The Overlook Martial Arts Reader - Classic Writings On Philosophy And Technique

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Author: Edited by Randy F. Nelson
Pub: 1989 by The Overlook Press
Pages: 342
Ranking:Four star Rating
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This book is what the title says, and contains such things as a chapter by E.J. Harrison entitled 'The Cult of Cold Steel', a chapter by Lafcadio Hearn on 'Jiujutsu', and Jigoro Kano's 'The Contribution of Jiudo to Education'. This book would be well placed in any martial artist's library, as it also contains information on Karate, Aikido, Tai Chi, etc. Well worth picking up and adding to your library. Highly recommended.


 Preface                                                       vii 
 Acknowledgements                                             xiii 

				PART I 
 CULTURE AND CONFLICT: THE HISTORIES                             1
 Bruce A. Haines       China                                     3 
 Kurt Singer           The Samurai: Legend and Reality          15 
 Noel Perrin           from Giving Up the Gun                   29 
 Francis L. Hawks      from Narrative of the Expedition 
                       of an American Squadron 
                       to the China Seas and Japan              37 
 EJ. Harrison          The Cult of Cold Steel                   43 
 Lafcadio Hearn        Jiujutsu                                 55 
 John Stevens          The Founder: Ueshiba Morihei             61 

				PART II 

 MASTERS AND STUDENT8: THE PHILOSOPHY                           77

 Herman Kauz           The Aim of Individual Form Practice      79 
 Carl B. Becker        Philosophical Perspectives on the 
                       Martial Arts in America                  97 
 T.T. Liang            My Experience                           111 
 Terry Dobson          A Soft: Answer                          113 
 Gichin Funakoshi      Win by Losing                           117 
 C.W. Nicol            from Moving Zen                         123 
 Eugen Herrigel        from Zen in the Art of Archery          131
 Don Ethan Miller      A State of Grace:
                       Understanding the Martial Arts          143 
 Carol R. Murphy       The Sound of Silence:
                       Moving T'ai Chi                         155 


 TRAINING AND DISCIPLINE: THE WAY                              171 
 George Leonard        Aikido and the Mind of the West         173 
 Ira S. Lerner         Yamamoto                                183 
 Jigoro Kano           The Contribution of Jiudo to Education  199 
 C.W. Nicol            from Moving Zen                         211 
 Gichin Funakoshi      Entering the Way                        221 
 Maxine Hong Kingston  from The Woman Warrior                  235 
 Linda Atkinson        Pattie Dacanay                          253 
 Miyamoto Musashi      The Water Book                          263 
 Peter Urban           The Three Sons                          277 
 Michel Random         The Way of the Bow and the Horse        281 
 Dave Lowry            Matters of Concentration                289 

				PART IV 

 OTHER ASPECTS                                                 299 
 Donald N. Levine      The Liberal Arts and the Martial Arts   301 
 E J. Harrison         Strangulation Extraordinary             321 
 Inazo Nitobe          The Training and Position of Woman      327 
 Bibliography                                                  335 
 Permissions                                                   341



The martial arts of East Asia have a history and philosophy curiously dissociated from the art of war. Indeed they have no exact counterparts in the West at all. The very phrase martial art seems to us a contradiction in terms. That one might achieve virtue, and not only virtue but also enlightenment, while studying violent techniques of personal combat seems at best a mockery of religious and ethical principles. With what justification have both ancient and modem martial artists spoken of peace, harmony, and reconciliation as representing the very highest levels of their arts?

To answer such a question one would, ideally, be familiar with some fourteen hundred years of Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and Okinawan history while having at the same time a specialist's understanding of Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism. Added to this should be an awareness of the folklore of East Asia and an appreciation for changing military tactics over a millennium and more. Even then Westerners would be further handicapped by a scarcity of accurate information on the martial arts themselves and a superfluity of what Gichin Funakoshi called "nonsense" about the aims and methods of the martial arts. For more than a hundred years after the opening of Japan in 1854 there was not even in English a reliable bibliography on this subject.

Nevertheless, there has been, especially in the last century, a gradual accumulation of authoritative writing on the martial arts, enough to refute many of the popular stereotypes and to address some of the more substantive questions having to do with the history and philosophy of the martial arts. It is toward this end that The Overlook Martial Arts Reader is offered. It is a book presenting some of the authoritative texts from the disparate martial arts, rather than an artificially "unified" story. Readers are thus encouraged to compare the views of some of the great masters and to test the claim of this preface that there is a recognizable philosophy, if not a common history, linking discipline to discipline.

A caution. By and large the literary tradition of the martial arts is a modern one (an exception being the T'ai Chi Ch'uan Ching attributed to the Taoist Monk Chang San-feng [1279-1386]). Although most of the arts discussed in this text have their origins in ancient unarmed fighting systems, the evolution into martial art is in fact comparatively recent. Even judo, that quintessentially Japanese martial art, was not codified as jiudo until 1882 when Jigoro Kano founded the Kodokan; and Professor Kano himself was touring the United States with speeches and demonstrations as late as the 1930's. It is also daunting to realize that the art eventually known in the West as karate-do remained largely unknown in Japan itself before 1917. And the founder of the art of aikido, Master Morihei Uyeshiba, did not die until 1969.

Although an anthology by definition suggests multiple points of view and a certain latitude in subject matter, this present volume does in one sense present a unified story: it is the story of a journey. There is, on one hand, the journey of the semimythical Bodhidharma from India to the Shaolin monastery in south China, arguably in the third decade of the sixth century A.D. (see Haines). It is more by tradition than established fact that the Shaolin monks are regarded as the first martial artists in East Asia. Indeed, the influence of Bodhidharma seems to have represented more of a renaissance than a naissance. Still, it is probably true that another, more vaguely defined "journey" began at this monastery, namely the gradual spread of certain stylized fighting techniques in a northeasterly direction into Okinawa, Korea, and Japan.

