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Secrets of the Samurai: A Survey of the Martial Arts of Feudal Japan
List Price: $9.99
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Manufacturer: Book Sales
Average Customer Rating: Average rating of 4.5/5Average rating of 4.5/5Average rating of 4.5/5Average rating of 4.5/5Average rating of 4.5/5

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Binding: Hardcover
Dewey Decimal Number: 355.10952
EAN: 9780785810735
ISBN: 0785810730
Label: Book Sales
Manufacturer: Book Sales
Number Of Items: 1
Number Of Pages: 483
Publication Date: 1999-05
Publisher: Book Sales
Studio: Book Sales

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Editorial Reviews:

In plentiful detail from a huge range of historical sources, Secrets of the Samurai plots the development, principles and effects of the samurai culture of feudal Japan. Authors Oscar Ratti and Adele Westbrook have furnished details on the weapons, techniques, strategies and principles of the samurai’s martial art, rescuing this vanishing lore for modern readers who may wish to incorporate it into their own martial arts training. Yet this best-selling book is predominantly a panoramic survey of the tumultuous early struggles of warlords contending for political ascendancy, shiftless samurai who terrorized the countryside, and those formidable warriors who protected the goods, well-being and values of their neighbors.

A definitive study, Secrets of the Samurai will fascinate anyone interested in this ancient tradition.

Spotlight customer reviews:

Customer Rating: Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5
Summary: A Note to the Ignorant
Comment: This book is a work of genuine scholarship. An assertion has been made that there is no such
thing as tessenjutsu, as though the authors made the art of the iron fan up for some unfathomable reason.
This statement is either an outright lie or a reflection of the critic's own ignorance. Search for the terms
tessenjutsu or tessen online and you will find a satisfactory amount of information on this technique. I have
patronized a source in the U.S. that sells top of the line Japanese weaponry, including tessen. Know of what you speak before you write, gang.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5
Summary: A great addition to any library
Comment: Having read Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere by Oscar Ratti and Adele Westbrook, I looked forward to reading this book and adding it to my library. While Aikido was the newer of the two books, it was my first exposure to these authors. I had grown fond of their academic, though dry at times, writing style as well as their tendency to research their topic in great detail. I was hoping this book would live up to that standard, and I was not let down. In Secrets of the Samurai Ratti and Westbrook explore in great depth the historical roots and many practices of the samurai culture of feudal Japan. To lend some context or background for the focus of this book they include an introduction that contains a brief time line of the era, as well as some meaning to the words bujutsu (the group of methods employed by the military). The book then quickly moves into the structure of the Japanese military itself.

The authors go into great detail on the ranking system of the military, as well as it's relation to the government of the period. However it is not a book strictly about the rise of the samurai. Instead, the authors include a vast amount of detail about many topics surrounding the warrior class. Details such as the clothing that would be common for each rank or class, the armor the samurai would have adorned and the weapons they had employed. They do not limit their exploration to just the samurai themselves, choosing to also cover more obscure topics of the samurai culture, topics such as subcultures that existed within and around the samurai: ninja, Buddhist monks, and the women of the samurai for example. The use of simple sketches and drawings help to fill in the picture and are a nice inclusion.

While they choose to cover many topics, there should be no concern that the material is watered down. Instead, the main focus of the book is given great depth. The authors go into exhaustive detail about the many military tactics the samurai had used. Exploring fighting techniques does not limit itself to weaponry and armed combat. Instead a hearty portion of the book is devoted to many styles of martial arts. Great detail is given in techniques of unarmed combat, as well as the history of many styles and schools that the samurai would have been exposed to. Certainly they give an in depth look into the religious beliefs and spirituality of the samurai, as well as any influence Zen Buddhism may have had on these warriors. Having studied martial arts and eastern philosophy a bit myself I truly appreciated the coverage afforded the martial arts, and spirituality.

