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on 29 January 1997
"Secrets of the Samurai" is the a great book for both the marital arts history novice and the expert. It combines excellent writing with exhaustive research. The book chronicals the development of Japanese martial arts throughout Japan's turbulent history. It provides not only exstensive information about the many kinds of martial disciplines but also about the political and social context in which they developed. It is also fascinating to read and to look at, having many excellent illustrations. This book is perfect for the military history buff or anyone interested in the martial arts.
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on 24 December 2008
This book is essentially what it says in the introduction - an overview of the history and techniques of bushido. Many reviewers criticise particular aspects of the book - I believe a little unfairly. Yes, it has a emphasis towards Aikido but then it is written by two Aikido adepts . Also it is not accurate in every minutae - but then show me a text that covers this much ground that is. It is a general introduction not a history of every school of bu-jitsu.

For any student who wants to know how the samurai were - what they were about - how they lived - how they were influenced by society, history and religion this is the book for you. It debunks a lot of the myth and the false thinking that characterises a lot of 'samurai ideology'. It dares to look beyond the veneer of the samurai and Japanese society at that time. It is a must read for anyone who wants to understand the tradition of bushido.
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on 1 January 1999
This is truly an impressive attempt to cover all of the martial skills that the fuedal warriors of Japan studied. Unfortunately, their section on Aiki-jujitsu and Aikido has some serious errors. First, they claim that Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido was the only legitimate heir of the Daito Ryu school of aiki-jujitsu. This is incorrect. Tokumine Takeda, son of Sokaku Takeda (Ueshiba's Daito Ryu teacher for over a decade), was the heir of Daito Ryu. The current headmaster is Katsuyuki Kondo. There are also several other branches of Daito Ryu: Kodokai, Roppokai, and Takumakai, which were started by students of Takeda Sokaku who were actually senior to Ueshiba. Ratti and Westbrooke also stated that Daito Ryu no longer exists, and that we have no way of knowing today the techniques of the the Daito Ryu. Again, untrue. Daito Ryu is one of the most widely practiced traditional styles of martial arts (Koryu Budo) in Japan. Finally, they state with some authority that Daito Ryu descended from Prince Sadasumi. This cannot be verified, even by Daito Ryu practitioners. Like many oral tales, it is a history that people accept in the absence of confirming or contradicting evidence.
What is disturbing is that after twenty years, this information was never updated. Perhaps this was because Ratti and Westbrook did not use any original source, i.e. Japanese, material (at least I did not see any when I glanced through the glossary). Perhaps it was because they felt some need to promote aikido at the expense of Daito Ryu. It does not matter, really. Writing a traditional Japanese martial art out of any book that purports describe the history of Japanese martial arts is a gaffe that makes me wonder what else about the book they have gotten wrong.
I give the book three stars for effort, but let the buyer beware. When reading, don't believe anything until you verify, verify, verify.
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on 8 February 2012
I purchased this book on reccomendation from my Sensei. I am currently studying for my first Dan Black Belt in Jujitsu and on asking my Sensei where I could find out more information about the art I am studying, where it comes from, why we study certian Kata's and the traditional nature of Jujitsu, he pointed me in this book's direction. It is relativley easy to read. Having no knowledge of Martial Arts may be a hinderance to some readers, but being familiar with Japanese terms already, I find it very easy to read. I haven't as yet got to the end as I am taking my time and making lots of notes for my own study purposes, but so far it's very useful. The structures of Feudal Japan are very easy to learn about as the authors write in such a way that makes quite a complicated process very easy to read. There are lots of pictures and diagrams which bring armoury and weapons to life. I am very impressed so far and its helping me enormously in my eneadvour to learn more about where, why and how we have the version of Martial arts in Britian that we have today. Highly reccomended.
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on 1 May 2013
this book is not only excellently written and well thought out,but very educational as well-a must for those who love Samurai history.
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on 22 May 2011
Everything as expected, Excellent choice, great purchase.
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on 17 June 1998
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on 31 January 2004
Well, at first the book seems quite splendid, an enourmous amount of information presented in an academic, no-nonsense way (even if the language can be a bit dry at times).
However, reading other reviews which claim that the facts about aikido are a bit of at times, one starts to wonder. And then the book comes to the one part that I have ny personal experiene in,modern kendo. Here he lists the part of kendo armour; men, do, kote, tare and koshi-ate. The problem with this being that I have never heard of koshi-ate ("hip pads" is what it's described as in the book). I've never seen any kendo armour with such a thing, neither at the club were I practice, nor or for sale. It might be that he's describing something which was used quite some time ago and doesn't make enough of a point of the fact that this is simply what was used, or there's a hole in my knowledge, but once again I start wondering. A trip down to the nearest kendo club, or kendo equipment retailer should have ensured that the list of armour parts stayed at men, tare, kote and do. And combine that mistake with what ahs been said about aikido, and I wonder what else in the book is wrong? And in a book which justifies it's existance by hard facts, if one cannot trust those facts, it all becomes rather shaky.
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on 22 September 1999
Borrowed this book from a fellow sensei; read it, then re-read it, then tried to get it. It's taken me the best part of a year to locate it. Although our Japanese reviewer says that it is "shaky" regarding some of the Aikido facts, it is without doubt, an excellent book for martial artists to study - yes, study - not just read. The very essence of Budo, and the samurai way of life is shown. Read, learn and inwardly digest - then pass it on!
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