My Copy: 9780897501040
My love of too many wushu flicks comes to light because I found myself with a book trying to learn proper swordplay from the Japanese side. Granted “play” is the wrong part of that word to start with. A sword, even a wooden one, can be a deadly weapon–and it’s right to treat it as such.
Bokken: Art of the Japanese Sword doesn’t take too long to read if you’re going start to finish. It’s mostly comprised of a few pages of information and text, then several pages of photos depicting proper and improper stances. The book’s layout is simple, which also means reviewing the photos and concepts won’t be too difficult when you get into it.
As someone who would love to learn more about the martial arts, I found it excellent in depicting the more realistic look of the fighting samurai culture. The pages contain stills of the moves, stances, proper weapon-holding technique, etc. Unless one’s seen a real fight between two combatants, (and not just movies) one might be shocked at how quick the duel really would be (especially with our over-choreographed and CGI-laden fighting in American films, but I digress).
Bokken is a fascinating training and fighting method, using a wooden sword with a thick blade, one that I can understand the use for over the centuries. Still, if you’re foolishly optimistic (like I was) and think you can learn from reading a book how to fight and use the Bokken properly…yeah, this book won’t help that much. It’s great to show basic stances, weapon holding techniques, and lets you practice what you see, but I wouldn’t consider it a good substitute for a class.
Bokken: Art of the Japanese Sword is great as a basic introduction to the training art, and the pictures illustrate what one would commonly see and practice to gain strength or advantage over a combatant. But one unfamiliar with the martial arts would have difficulty working with it (and probably should). One who is not accustomed to proper posture and exercise? Fat chance.
But once good habits and a fundamental knowledge of martial arts is attained, it would be worth pursuing proper bokken training. If anything, this book is a good starting point, and Mr. Lowry gives some pointers on avoiding bad training practices or “teachers” that got their “expertise” by watching too many movies and lazy practice habits.
I’m pretty sure we’ve all bumped into one at one point or another, right?
I’d recommend this book for anyone interested in the martial arts and Japanese culture in particular. And I can’t wait to get my own Bokken out of the cobweb tent, wipe it down, and get to work again.
P.S.–For those who want to do bokken training, there are good resources online to help you get a good bokken. Beware the wood-veneer ones on eBay that are like $10 each–might be fun for casual cosplay or something, but once the bokken gets nicked up, you’re supposed to replace it, from what I remember. Otherwise, that’s a lot of wood splinters to cut yourself up on!