School: Essays on Japanese Martial Traditions - by Ellis Amdur
Review by Robert M. Carver, Webmaster, BudoSeek Martial Arts Community
couple of months ago, Ellis Amdur emailed me and asked if I could
review his second book, Old School: Essays on Japanese Martial
Traditions. Considering how much I enjoyed his previous
book, Dueling with O-Sensei: Grappling with the Myth of the
Warrior Sage, I figured I was in for a good read, and it was
another book to add to my already considerable library. He did make
me promise that I would be totally unbiased and not hold back with
the truth or my opinions. So here it goes... the total and
It was terrific!
Old School is a totally different book than Dueling with O-Sensei, as this book focuses on the Koryu, or classical martial arts of Japan. In a series of essays, this book has the feel of an “insider” that is telling you the little known secrets of the classical Japanese martial arts. And indeed it is! Amdur has teaching licenses in two Koryu traditions, Araki Ryu and Toda-ha Buko Ryu. So he is uniquely qualified in this respect. Also a scholar, it is apparent from the very first chapter that he has extensively researched the topics covered in this book, and is unafraid to separate the facts from the myth. However, Old School is more than a history book. It is really a book that gives the reader a glimpse into the heart and soul of the Japanese martial traditions. Armed with that newly found insight, it further enlightens practitioners of modern budo as to the nature and character of their own arts.
Like Dueling with O-Sensei, this book is wonderfully written and easy to read. Amdur’s writing style is straight forward, and has an informality that is unique and enjoyable. Once I opened the book and started reading, I found that I had a difficult time putting it down.
This book is broken down into three sections. The first is entitled Koryu, and takes the reader into the history and traditions of three classical ryu: the “Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto-ryu”, “Maniwa Nen-ryu” and “Higo Ko-ryu”.
The next section, Japanese Weapons, focuses on “Ancient Weapons”, “Development and History of the Naginata”, “Chigiriki: The Japanese Flail”and the “Kusarigama: The Chain and Sickle”.
My favorite section, History and Traditions, rounds out the book. Essays included here are: “Women Warriors of Japan”, “The Origins of Araki-ryu” and “Keppan: Blood Vows in Japanese Martial Traditions”. If I were to choose my favorite from these three essays, I would have a tough choice, but I would have to say that “Keppan: Blood Vows in Japanese Martial Traditions”, wins my vote. It is worth the price of the book alone.
If you buy one book about the classical Japanese Martial Arts (or any martial art book for that matter) this year, I have a suggestion for you. Buy, Old School: Essays on Japanese Martial Traditions by Ellis Amdur. For the price of only $20.00, you will have a book that is worth far more than its cover price for its history and insights into the classical Japanese martial traditions. It will find a prominent place in your library, just as it has mine.
For those interested in purchasing Old School, go to Ellis Amdur’s website at http://www.ellisamdur.com/OldSchool.htm for further information.
Robert M. Carver is a Jujutsu instructor at the Heiwashin Dojo in Baton Rouge, LA. A former Marine with 35 years in the Martial Arts, Carver Sensei is ranked in several styles of Jujutsu, Karatedo, Judo and Yudo. Additionally, he has also trained in Aikido and Arnis while living in the Philippines. He is the former Vice President of the United States Ju-Jitsu Federation (USJJF), and currently serves on the Board of Directors and on the Central Technical Committee of the USJJF. He is a founding member of the United States Martial Arts Federation and Martial Arts International Federation.