Summary: Excellent & scholarly
Comment: Written by some of the leading western experts who studied for years in Japan, this is an excellent introduction to the ancient Koryu or old arts of Japan. The book focuses mainly on the weapons arts using the sword, yari (spear), naginata (halberd), and so on, but jujutsu and the grappling arts also get discussed. Some of these authors were familiar to me from their contributions to martial arts journals like Furyu or the online Electronic Journal of the Martial Arts, like Ellis Amdur. Meik Skoss, the husband of Diane, was part of Draeger's original research team that went to Indonesia that resulted in Draeger's books covering Pentjak-Silat and the other Indonesian bladed arts, so I had high expectations about the quality and depth of the articles, and I wasn't disappointed.
As far as the coverage of the various arts is concerned, one thing that needs to be mentioned, since most people who study a martial art in the U.S. are studying karate or a similar boxing art like TKD or kung-fu, is that there isn't any coverage of that, since karate didn't arrive in Japan from Okinawa until the 1920s, and Japan really had no native tradition of boxing like ancient China, although China had a grappling art similar to jujustu in the art of chin na, and in the north there was Mongolian wrestling. Jujutsu did have atemi-waza, or striking techniques, but it wasn't a separate art and didn't develop to the same extant that it did in China and Okinawa before being introduced into Japan. Why this is I don't know, but I point it out just in case.
I had one other comment about the Hunter Armstrong chapter. He discusses in detail iaido, which he feels has lost the combative aspect, if it ever had it, pointing out that drawing the sword isn't an issue on the battlefield since you'll already be in the ready with your sword drawn, and in the heat of battle, if you have to draw your sword, it's probably too late anyway. Draeger brings this issue up too in his book, and that especially since the end of WWII iaido curriculums have been modified to make them more artistic than combative.
While this may be true, this problem isn't unique to iai or kendo or the other weapons arts. Karate has the same problem too, and so do the other unarmed martial arts. Unless you are willing to put on the heavy contact gear and risk getting your head bashed in, you're not participating in the ultimate combative aspect of the art, either. Although the samurai of previous centuries honed their arts and skills on the crucible of the battlefield and in individual duels, this isn't medieval Japan anymore, and is no longer practical. So although I would agree with Armstrong that the paired partner practice is certainly more realistic than the solo katas of iai, even that doesn't come very close to the original environment, and I don't see much help for the situation unless people are willing to make pretty radical changes that are unlikely, if only for the liability reasons.
Overall, this is a fine collection of articles about various aspects of the old Japanese martial traditions that are still poorly understood in the west and outside of Japan in general.
Summary: Buy this book, then prepare to buy volumes 2 & 3!!
Comment: Unless of course you're not interested in reading what some of the western world's foremost non-Japanese practitioners have to say regarding the subject of koryu bujutsu. What struck me most is the vast differences in approach between these arts and the general strip-mall style kung tae karate do type places you frequently see (and I've visited more than a few). This is a fascinating subject and if I have one problem with this book, it's that it serves to wet one's appetite to learn more. One common thread from the different writers seems to be that the koryu bujutsu represent a living history of Japanese culture, as well as embodying a historical form of teaching and finally representing lots of kick-arse martial ryu. Having said that, I think that imaginative types (I'm one!) might be well served to check out Diane Skoss's site www.koryu.com and read more about how involved studying such an art can be.
Summary: Well researched & well written
Comment: Martial artists with a desire to learn the history of Japanese bugei have appreciated Skoss and her insightful and informative writing for some time now. KORYU BUJUTSU deserves a spot next to Draeger's budo/bujutsu trilogy.
Summary: An insightful primer for studying Bujutsu/Budo
Comment: I first became interested in studying Bujutsu and its lasting impact on modern martial arts as an exponent of Judo and the short staff (jo). As my interests grew more towards the cultural backgrounds of these arts, I was pointed to the Draeger books and Secrets of the Samurai. Having no prior base of information, these complex and deeply analytical books left me even more confused. What I found in "Koryu Bujutsu" was a way to simplify some of the jargon that was found in the deeper research. It also gave me a bit of insight as to why certain instructors teach the way they do, and that a sensei that constantly points out your mistakes is better than one that just lets you work. To paraphrase a line in the book: Kobudo is not a proper term for these arts, because the term kobudo implies that they are dead arts. Koryu bujutsu tells us that these ancient arts continue to effect the techniques learned in the dojo to this day.
Summary: Foundation for Japanese Martial Arts
Comment: This is the first book that Diane Skoss has edited on the classical warrior traditions of Japan.This is the first English language general book on Koryu Bujutsu since Donn Drager. This book gives us westerner some insights into Japanese arts. This is a good addition to the library of anyone who studies Japanese Martial Arts or the history of asian Martial Arts.