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Wastelander
KF Sensei
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Joined: 18 Oct 2010
Posts: 2421
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Styles: Shorin-Ryu, Shuri-Ryu, Judo, KishimotoDi

PostPosted: Thu Dec 18, 2014 3:30 pm    Post subject: Traditions by Dave Lowry (Book Review) Reply with quote

Tuttle Publishing, through Patrick, has been kind enough to provide me with a book to review. That book is Traditions: Essays on the Japanese Martial Arts and Ways, written by Dave Lowry.

For those who are unfamiliar with Mr. Lowry, I would like to provide a little background information. He is an American writer who has authored a number of books about the martial arts, which he began studying in 1968. Since then, he has trained in several martial arts, including kenjutusu, karate, aikido and judo. His interest in Japanese culture goes far beyond the martial arts, however, and this book illustrates that quite clearly.

As the title implies, Traditions is more of a collection of essays than a cohesive novella. It has only 174 pages, but found within those pages is an impressive 53 chapters that cover everything from legendary stories to Zen musings to practical martial arts advice. There is little-to-no connective tissue between the chapters, as they were not meant to flow from one to another. You could literally begin the book at chapter 53 and work backward with no issues. This means that the book can be read in short bursts and doesn't become long-winded or drawn out, so it is a good book for you to keep at hand when you are going to have just a few minutes to read. This essay collection format does have one issue, though, in my opinion: repetition. Since the essays were seemingly written completely independent of each other, you will see some of the same things brought up a number of times, and they are written about as if you have never heard of them before. This isn't terrible, particularly if you are reading the book in short bursts, but I felt I should mention it.

The content of the book is interesting and, depending on your pre-existing knowledge of Japanese culture and martial arts, quite enlightening. You will not find photographs or descriptions of techniques or kata, because that is not Mr. Lowry's focus. Instead, he tells stories that illustrate how to be a better martial artist and how to become a better person through martial arts training. Some of these stories, like "Bushi" Matsumura Sokon's encounter with the vicious bull, are widely known, but others are less so.

The author also includes many stories from his own youth and training, which keeps things interesting and gives the book a more personal feel. Many of the legends that are recounted in this book are still perfectly applicable, today, and they have the added benefit of teaching you a bit about the history of Japan and Japanese culture.

While I found some of the content to be based on historical inaccuracies, or espousing impractical ideals, I can still appreciate the points that the author was trying to make. His essays are more about the mentality and philosophy of a martial artist than the practical approach to training in a martial art. He stresses the importance of keeping an open mind, of avoiding the need to use your training and of understanding peoples' places within different cultures and environments. In addition, he does discuss fighting aspects like the importance of focus, distance, receiving an attack and sensing your opponent's intentions.

Overall, the book is quite well-rounded in the way it addresses the central theme. Even when things are repeated (such as the introductions of Mr. Lowry's old Buddhist monk judo instructor), they do not feel stale and are used to make different points. The writing is simultaneously serious and lighthearted, in that it covers deadly-serious topics, but the author often writes about them with a sense of humor.

Personally, I enjoyed the book and feel that I benefitted from its content. If you are a martial artist - particularly one who studies a Japanese or Okinawan art - I think that this book is one that should be in your possession. It's something you can go back to for inspiration, and it's something you can quote from when teaching or loan to your students when they need some sort of insight into the way they should be training. Even if you do not train in the arts that this book is centered around, I think the concepts can still apply quite well to just about any martial art. In fact, the author includes some comments on the differences between Asian arts and Western arts. This is definitely a good addition to any martial artist's collection!

Buy the book: Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk (KarateForums.com receives a small commission on any sales generated through these links).
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Patrick
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Joined: 01 May 2001
Posts: 27029
Location: Kitty Hawk, North Carolina

PostPosted: Thu Dec 18, 2014 3:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for the submission, Noah.

Patrick
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Lupin1
KF Sempai
KF Sempai

Joined: 15 Dec 2009
Posts: 1603
Location: NH USA
Styles: Isshinryu

PostPosted: Thu Dec 18, 2014 4:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sounds very interesting! Thank you for the review!
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bushido_man96
KF Sensei
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Joined: 31 Mar 2006
Posts: 27735
Location: Hays, KS
Styles: Taekwondo, Combat Hapkido, Aikido, GRACIE

PostPosted: Thu Dec 18, 2014 5:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank for the review. It sounds like a very interesting book. I enjoy reading anecdotal things, and to hear about the experiences of others in their training. Definitely worth looking into.
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Wastelander
KF Sensei
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Joined: 18 Oct 2010
Posts: 2421
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Styles: Shorin-Ryu, Shuri-Ryu, Judo, KishimotoDi

PostPosted: Fri Dec 19, 2014 1:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks, everyone!
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sensei8
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Joined: 23 Feb 2008
Posts: 14370
Location: Houston, TX
Styles: Shindokan Saitou-ryu [Shuri-te/Okinawa-te based]

PostPosted: Sun Dec 21, 2014 8:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

A very solid book review, Noah...I throughly enjoyed reading it! Mr. Lowry isn't a stranger to martial artists, no matter the style practiced; he lives the Way unlike any other MAist around today, imho!!

I have this book, and imho, it speaks towards ones personal and professional betterment!!

What inaccuracies did you find??



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