Saturday, 23 February 2013

Recent Publications

In the interest of those readers of this blog whose first language is not English, I have been a little remiss in not publicizing the two translated versions of my book, The Samurai Mind.

There are, in fact, two other versions:


I do have a couple of the Italian ones, which I would be happy to send to anyone who drops me a line (first come, first served), but unfortunately, none of the Spanish edition.

If you are a Spanish or Italian reader, please pick up a copy and see what you have been missing. 

While we are talking of publications, be sure to check out the latest version of Kendo World (available in Kindle edition, too). This is, as the name suggests, primarily of interest to Kendo enthusiasts, but it is well-written and professionally produced and well worth a look for anyone with an interest in  such things.

The latest edition has Miyamoto Musashi as its focus, and it includes one of my articles: Confucian Voices in Swordsmanship II: Kenjutsu no Fushikihen

As the title suggests, it examines the relationship between Conficianism and swordsmanship in the work ‘Kenjutsu no Fushikihen’. This is a little studied work even in Japanese, but it’s inclusion in one of the major collections of original documents on martial arts at the beginning of the twentieth century suggests that it deserves to be examined more closely. 

Western readers have had very little exposure to it (if they haven’t read The Samurai Mind, that is), although a few quotes pop up here and there, from DT Suzuki’s Zen and Japanese Culture, where he casts it in a decidedly Zen light, also doubting that the writer can have achieved much in the way of enlightenment. In actual fact, it is a work steeped in Neo-Confucianism, although the references to Zen might confuse a casual reader. The title, however, is a pointed reference to Zen – or could be taken as such. Fushiki is the Japanese translation of the answer Bodhidharma is said to have given to the Emperor Wu when asked who he was, “I do not know.”  The O Yomei (Wang Yangming) branch of Neo-Confucianism was familiar with Zen, and the founder was strongly critical of it. Nevertheless, they often used references to Zen in their teachings, so this doesn't seem at all unusual. (I know I am always criticizing Suzuki, and he does deserve it, but it must be said in his defense that he wrote extensively (if partially) on subjects that had received very little serious treatment in English before then.)

I wrote a little more about Confucianism previously, (The Confucian Swordsman I & II) and of course, the complete text of Kenjutsu no Fushikihen is included in The Samurai Mind.

Although it is a little obscure in places, it is a fascinating explanation of how to teach an art that relies on spontaneity to be effective. It is, in effect, the criticism of a jazz musician for classical training as a way to prepare someone for a jam session. As someone whose own music training (not to a very high degree, I must admit, but I did play the trumpet from the age of eight until starting university) left him very poorly prepared to jam, I appreciate it.

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