. In short, these are not men one would be inclined to trust with one's long-term health. Reading as Twigger and the other Senshusei are rounded on by these incomplete but lethal individuals is like watching a small infant playing with a loaded pistol: you have the same sensation of tragedy rushing to embrace the participants. You just know something awful is going to happen to someone. And then it does. But I won't ruin the book.
As a lighter, but no less compelling sub-text, Twigger writes very amusingly about his two flatmates and his various romantic dalliances and peculiar work-mates (he works one day a week teaching English to pay the rent and the course fees). His two flat-mates are Fat Frank and Chris. Fat Frank, a one hundred kilo Iranian on the lam from the immigration authorities, keeps his Whiskey bottle in the fish tank for want of storage space, and restlessly paces the streets rescuing consumer electronics from peoples' rubbish. Chris is intellectually brilliant and a mentor to the other two, dispensing wisdom and caution, arbitrating in all matters relating to the maintenance of good order in their tiny flat and putting food on the table. He also does modelling work through an agency that specialises in finding odd looking people. Twigger has two splendid friends and if I have any criticism of this book (though it's not a criticism as such, more a regret) it is that Fat Frank and Chris are not featured more. You will ROAR with laughter when Fat Frank unveils his Iranian mountain climbing technique and you will shudder with delicious dread at the mental game he and Twigger play to amuse themselves. It's absolutely toe-curlingly exquisite - I'm smiling now as I type this.
The Senshusei course is extremely arduous both physically and mentally, and the pressure on Twigger's body and mind mounts inexorably. You will find yourself wondering when the inevitable collapse in one or the other will come. Throughout, you suspect it may all end with a carefully crafted cop-out, the small-but-significant injury that forced the brave author to withdraw much to his chagrin and only weeks before the end. But it never comes. I won't ruin the end for you, but pass or fail, Twigger is still standing at the final bell. Put this one in your shopping basket and proceed to the checkout immediately.
0Comment|2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 20 July 2014
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. He signed up, and this is the account of what happened.

The book is funny at points, but comes across as a truthful account - it is not played for laughs. You don't think (in contrast to many "I did something wacky" memoirs) that it was a project mainly to publish a book all along; something which can be fatal to the sincerity of the book. It has fascinating insights into what it is like to experience Japanese culture as a foreigner, and to be involved in traditional Japanese training methods. It has interesting things to say about doing martial arts.

It also as exciting as a novel: you watch the characters with fascination as the class fight (literally and metaphorically) through the challenges of the course.

The writing is fine, and in an unobtrusive style which depicts events and observations clearly without becoming distracting - quite a feat in a book which could just as easily have become a hubristic memoir as a play-it-for-laughs. Quotations from Tesshu, Mr Twigger's 19-th Century samurai-poet-swordsman hero are interesting, and are nicely interwoven with the text.

While Mr Twigger's martial arts experience is very different from my own, he captures some things which I really recognized, and I felt I learned a couple of things too. But explanations are kept very easy to follow, whether they are factual - about training drills - or more philosophical - about mindset of martial arts. You could certainly enjoy this book if you'd never done any martial arts (though it might encourage you to try).
0Comment|One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 9 March 1999
As an infrequent martial artist this book is a breath of fresh air. I have been taught by nprice (a reviewer) and as a low belt, Twigger strikes home the feeling of being the new kid on the mat, looking on with trepidation and respect at the skills practiced by those above. You never think that you will amount to much at the entry level, when you struggle with so called simple skills, but Twigger shows that with grim determination (read the book and you will see what I mean) you will succeed. Do not expect detailed descriptions of locks and throws or heroic street fights. The book is far too good for brawling stories. I takes you into the mind of someone who feels they are going nowhere and does something about it. You are also introduced to a fascinating culture by a very skillful author which adds an extra dimension. Don't waste your money on how to defend yourself books, you should go to classes for that. Buy this and see what mental discipline you need to succeed at any martial art and reassure yourself that it is not too late for that promised change of lifestyle.
0Comment|One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 6 March 1999
This is NOT abook about aikido; it's a book about a gaijin learning aikido and should be read as such (and it might find a wider readership if UK bookstores didn't stock it under 'Sports'.) So many of us who live(d) in Japan think we have a great story to tell - Robert Twigger actually tells his story well, though he could use a good proof reader. The story is a fine balance of aikido details and a commentary on life in Japan, expressed much more honestly and less pretentiously than by some other gaijin. Twigger has a good eye for the oddities we find in Tokyo, without feeling the need to sprinkle them over every page to show how observant he is, unlike some other writers. He neatly portrays the 'never give up' concept so prevalent in all walks of Japanese life, without getting overly carried away with it. I don't practise aikido, I've never met Twigger or any of his instructors, I'm just an ex-gaijin who was sent the book by a friend and thoroughly enjoyed it. (But I do endorse his choice of best gaijin bar!).
Now, when are we going to get the female gaijin book??
0Comment|One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 16 April 2005
Having been leant this book by a friend of mine who studied Aikido for a year or so and, being a person that is fascinated by martial arts and an ex practitioner of Judo (a similar martial art) and currently doing kung fu, I was compelled to buy this book myself so that I may own my own copy of it. The book is compulsive reading and once you get into it it is hard to put down. The book is quite comical in places where Robert gets into all number of scrapes and acquires injuries, a Japanese girlfriend and must undertake a visit to the dreaded Japanese dentist!
As someone that has long been a fan of Japan and looking to visit there in the near future this book conjured up all kinds of imagery and ideas of what I might do when I do visit. The book inspired me through hard times during my degree to carry on and make the best of it. From the word go I was grabbed by this book and I have no doubt that martial arts fans and just casual readers will by hooked in exactly the same way. You are with Robert every step of the way through this book. I'd recommend it to anyone.
0Comment|7 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

Send us feedback

How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you?
Let us know here.

Sponsored Links

  (What is this?)