The original eighteen "hands" of Bodhidharma's Lo-Han system (initially a system of physical exercises rather than a fighting art) evolved into many more techniques, and the Lo-Han was adapted in many different ways to suit local terrain, weather, folkways, weapons, and even body types. By A.D. 750 there had arisen in China perhaps half a dozen distinguishable "arts." What is surprising, though, is the rise since that time of a fairly coherent philosophy unifying martial artists of different disciplines over great distances and many eras. So while it does make sense to talk about a physical and even cultural "distance" from the Shaolin monastery of the sixth century, it also makes sense to acknowledge a kind of unity of purpose among serious martial artists of different times and places. Basically this philosophy, perhaps better denominated an attitude, is influenced by and yoked to the three great religions of East Asia: Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism. With Taoism the martial arts share a concern with the "way," an intuitive, often mystical process of learning and living. From Confucianism comes an emphasis on hierarchy, respect for seniors, duty, and loyalty. In Buddhism, and in many of the martial arts, is the concern with fight perception, meditation, and enlightenment. These traits are of course not unique to the religions just named nor to any one of the martial arts in particular, but precisely because there has always been a certain degree of "mixing" and a simultaneous evolution in both the religions and the martial arts it makes some sense to talk about common ground in all of these systems.

To be sure, the idea of a "journey" of the martial arts is only convenient shorthand for describing an evolution, and one should be careful in making statements about the history of the martial arts. Complications inevitably arise. There are, for instance, tomb paintings from Koguryo (an ancient kingdom of Korea) in recognizable tae kwon do postures dating from before A.D. 427, a century prior to the advent of Bodhidharma or the influence of Buddhism. The metaphor of the Journey can also be immeasurably complicated by geography (China alone is large enough to justify a martial history of several volumes), by politics (the degree to which Korea and Okinawa were dominated by Japan at various times directly influenced which arts were practiced in the subject countries), and by social station (bladed weapons were sometimes forbidden to conquered peoples and commoners). Also, practicing one style of ch'uan fa in China, as opposed to some other, meant usually that one was born in such and such a geographical region ("northern" versus "southern" systems are still distinguishable today). In Japan, on the other hand, selecting one particular martial art or even one particular school (ryu) was, and often still is, to make a deliberate and self-conscious choice of a "philosophy." There are, in addition, some important national differences relating to the various martial arts In Japan the "rules" of martial behavior were codified and idealized to a degree not done in the other countries of the region. In China the great size of the country contributed to a multiplicity of schools: the present government recognizes some 382 named systems of wushu, or military art. In Korea the various kwons (schools) were eventually unified in the name of nationalism into one art (tae kwon do) which put an emphasis on tenacious fighting for a right cause against overwhelming odds, a holdover perhaps from years of domination by japan.

Nevertheless, all of these differences are more differences of degree than of kind. More instructive than differences, I believe, are what the martial arts have held in common for more than a thousand years: the overwhelming emphasis on the development of moral character (see Levine), the defensive rather than offensive nature of the arts (see Funakoshi), the respect for order and harmony (see Lerner), the reverence for the teacher (see Funakoshi again), and, above all, the notion of transcendence-- that the right practice of certain forms, postures, breathing techniques and the mastery of certain attitudes allows one to put off the temporal and enter a profound meditative state (see Leonard and Herrigel).

As Dave Lowry points out in his Autumn Lightning, studying the martial arts is not something one "adapts" to his life, but rather one adapts the life to the art. It means changing one's values, attitudes, and behavior. It does not mean taking up a hobby. One does not "do" kendo or aikido, for instance, with the same expectations that one "does" tennis. And it is partly through this realization that one puts his life in tune with countless masters and students who have come before him.

In compiling this anthology I have consciously sought out works representing a wide variety of martial arts, written by masters and students from many backgrounds and times. Nevertheless, I have not attempted to make the contents representative of all martial arts; nor have I tried to present any sort of geographical, political, racial, or sexual balance on grounds that the best writing does not reflect such organization. So while the present volume does not pretend to set forth a complete history or an absolutely unified philosophy, it does set forth examples from which can be inferred certain right principles. In this book are authors who are themselves founders and originators of particular schools and arts (Kano, Miyamoto, Funakoshi), authors in a direct line of descent from grandmaster to student (Liang), and Western scholars who are first-hand observers and students themselves of the traditional arts (Herrigel, Nicol, Miller, Leonard, Levine, Harrison). In short, The Overlook Martial Arts Reader presents as a sort of "primary text" the most authoritative writings on the martial arts ever assembled in English.

In organizing the material I have made Part I of this reader a historical section, serving, I hope, as a kind of introduction to the rest of the book. Part II contains philosophical writings having to do primarily with the intimate relationship among teacher, student, and goal. In Part III I have arranged works having to do with training and discipline, hoping to suggest that physical doing cannot he separated from "abstract" philosophy. Part IV is entitled "Other Aspects" and treats subjects as diverse as the education of samurai women and the connection between the liberal arts and the martial arts. Part V is a bibliography, abridged from my own The Martial Arts: An Annotated Bibliography (New York: Garland, 1988), the most comprehensive bibliography available in English. Certainly I do not want to suggest discrete divisions by organizing this present volume as I have; indeed there is a great overlap of theme among all these categories, and I would be more pleased than not to have a reader suggest that an article from the "Training and Discipline" section belongs more properly in "The Philosophy." There is, I believe, a point after which training and discipline are philosophy, and vice versa. It is the hidden message of this book.

Randy E Nelson
Davidson 1988


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