This is an excellent resource for the beginner who is interested in taking their Martial Arts training beyond the physical realm and into the philosophical. The focus of this book is from, as the title suggests, the practice of Zen from the Samurai approach – the path of Bushido.
In Part I, Robert Shaw gives a very quick overview of the progenitor of Buddhism, Siddharta Guatama, traces the lineage of the Zen patriarchs through the ages, and gives a quick review of Bushido before carrying on to the second part of the book – Refinement of the senses. Here is speaks to the different aspects of Zen practice, and how different states of mind are trained.
The book is comprised of five parts, each amplifying the previously discussed topics, and ends with refinement of Ki (Chi in Mandarin), etc. Samurai Zen isn’t an in-depth review, but it does provide an overview of the practice of Zen through lessons in Bushido and Iaido. These beginner friendly overviews of concepts and introductory exercises are presented in short snippets within a chapter, allowing for each of the concepts to be taken as they are presented instead of having to ferret these concepts out of large chapters.
The only issue that I had with this book was of a superficial note – the photographs of the author. The photographs of the author practicing with the sword (a major topic presented in the book) were too ‘angry’. Even when the author was bowing with the sword laying in front of him, his furrowed brow seemed uncharacteristic of the concepts that were bein
g discussed. His assistant was more photogenic, and seemed to convey the sense of balance and understanding that seemed to be lost in the photographic representation of the author.
I did thoroughly enjoy this book, and would recommend it as a resource for all Martial Artists who wish to begin their journey’s beyond the simple physio-mechanical. The history and background is a great starting point for anyone wishing to take their training and practice to other levels, and it even serves as a great reminder of the basics for when you need it.
Score: 3.5 out of 4