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Book Review: The Essence of Budo

The works of Dave Lowry should need no introduction to readers of this blog, who, I assume, have at least a passing interest in the martial arts. Mr Lowry has been training since the late sixties and writing about it since the early eighties. His latest book, The Essence of Budo: A Practitioner's Guide to Understanding the Japanese Martial Ways, ought to be bought and read by anyone who thinks of their art as martial, regardless of its origin.

The book is in three parts: Refining Training, Contemplating Tradition, and Reflecting on the Way. Each is comprised of a series of related articles; at times it feels like a book of a blog rather than a more conventional monograph, but this does not detract from the overall, underlying message: traditional martial arts are way too valuable to be treated superficially: give them your life, they deserve no less. Amen, brother. Yet at the same time he states outright that family, work and studies should come before training. Amen again.

I could fill this blog to the brim with useful and provocative quotes: Lowry has the authority and argument to get away with a whole lot of long overdue home truths. He is at times clearly annoyed by folk who he feels don’t train properly or understand their art as they should, which can make his tone a bit grating at times (unusually for this author, who is capable of sublime prose), but in his defence he is sorely provoked. How many martial arts authors can open a chapter with a line like “You do not have enough stamina”? Or with stating bluntly that karate is not a martial art?

Go, read this, you are guaranteed to learn something.


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