Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Essence of Budo: A book that didn't suck

People send me books all of the time for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes the author is a friend and is just keeping in touch, kind of a "Here's what I've been up to lately."

What I've been up to lately is writing five papers. One was on moving from Windows to high-performance computing, a second is on data visualization, and the other three are part of a series on design choices in programming. Actually, I did send those to some friends to read them. Obviously, none of you people reading this were those friends!

Sometimes people think I will be interested in reading the book. I now have several copies of The Art of War - in paperback, hardback and on my Kindle. Sometimes they are hoping to "improve me". These books range from religious tracts to books on the 'true meaning' of martial arts.  Hey y'all - I have a religion and a Bible. If fifty-two years of the Catholic church hasn't improved me, your book doesn't have a chance!

Sometimes the publishers are hoping I will write about the book. Most of these books suck so I never mention them. Not very friendly if someone sends you something for free and you trash it. That's like going to someone's house for a nice dinner of sushi and complaining that they fed you bait. Some people (including me) like sushi. If it's not for you, just politely shut the hell up.

I did receive an interesting book a while back called The Essence of Budo by Dave Lowry(who, coincidentally, has also written an, unrelated, I think, book about sushi). It's neither a book on how to be a die-hard competitor nor is it one of those new age-y books on finding your bliss through martial arts. If I ever decide to find my bliss, I'll look under the bed, where I find most things I'm missing.

The book was - interesting, really is the best word. For example, he talks about being a young teenager and matched up, for once, with a player who was smaller and limping. Do you take it easy? Do you slam him and show off (always the temptation for teenage boys)?

He has an interesting take on kohaku tournaments. As he sees it, the emphasis on the process - who won most instead of who won at the end - is a benefit of these tournaments. True. I think his comments overall though are more relevant to the way these tournaments used to be than to now when, with fewer players, there are a whole lot of mismatches with players fighting someone much older, bigger and more experienced, probably why this type of tournament is out of fashion.

The best part of the book is the last few chapters. The chapter on choosing a sensei is the best.
"I do not want a daddy. I have had one. I do not need someone to love me ...I do not want a sensei who is a budo teacher only because he isn't qualified - in terms of his formal education, his skills or his ambition - to be anything else."

This isn't the book I would pick to learn about judo - Steve Scott, Hayward Nishioka, Hal Sharp and Ron Angus are my favorite authors for coaching and technical information. ( Speaking of which, Hayward has a new judo book coming out soon. It would be a good Christmas present for anyone you know in judo who is hard to buy stuff for.)

If, like me, you are always looking for something new to read, and you are interested in martial arts in general, this book is an interesting way to pass an evening, and more intellectually stimulating than watching The Simpsons. (Yes, Dennis, I added that last clause just for you. Imagine me frowning disapprovingly. There! )

DISCLAIMER: I have nothing to disclaim. As much shit as I talk about everyone here you'd have to be out of your mind to pay me to write about you. Being mentioned by me probably brings your sales down. (Sorry about that, Hayward.)


Anonymous said...

Hi, I'm fond also of "cultural" aspects of judo. For example I'm learning that judokas should breathe with abdominal region and not chest like westeners..have you learned and do you teach this?
When exhaling should I pull in my abdomen like being thiner r should I do a different move? Thanks.

Dr. AnnMaria said...

Nope, I just sort of breathe in and out without giving it much thought.

When relaxing before competition, we were taught to focus on our breathing, try to breathe slowly. The benefit of that, I think, is simply that if you are focusing on your breathing you can't be simultaneously stressing out about the upcoming match.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I admire you and your daughter as athletes.
Which other sports are more related to judo?
Athletically your daughter can run 100 m in how many seconds? how much can she jump high? How many chin ups can do?
Thank you for informations, just to admire more you as judokas.

Dr. AnnMaria said...

She can do a lot of chin-ups. I would guess 20 -25 but I'll have to ask her.

She is a pretty good sprinter but she hates running distance.

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