Book review by Peter Leitch
Title:Zen In The Martial Arts
Author: Joe Hyams
Published: Bantam Books 1982
Unlike many books written about the martial arts "Zen In The Martial Arts" was authored by aprofessional writer, giving the book a uniquely human and readable appeal. But this book's realbeauty is more what is written than how it's written.
With humility and taste, Mr. Hyams touches on some of the most fundamental aspects of thestudy of martial arts. Topics such as ki, control of emotion, mushin, patience, proper breathing,focus, and the ever popular "empty cup" metaphor are all given scrupulous attention.
The book is divided into twenty-eight short chapters, each chapter beginning with an artisticallyinspired photograph of related subject matter. At the end of most of the chapters is a shortmaxim, and whether of ancient Chinese, Japanese, Indian or contemporary origins, these fewsimple words have profound relevance to even the novice martial artist.
The author illustrates the ancient philosophies of Asia with real-life situations in and out of thedojo. In this way he brings to life an understanding which might otherwise be incomprehensibleto most western minds.
At the time of writing Joe Hyams had studied many different forms of martial arts includingfencing, Jeet Kune Do, Wing chun, Kenpo Karate, and Aikido. Obviously his book should appealto a wide range of disciplines, but he seems especially predisposed to Karate-Do.
Hyams leaves out descriptions of specific techniques except to illustrate a point, insteadconcentrating almost solely on Zen principles and the more abstract sides of the martial arts. Asa result, this book is an important complement to any library of "how to..." martial artsmanuals.
Bruce Lee is featured in a couple of the chapters in a very understated way. This gives the booksome immediate appeal to anyone who has seen "Enter the Dragon" or "Fists of Fury". However,the image of Bruce Lee the reader is left with is unfamiliar and refreshing. He is portrayed verymuch as the teacher and friend, not the movie star legend.
This book is one I would highly recommend purchasing, and at $5.99, it is a real bargain. It canbe read and re-read dozens of times, each time some new thing gleaned from the carefully chosenwords. The maxims are an added bonus, and never lose their appeal; it is difficult to choose a favourite, but I can quote one (a Samurai maxim) that has often stuck in my mind:
"The angry man will defeat himself in battle as well as in life."
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