on 14 April 2009
Most long serving instructors in the martial arts (budo) will recognise & empathise with the short stories that Dave expertly tells here. Obviously from many years of experience & hard training in the various arts that he has studied over the last few decades.
As always, it's written in Dave's easy going style & in short 3-4 page chapters. A book that you can pick up & put down without loosing the plot. Filled with interesting & personal pearls of wisdom from the martial arts & Japanese culture, Dave relates his experiences from training & from tales that his own instructors have told him.
The chapter on "Excess Baggage" was my favourite where he contemplates why certain people even bother to consider taking up a martial art, with all that that involves, but who from the very outset can't leave all their problems, aggression & other vices outside of the dojo & who think that karate, for example, is just about kicking, punching & yelling.
Thought provoking certainly, but true followers of "the way" will understand the meaning & lessons that Dave is putting across.
If you're just starting out on the path of some form of budo, you may not yet fully realise what Dave is talking about, but none the less, this is still a very interesting book in many other respects.
on 11 March 2005
This book offers a practical series of exercises taught, as so many great teachers do, through little stories and retelling of personal experiences. Not a martial artist myself but I do draw inspiration from this book which I am sure will be read time and time again. When you get tired of all the macho muscle stuff this one will strengthen the mind and show you the old way. Read it and you might see what I am talking about.
on 5 August 2013
Having read one of Lowry's other books (the Karate Way) before, I had been slightly critical of his style in some areas, as his strict adherance to the traditions of budo are sometimes manifest as scathing indictments of many modern attitudes.
My main reason for being a bit upset by him was due the fact that, unlike him, most of us do not readily have the opportunity to experience some of the authentic traditions found typically in Japan (although such a pilgrimage is one of my few life ambitions). Also in terms of selecting a Sensei, again this isn't something most have the luxury of doing to any great extent, rather we must take what is available within a reasonable distance from our homes, without necessarily knowing what makes a good Sensei. It's only when you have more experience that such discernment might become an option. Moreover, to move to a new city, change jobs ect... in order to prioritise finding the right Sensei and dojo is something that the majority of us can't realistically consider. Therefore it is hard for many of us to start out on the right path because there may not be anybody to show us, whilst simultaneously being bombarded with the superficialties of a western society that demands excitement, it is all to easy to unwittingly set out from the wrong foundation.
So in this sense it can be difficult to take criticism for doing something wrong that you never even knew was wrong in the first place, or even feasibly had chance of avoiding! That said, as one gets older many of the things he points out were perhaps things, I admit, that I could have changed prior to his intervention, given a little more effort and discipline.
However, my opinion of him has shifted and warmed a great deal having read this text, not least because Lowry goes some way in his introduction to acknowledging (but certainly not apologising for) his sometimes 'cranky tone', and explains more fully the things to which he is opposed. But my opinion has shifted more so because I have perhaps actually let some of my own ego give way to the fact that by following his advice, I may almost ceratinly become a better, truer martial artist - not immediately in the physical sense (this isn't an instructional manual as such) but rather in the mental and spiritual sense - certainly in the attitudinal sense. I suppose I have long known that my training has lacked depth and Lowry has helped me to fully admit that to myself and given the kick up the backside to do something about it. Not an easy process granted, but I thank him all the more for it.
In this sense, the book is profound for those who may have been training a while, as you may have experienced some of the things he describes. But even if you are new to budo, then whatever your chosen discipline this book will certainly help you to evaluate your training, you dojo and even your Sensei.
I wouldn't go so far as to say that my last twenty years of training has been a complete waste of time as this experience gives me some perspective, but I know that the next twenty years will be approached from a new and hopefully truer foundation. Furthermore, rather than feeling a little dissappointed that the true path has eluded me for this long, I'm actually quite looking forward to going back to the beginning.
Hard though it might seem to turn back having seemingly come so far - surely starting again is the better choice, than carrying on in ignorance to the wrong destination?