Westbrook and Ratti have clearly put a great deal of research into this comprehensive and indispensable text. Some have claimed that their sources lack any ancient Japanese texts, and while most of their sources are English, they do cull information from various Japanese sources. Surely this is not the end all of information regarding the samurai, but it is certainly a good place to start. While it may be a bit dry in reading due to its extremely academic nature, it comes as no surprise and the book never claims to be a page turner. It is however a wonderful asset to anyone interested in martial arts, feudal Japan, and the rise of the militant ethos of the samurai, and may allow at least a fair amount of insight into an old and very foreign culture. This book makes a great addition to a martial artist's library, and is a great value.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 1/5Average rating of 1/5Average rating of 1/5Average rating of 1/5Average rating of 1/5
Summary: An Unreliable Book Containing Fantasy Material
Comment: I am writing this review, because people are erroneously using this book as a source for research into pre-modern Japan. It should not be used for this purpose. It belongs to a genre which I call "gosh golly" books. I will proceed to comments relating to previous reviews.

1. The illustrations are modern and appear to have been drawn by a western artist. What it does not contain is reproductions of premodern woodblock prints, paintings, &c.; or photographs of actual artifacts.

2. While it has a large bibliography, the works are pretty much exclusively in English and appear to be popular rather than scholarly publications.

3. This book contains descriptions of Japanese "martial arts" such as "tessenjutsu" which do not appear in reliable Japanese literature.

4. This book contains descriptions of highly improbable "martial arts" such as the supposed ability for a seated practitioner to kill an armed opponent by shouting at him.

5. The historical descriptions in the book betray a woeful ignorance. For example, chapter 1 includes a claim that Buddhism is "monotheistic". This makes me wonder how the authors managed to use the correct Japanese words for the military class and the court nobility. Saddly, the scattering of accurate information in this book makes it even less desireable as it lends credance to the book's fantasy elements.

6. One commentor recommended the books by Stephen Turnbull. If you are interested in more scholarly treatments of Japan's medieval period, I recommend consulting books by Marius B. Jansen, Paul Varley, John Witney Hall, William Wayne Farris, and Jeffrey P. Mass. Heavenly Warriors by Farris specifically deals with the origin of the buke class going beyond earlier work by Mass.

7. If what you are looking for is battle paintings, pictures of military artifacts, &c.; then you should cosider ordering books from the Mook Series published by Gakken. These can be ordered online from amazon.co.jp. A representative title in this series can be found by entering the following ISBN number into their search engine: 4056042489.

In short. If you are seriously interested in Japan, please buy better books.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5
Summary: good refrence book
Comment: This book is not a book you site down and read, although you can if you want to. It is great if thers a spicific thing you want to look up, there are sections on swordmanship, archery, unarmed combat, wrestling, ninjutsu, spearmanship and more. each catagory has a sort of "hystory of" section befor the author talks about the techneecks and aplications of the weapon. also there are many diagrams showing some of the manovers used by the samuari. if you like the martial arts than theres a good chance that you will love this book.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5
Summary: A classic text!
Comment: For anyone interested in learning about Japanese martial culture, you will not likely find a more thorough text. You will gain an understanding of Medieval Japanese warfare, the various classes of warrior employed, and how the purely combat-oriented warrior-arts of Bujutsu became the more spiritually-centered Budo arts. There is a wealth of historical relevance to all of this, and it can be summarized as a result of the eventual unification and pacification of the various warring factions that made Japan such a dangerous place to be for hundreds of years. Although largely isolated from other nations, the Japanese developed advanced weapons, armor, tactics, and training entirely on their own. Much of the early history involves complex intrigues by competing feudal factions to control regions, gain power, and undermine rivals. This is very much the state of affairs in most world military histories, but Japan was unique in that most of the action was confined to their home islands, with actions almost exclusively against fellow Japanese. Japanese forces did initiate almost-successful invasions of Korea, and Japan itself was invaded quite un-successfully by Mongols in 1274 and 1281.
Much of the text centers on the Samurai class, but there is also much about the common soldiers who filled the ranks, performing their particular tasks based on the weapons employed. Monasteries went to war as well. Monks were formidable opponents...or valuable allies! There is a chapter on how the Ninja were employed, as Medieval special-operations and espionage agents. They were centuries ahead of their time in regard to many of the skills and techniques they utilized, some of which were only recently employed by modern special units in the 20th century.
The text is illustrated throughout by quaint pen & ink drawings from the authors.
If you are fascinated by Japanese military history, the most prolific author is Stephen Turnbull, undoubtedly the greatest western expert in this topic. He has written a large number of outstanding books on the Samurai, and other facets of warfare in their time and place. If you want to focus entirely on the Ninja, the modern practitioners of Ninjutsu, Grandmaster Masaki Hatsumi and American instructor Stephen Hayes are the best sources to read.

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