Sword and Brush The Spirit of the Martial Arts by Dave Lowry

Probably best to state my biases up front: I much prefer books such as these over the how to do technique, picture books, (though we will be looking at some of those also in future reviews), and I like the works of Lowry; he is one of those rare Westerners with a passionate love for Japanese culture without having been infected by that peculiar madness with which we are all familiar and which the Japanese call Henna Gaijin.

This particular book combines Lowry’s love of Shodo with his love of martial arts.

It individually examines a number of martial arts related kanji to reveal their hidden meanings; opening up new insights into the culture and philosophy of Japanese martial arts.

“A lattice grid with rays of sunlight penetrating it – this is the kanji pictograph for kata. The nonpractitioner sees only the light admitted by the renji-mado, for his point of view, looking in from outside, is restricted to the entrance of the tea hut. It is to those who have entered into the recesses of the room that the textures and subtleties are disclosed. Kata, too, is a very special sort of illumination, for it can shine a light into the spaces occupied by the human soul.”

In addition to offering such profound revelations, the work has the added bonus of being short. Each chapter is only a page or two long, is illustrated with some very nice examples of Lowry’s own calligraphy, and can be read independently from the rest of the book.

Whether your interest is martial arts or shodo, or ideally, both, this is a valuable resource. I regularly return to it. Indeed I enjoyed the book so much when I first read it, that I gave a copy as a present to Brinkhurst Sensei, (yes, he is still around; rumours of his death have been greatly exaggerated).

Sensei Eacott

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