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The Pyjama Game: A Journey into Judo Hardcover – 25 Feb 2007
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`...a fascinating journey in which [the author] unravels this most opaque of sports with humour, verve and style. Part travelogue, part history, part chronicle of midlife discover, the Pyjama Game is an illuminating exposition of an enigmatic and marginal sport'
-- The Observer Sport Monthly, 02/09/2007
It is a sport of balletic beauty and extraordinary violence ? where else are you allowed to strangle an opponent unconscious? But while its aim is to inflict symbolic death, judo is a form of combat which also rigorously insists on the most formal courtesies. When Mark Law joined his local judo club he was able to observe at close quarters the sport practised at its highest level. He even found himself having to face some of the finest fighters in the business ? World Champions and Olympic medallists from Japan and Europe, men like Brian Jacks, one of the all-time greats of British judo, (whose superhuman fitness and strength also saw him to the BBC?s ?Sporting Superstars? title in the 70s). He went to Osaka, Japan to see the World Championships and to Athens for the Olympics. And he explored the history of this martial art rooted in the traditions of the 17th century Samurai warriors through such legendary figures as Jiguro Kano, who created the basis for the modern sport of judo, Anton Geesink, the Dutchman who was the first to shatter the hegemony of the Japanese, and Yamashita, the greatest of the modern champions.The result is a fascinating journey into this most enigmatic of sports which, in its own ferocious but highly codified regime, feeds man?s immutable warrior instinct for combat. It tells the story of how judo conquered the world, and how the world has tried to conquer Japan. We are taken behind the scenes of the international tournament circuit populated by some of the most fearsomely single-minded and self-denying competitors of all time -- men and women who have arrived at the apex of a sport from thousands of ordinary judo clubs all over the world. Through a series of colourful encounters -- sublime, grotesque, comic and tragic -- we experience the irresistible drama of tournament judo as figures grapple, whirl and fly through the air or struggle for armlocks and chokes, each contest reaching its conclusion in that symbolic death. Funny, alarming and mesmerising, The Pyjama Game is one of the best sports books of recent years. See all Product description
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The previous books I have described are very much from the point of view of the writer - they are both probably about 80% the experiences of the writer and 20% history or anecdotes. So, from the synopsis of 'The Pyjama Game', I was expected much of the same, but obviously focussing on judo, rather than aikido or karate.
The book starts well and differently from the others - the writer writes as if you the reader are right there with him in the dojo, preparing to train. He takes us through the etiquette and phrases that we're going to come across, which is most helpful.
But then I'm afraid the descends into one long history lesson, only occasionally punctuated by the writer's experiences. He describes in great detail the work of Dr Kano, who created the style and then takes us through the wealth of great fighters who trained and had both success and defeat at the many Olympic games over the years.
Please don't misunderstand me - this is a good book and will be especially of interest to those who practice judo and want to learn more of where their chosen martial art came from. But for the casual reader or perhaps for someone who trains in a different style, there is a little much history - almost too much to take in.
The writer has certainly done plenty of research and some of it, especially some of the descriptions of training regimes, are interesting, but the book is perhaps wrongly placed - it certainly is a 'Journey Through Judo', but from the way that the synopsis reads it's not really going to be the writer's full experiences of training in judo or his progression from beginner to black belt etc.
To return to the percentages, I'd say this book is 20% writer's personal experience and 80% history or anecdotes about the world of judo. But I give it 4 stars for the obvious effort and research.
I trained at the Budokwai a good few years ago and remember Mark ( although he probably don't remember me ) as being a total gentlemen and offering small bits of advice where and when it was needed . The book he has written as inspired me to get the gi out again and get back on the mat , as his writing made me realise just how much I've missed judo , especially the camaraderie . I would defy any non Judoka to read this book and not want to give Judo a try !
Well done Mark a great inspiring read - please write another book soon .