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Angry White Pyjamas: An Oxford Poet Trains with the Tokyo Riot Police Paperback – 23 Oct 1997

4.5 out of 5 stars 105 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Phoenix; 1st Paperback Edition edition (23 Oct. 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0575401249
  • ISBN-13: 978-0575401242
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.1 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (105 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 702,744 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Amazon Review

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

Review

A frantic, very funny, urban quest. (Simon Garfield Mail on Sunday)

A book of unexpected brilliance. It is subtle, funny, stimulating and original - a rites-of-passage story, an explanation of an alien culture, and an inspiring work of philosophy (Patrick French)

His fine eye for eccentricities makes this an entertaining travelogue (The Observer)

A rattling good yarn and very funny into the bargain (Tim Hulse Independent on Sunday)

This is a splendidly written adventure, something sane at last on the craziness of martial arts (Independent on Sunday)

His explanation of how to come to terms with intense pain should be read to every footballer who has ever writhed about in agony after a kick on the shin... It is a clever, enthralling book (Ian Wooldridge Daily Mail)

Brilliant ... everyone should read it (Tony Parsons Late Review)

Wonderfully oddball ... Here is a cult book all right, which could do for Japan and the martial arts what Hornby did for Highbury and the football terraces (Frank Keating Guardian)

Poetry in motion (Sue Townsend Sunday Times)

Communicates the existential purity of his elective regime with irrepressible passion ... it also has the unmistakable stamp of authentic experience (Daily Telegraph)

Twigger vividly captures the wince-inducing physical and emotional trails endured by those who would wear the black belt. But he also offers a rare insight in aikido's peculiarly Darwinian group dynamic and how it fits into modern Japanese society. After this marvellously insightful account I will snigger no more at Steven Segal's po-faced chop-sockey (Ben Farrington Literary Review)

The most intriguing sports book ever to win the William Hill Sports Book of the Year award (Daily Mail) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Many years ago, a sample of this book cropped up on my A-Level mock exam. It was so witty and so brilliantly written that I got the book. It's not my normal genre at all - I'm in no way sporty, especially with anything involving competition or combat. This is one of those books where that simply doesn't matter. Following Robert along his very unique and brutal journey was great fun. I winced, I laughed and I will undoubtedly read again.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Bloody funny book. I heard Yoshinkan was hard ball Aikido, but not this hard. Robert has a good way with writing. It's easy to read and flows pretty well. I should read it as a life story from his perspective and don't form any judgements over Yoshinkan. All martial training is an individual journey.

Buy it for the romp.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
It's the first time I have ever read a book like this.
I would defiantly read more in the future it was entertaining, funny and serious.
I didn't want to put it down once it was started I really got sucked into the writers life and felt I was there watching the struggles and triumphs.

10/10. Will read again
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Gift for my son in law he loves the book
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Excellent read, especially if you're into Aikido and wanted to see it from a different perspective!
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By Spider Monkey HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on 2 Sept. 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
`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.
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Format: Paperback
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.
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Format: Kindle Edition
A very entertaining book as well as being thought provoking. I could go into more detail as to why I like this book but my reasons are already covered in the various five star comments previously. Not sure if you do not have a martial arts background how much you would get out of it though
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