Zen in the Martial Arts, by Joe Hyams

My version: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/zen-in-the-martial-arts-joe-hyams/1100271861?ean=9780553275599

I admit to watching too many wushu/kung fu/martial arts flicks over the years, good and bad alike. So when I grew curious about martial arts and bought several books, this one found its way on my shelf. Sadly, it got mixed in with the hundreds of other to-be-read books for about 10 years until I re-organized and I found it again. Turns out a friend of mine was thumbing through it and put it in the wrong spot–oops.

So, when I finally committed to read it earlier this week, I couldn’t put it down. I even made sure to pause and read slowly (though at 130 pages with plenty of photos and block quotes, it’s not hard to do in one day). Still, this is a book to absorb, not just rush through.

But I savored it because I realized that despite more than two-dozen books on my shelves regarding philosophy, religion, health, and the martial arts (not practicing myself, but I hope to save up money for lessons), I have a very wise little book here. It’s not difficult to read, mostly in plain English, and it will no doubt be read often for the the insights and wisdom within.

Mr. Hyams worked on this book for over a decade because, as he put it, “there was always another master to study with or another discipline to learn before I felt I was prepared.” He went around the world over decades meeting new masters, and even memories of his chats with and learned lessons from Bruce Lee, who taught him in his driveway (my inner fangirl loves to picture it).

So who is this book meant for? I’m not a zen master or a martial artist myself (though I wouldn’t mind working toward both those paths), nor are many others. So why read this book, this thin volume at all? I’ll let Mr. Hyams explain:

This is not a book, however, for the reader who wishes to master Zen, for the concepts central to that tradition are certainly not acquired from the written word…. The reader interested only in learning about the physical aspects of the martial arts can adventure alone in the literature without my guidance. Instead, this is a book from which readers may learn to apply the principles of Zen, as reflected in the martial arts, to their lives and thus open up a potential source of inner strength they may never have dreamt they possessed. (pg 11)

For anybody wanting to understand zen, the martial arts, both, and applying the practices to everyday life, then I have to say–go for it! I will be wearing this one out–shame it took me so long to finally pick it up and really read it!

And of course, now I have the itching desire to re-watch the remastered version of “Enter the Dragon.” In fact, some of the quotes and lessons have cropped up in wushu films over the years.


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