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Japanese Sword Fighting: Secrets of the Samurai    by Masaaki Hatsumi order for
Japanese Sword Fighting
by Masaaki Hatsumi
Order:  USA  Can
Kodansha International, 2006 (2006)
* * *   Reviewed by John Kalaidopoulos

Given the popularity of samurai and samurai swords here in North America due to films - notably Tom Cruise's The Last Samurai and Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill 1 & 2 - Hatsumi has found the ideal time to come out with Japanese Sword Fighting. His timing could not be better, to educate the masses on the essence of the Samurai way, and to dispel glorified images of sword fights with blazing swirls of steel, acrobatics, and stylish ways to kill.

Hatsumi uses his world renowned knowledge and skill to show the basic yet masterful art of the sword - one that many seasoned martial artists consider the most difficult of the arts to learn. As with all his books, the author starts with the philosophy behind the sword and the samurai. He seems to try to impress on readers that what he offers is much more that a step by step learning manual for week-end samurai.

Techniques are simple, usually involving one parry and then a counterstrike. It sounds easy, but though the accompanying explanations are short, they are extremely difficult to follow, even with the illustrations. I found myself turning the page to see if there were more photos of certain techniques, but usually to my disappointment found that all the photos were already seen.

This is a wonderful book for those wanting to get a deeper understanding of the samurai way and also of budo, but it is extremely difficult to learn from the specific techniques - even the best photos cannot capture the subtle and lightning fast movements of a sword. To learn something this complex and with such quick movement, it is best to seek out a teacher of the art. Japanese Sword Fighting is an excellent resource for students at all levels.

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