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