Summary: A Classic
Comment: I love this book! I don't know how many times I've re-read my copy but I find new ideas every time I do. Here is tradition and the real spirit of the martial arts. No matter what martial art you practice, GET THIS BOOK!
Summary: A great read for any martial artist
Comment: If you study martial arts to become mentally strong and approach that "zen" state, this is the book for you. The chapters are like short lessons; each can be read independently and out of sequence. David Lowry does a great job emphasising martial arts is not about being better than everyone in your dojo or becoming an ultimate fighter, there is an art and a "way" to be gained by studying martial arts.
Summary: Colorful collection of essays
Comment: Written by a Westerner with a Japanese mind. I have followed Dave Lowry's column, The Karate Way in Black Belt magazine for years. Some issues I purchased just for his work. This delightful book is a collection of his best stuff. It is an insightful look at Zen, the martial ways, the mindset necessary to truly master a Japanese art, and the implications thereof in Western society. He is clear, articulate, and never preachy. I liked it a lot.
Author of Surviving Armed Assaults, The Way of Kata, and Martial Arts Instruction
Summary: Useful collection of essays
Comment: This books brings together a number of Lowry's columns over the years on Zen and the martial arts, and you can learn a lot that is worthwhile about Zen and how a Zen master would apply these principles in everyday life from reading this book. There is no doubt in my mind that many martial artists and westerners in general could benefit from adopting certain Zen principles in their lives, especially in regard to the West's dysfunctional obsession with the individual ego and individual consciousness.
That having been said, I have a problem with books like this. The problem is the same one I had with Alan Watts's famous work, The Book, On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are, back in the 60's and 70's, which I saw as catering to that segment of the western readership who are perennially eastern-obsessed and therefore too naive and uncritical of their philosophy. Back then, there were just too many young people, who, having rejected whatever western culture they were brought up in, simply accepted, lock, stock, and barrel, Zen, Tao, Vedanta, and/or Buddhism after having read one or two books and therefore having finally discovered "the truth."
Well, looking back, that is perhaps too harsh an assessment, and as I said, you can learn a lot that is important and worthwhile from reading Lowry's books about Zen and eastern philosophy. But having studied many of the world's philosophies and religions, I would have to point out that no one philosophy, whether eastern or western, has a monopoly on the truth. They all have their strengths and weaknesses, and no one philosophy or system has all the answers. But overall, I think Lowry has done an important service by writing so clearly and articulately for the westerner who may be at a loss for how to approach a subject as esoteric as Zen philosophy.
I had one more comment, by way of leaving you with a little more perspective perhaps on the relationship between east and west. The great philosopher of history and culture, Frederick Northrop, in his comparison of eastern and western modes of thinking, once pointed out that at the highest levels western epistemology and Zen both become theories of perception, although they take different approaches. The western approach is to look "hard" at something, trying to analyze every possible facet of the perceived object. The Zen master's approach is just the opposite. His approach is more passive, but also more reflective and receptive. He sees more by "looking softer," and letting the object reflect its qualities to him by emptying his mind of all preconceived thoughts. This is the principle of "mind like the moon," and it is one of the most interesting Zen principles, and a useful one for the martial artist too (at least Mas Oyama thought so, which is good enough for me). Lowry discusses many other Zen principles in his book and how a true master might apply them in his everyday life, and that you may also find useful in your own life.
Summary: Though-provoking articles...
Comment: Lowry's book, a collection of his articles, is surprisingly consistent in theme. His outlook reminds of Merzel's "Beyond Sanity and Madness" for his fairly stern reminders that the Path lies within simplicity and that the early lessons in any of the martial arts (and many other Eastern disciplines such as Qigong and Zen) contain the essence that you, as a beginner, are unfortunately unlikely to recognize for a long time.
I also enjoy his viewpoint regarding the the 'need' for less ego and posturing; instead he consistently points out that 'Master' depends upon what is deep inside and is displayed through consistent behaviour at all times. Certainly this viewpoint is sorely lacking in many so-called 'Masters' at this time.
Lowry also gives some valuable insight into aspects of Japanese culture that are quite fascinating including Noh and the tea ceremony. He also includes many tidbits about visiting Masters that I found very informative.
Even if you are not that interested in martial arts I believe there are many lessons in this book that make it worthwhile to read.