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The Demon's Sermon on the Martial Arts Hardcover – September 15, 2006

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Kodansha International (September 15, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 4770030185
  • ISBN-13: 978-4770030184
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 0.8 x 5.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #619,322 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

ISSAI CHOZANSHI (1659-1741) was the pen name of Niwa Jurozaemon Tadaaki, a samurai of the Sekiyado clan. Among his works, The Demon's Sermon on the Martial Arts (1729) and "The Swordsman and the Cat"(1727) are his most famous.

WILLIAM SCOTT WILSON's first translation, Kodansha's bestselling edition of Hagakure, was published in 1979, the same year he completed a Master's degree in Japanese language and literature at the University of Washington. Hagakure was featured prominently in the Jim Jarmusch film, "Ghost Dog." Wilson's other translations include The Book of Five Rings, The Life-Giving Sword, The Unfettered Mind, Taiko, Ideals of the Samurai and The Flowering Spirit, published in June 2006. He is also the author of The Lone Samurai: he Life of Miyamoto Musashi. In 2005, Wilson was awarded Japan's Foreign Minister Commendation. He lives in Miami, Florida.

Customer Reviews

Interesting and enjoying to read.
Lance W. Burton
This book is essential for understanding martial arts and Taoist philosophy.
Michael Harding
A fascinating interweaving of several traditions, well told, very readable.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Ronin on June 3, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a masterpiece of warrior philosophy. It is not a casual read and nor is it a story that will provide entertainment value. This is essential reading for martial artists and practitioners of eastern medicine as one of the fundamental lessons involves the cultivation of Qi. The "Demon" in this case refers to the Tengu, which are legendary throughout Japan.

The Tengu is many things and comes in many forms. It is known as a mischievous and malevolent spirit that brought terror to the Japanese. The ninja made use of these legends and often impersonated Tengu to strike fear. But the Tengu is also a respected and revered symbol and is associated with Shugendo, or the Way of the Aesthetic. In this role the Tengu can be a teacher, and a protector of Buddhism who punsihed evil-doers.

Practitioners of Shugendo often live alone in the mountains and are known as Yamabushi (Shinto), meaning "Mountain (Yama) Warrior (Bushi) Aesthetic" in the deeper sense. They view nature as possessing powerful Qi; in the mountains, rocks, and streams. In the wilderness they train and cultivate their energy. Their ancient roots come from China and the Taoist traditions, which is very evident in this book:

"The Demon said, 'The Way cannot be seen or heard. What can be seen or heard are just traces of the Way.'

The Tengu, the Yamabushi, and the ninja are all connected. Togakushi is a small village high in the Japanese alps that claims a ninja heritage that is 900-years old. There are 3 shinto shrines in the valley, and countless sacred spots throughout the mountains, which have many small waterfalls and streams. The Tengu of Togakushi takes the form of a raven. Tengu are also common in many other ninja villages like Yagyu-zato.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Bradford A. Harkness on February 24, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Books on Bushido and swordsmanship are a vast part of my collection, things ranging from the common Sun Tzu, Musashi's 5 Rings, to the lesser known Shogun No Rin, Takeda and the Hagakure and other books are frequent reads for me. This book is interesating in that it deviats from the practical aphorisms and "text book" nature of the others and adopts a 2 part structure. The first section is a collection of stories based on animals and insects that explain the workings of Ch'i flow and the essence of the "void mind" and similar concepts. it does this ina way similar to the Zen Flesh Sen Bones koan/story method, though these have a warmer feel to them. The second part of the book is the actual sermon as overgeard by a traveling man who happend upon some demons on a mountain. Now Demon in the Japanese context does not have the same menaing as it does in the west. So this isnt some horned pitchfork carrying guy talking in the woods. Instead it a gathering of Demons holding a question and answer session with a masterful demon on he subject of the nature of mind in combat as tied to sword play. The meat of the discussions is similar to those of most books but it focuses alot on Ch'i energy and how it is used/abused/neglected, something that most other books leave out entirely. I have little knowlage of Ch'i myself in this context, but found it a good opener for the subject and it did whet the appitite for more. Though there are better books on Bushido out there for the moral practitioner this one leands intself well to a collection as it delves into a different spirituality than most as the others spend alot of time on strict Zen principles. Of course this is xrooted in Zen and Buddhism as well, but it contains a strong influence from the Taoist schools as well, a healthy dosage to say the least as outlined in the first few pages. A good read.
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22 of 27 people found the following review helpful By wiredweird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on July 13, 2007
Format: Hardcover
The Demon's Sermon comes from Japan's 17th century. Author Niwa Jurozaemon Tadaaki (writing as Issao Chozanshi) created this work on martial arts, despite a claim after the Sermon that "I am not a swordsman, so how could I teach swordsmanship?" If that is truly the author speaking, then what else in these essays should be discounted as suspect in their accuracy? And, if it's self-deprecating fiction, then what other points in these essays should also discounted as fiction? This, I think, is the least of the paradoxes within this text.

The text carries a Taoist tone, with many allusions to Taoist classics. Educated Japanese in many centuries referred often to the Chinese canon. Chozanshi's work, however, stands out for building up Chinese concepts in terms of Chinese classics, building them on a base of Japanese martial arts, folk culture, and religion. This sermon on martial arts in fact says very little about those arts - instead, it cultivates the mind, spirit, and human energy of the martial artist. The third essay in this set scarcely addresses martial arts at all. Instead, the amusing parable follows an exchange between cats on the conquest of an uncommonly fierce rat. If just a word here and there were changed, the fable would have sounded like an actual part of the Chuang Tzu.

Wilson's translation is modern and fluent. His preface and footnotes clarify many cultural referents that could otherwise have been obscure, especially regarding the demon speaker himself. Despite skilled translation, the Way of Chozanshi's text remains obscure - as if to remind a reader of any century that the Way that can be spoken is not the eternal Way.

-- wiredweird
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