Book Review: Martial Arts & Philosophy - Beating & Nothingness
Being kind and fluffy, I took it upon myself to review DAYoung's new book, "Martial Arts & Philosophy: Beating & Nothingness". This is some of what I wrote:
Some of the chapters - each by a writer with their own tale of fighting to tell - are great to read. For example, Patricia Petersen's chapter, on martial arts and feminism, makes a strong case for both. (Even though karate, like feminism, is seen as dreadfully 1970s in some circles.)
Then there is Gillian Russell's gleefully thorough hatchet job on the martial arts’ worst delusions. Mocking all those styles that claim to give the student magic powers and all that blind obedience to 'masters', it stands out as a call for reason over today's new age wishful thinking.
As a finale, I then interviewed Damon's co-author, the very interesting Professor Graham Priest, who has a lot to say on matters both martial and philosophical:
...What the book proves is that good philosophy and martial arts do in fact have a lot in common. Both embody a sort of structured conflict, and both - at their best - put great stead in testing your beliefs and not taking nonsense at face value...
...One thing that stands out is that you're still doing martial arts at 62. What do you do? “Well, I practice ****ō-ryū karatedo. I've been training now for 22 years.”
He had a surprising inspiration for this: “Many years ago, my daughter was about 10. My wife and I decided that she should learn to defend herself. She was not a very physical kid, so my wife said that she would train with her. They found a local club in Perth (where we then lived), and started to train. A year or two later we moved to Brisbane. In Perth I played baseball, and when we moved I decided to hang up my glove, so I needed something else to do.
“My wife said, why don't we find a karate club here and all train together? I said that I was not into hitting people. She said 'You don't understand; its about not hitting people'. That sounded crazy to me (though she was quite right), but I thought 'why not give it a go?' Within a few months I was hooked. We had lighted upon a very good club (Shobukai), largely by accident. I trained with them for 12 years. Then I moved to Melbourne. There were no branches of that club there, so I changed styles to ****ō-ryū. By that time, I knew what to look for in a good club, and I found one.”
So yeah, it's a great book. Buy it, you slaaaaaaaaaaaags!
...It's quite interesting how you use a narrative device like scripted dialogue to make your point. Plus, you do explain how Buddhism can coexist with learning how to hit people.
“Well, the essays are meant to contain some serious philosophy, but they are for people who are not philosophers, and would be bored s**tless by usual academic writing. So it was a matter of finding a good style. I thought that a dialogue form would be appropriate.
“As for the topic, there is clearly an important connection between the Japanese martial arts and Buddhism. I have pondered this for many years. This is all part of the project of making sense of it.”