Summary: Martial Philosophy at It's Finest
Comment: A true master, the zen monk Deshimaru in approximately 100 pages is capable elaborating on the differences between the practice of martial sport and martial art. That these ideas can take a full lifetime to explore make this a classical book on the subject.
A truly masterful achievement, as this book has synthesized for me what has taken great lengths to learn from multiple sources and has also introduced many abstract concepts into terms that a non-Zen practicing Budoka can understand. Unlike many other books approaching this subject, you need not become a "Japanophile" or create a super-ego to relate.
This book is naturally compatible with genuine materials on the martial mindset from Tukuan Soho, Miyamoto Musashi and Morihei Ueshiba, true masters who also wrote short but deeply meaningful books on the subject of martial practice. So this book becomes an organic extension of these other masterpieces: The book of 5 rings (Musashi Miyamoto), The Unfettered Mind (Tukuan Soho) and The Art of Peace (Ueshiba). All highly recommended.
The martial mindset has nothing to do with sports-minded competition. Modern "martial arts" are most of the time a form of sanctioned violence taught to self-appointed vigilante's. When such idiots confront a situation where emotional breakdowns occur due to overwhelming odds or unfamiliar setups, the results are enlightenment the hard way!
The distinction evident from this book is the understanding that when the practice of martial art encompasses a realistic acceptance of life or death with a conditioned acceptance of death through the practice of zen, true courage becomes possible.
Other concepts elaborated are the elusive subject of ki and the practical method of practicing zen as it relates to breathing. In this respect, the master Deshimaru ties the tradition of zen to the Buddhist and Hindu practice of Vipassana meditation as it relates to enlightenment. However, whereas the typical descriptions focus on the metaphysical, this book spares you the mystical nonesense and through a simple experiment of following clear directions, the concepts become very real for the reader.
This book is an excellent accompanying text to any internal martial arts practice as it does not condone a passive acceptance of ideas or practices, but rather encourages the reader to ascend to a higher calling through worthy reflection, genuine rigorous practice and acceptance of inherent truths about the nature of leadership, combat, life, death and worldliness. The material has great reverance for tradition in terms of principle, not ritual. A must have for the modern budoka seeking a mature approach to Martial Arts.
Summary: Some good insights not obvious to martial arts beginners
Comment: Deshimaru Roshi (Master Deshimaru) teaches a few lessons on Zen, and its connection to the tradition of martial arts in Japan. He explains that without cultivating the spirit, any martial arts is just a sport which could eventually deplete the body of energy. Instead, the samurai in medieval Japan were taught martial skill and civil education (caligraphy, history, music, etc.). Unfortunately, he says, the real spirit is going away even in Japan, let alone in the West. He shares some nice stories - he has a preference for cats, it seems :). Cultivating the mind through zazen practice is at least as important as practicing a martial art!
These being said, these book is not a practical manual - they are questions and answers from a public event in 1975 - probably Taisen Deshimaru has written better suited for that pupose. However, the martial arts beginners could use it to understand what every martial art grand master says: it's not at all about fighting!
Summary: Essential reading if you aspire true Bushido
Comment: Marial arts have for the most part sunk into mere sport. True, traditional martial arts training strengthens Ki, destroys egoism and fear, moves the student beyond dualism, and develops a consciousness that has forgotten the self. This slim book is a jewel for those willing to start this arduous life long journey.
Summary: Somewhat Good
Comment: I felt this book was pretty good. It is easy to read with its conversational tone. There was no new information that I found in the book. I think if someone has been involved in traditional martial arts for an extended period of time this book will not offer much new information. For people who have recently entered into martial arts I believe there is some useful insights.
Comment: If you want to grasp the true essence of Zen and martial arts (traditional martial arts where the emphasis is on life and death and not the juvenile sport that it has become), then this book is an excellent start.