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Angry White Pyjamas Paperback – October 23, 1999
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The most intriguing sports book ever to win the William Hill Sports Book of the Year award * Daily Mail * Twigger vividly captures the wince-inducing physical and emotional trails endured by those who would wear the black belt. But he also offers a rare insight in aikido's peculiarly Darwinian group dynamic and how it fits into modern Japanese society. After this marvellously insightful account I will snigger no more at Steven Segal's po-faced chop-sockey -- Ben Farrington * Literary Review * Communicates the existential purity of his elective regime with irrepressible passion ... it also has the unmistakable stamp of authentic experience * Daily Telegraph * Poetry in motion -- Sue Townsend * Sunday Times * Wonderfully oddball ... Here is a cult book all right, which could do for Japan and the martial arts what Hornby did for Highbury and the football terraces -- Frank Keating * Guardian * Brilliant ... everyone should read it -- Tony Parsons * Late Review * His explanation of how to come to terms with intense pain should be read to every footballer who has ever writhed about in agony after a kick on the shin... It is a clever, enthralling book -- Ian Wooldridge * Daily Mail * This is a splendidly written adventure, something sane at last on the craziness of martial arts * Independent on Sunday * A rattling good yarn and very funny into the bargain -- Tim Hulse * Independent on Sunday * His fine eye for eccentricities makes this an entertaining travelogue * The Observer * A book of unexpected brilliance. It is subtle, funny, stimulating and original - a rites-of-passage story, an explanation of an alien culture, and an inspiring work of philosophy -- Patrick French A frantic, very funny, urban quest. -- Simon Garfield * Mail on Sunday *
About the Author
Robert Twigger is a British author, poet and adventurer. After attending Oxford University he trained with the Tokyo Riot Police, which became the subject of his bestselling book Angry White Pyjamas. He has been awarded the Newdigate Prize for poetry, the Somerset Maugham Award for Literature and the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award. He led the expedition that was the first to cross the Great Sand Sea of the Egyptian Sahara solely on foot, and another that was the first to cross Western Canada in a birchbark canoe since 1793. He is the author of eight books, both fiction and non-fiction, as well as several collections of poetry. Big Snake was filmed for Channel 4.
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Mr. Twigger makes many observations about his life and Japanese culture both in and out of the dojo, so there's lots of exposition compared to, say, "Moving Zen" by C.W. Nicol. Also unlike Sensei Nicol, Mr. Twigger is not wholeheartedly enraptured by Japanese culture. He has a more postmodern viewpoint, so his anecdotes are not filtered through rose-colored glasses. But humor leavens much of his story, and there's no disrespect or Western condescension. As one who was stationed in mainland Japan from '88 to '90, I enjoyed the reminders his recollections provoked (funky food, navigating the extensive train system, hanging out in Roppongi, etc.). Mr. Twigger also makes the other folks he encounters come alive through his writing; his slacker roommates Fat Frank and Chris are particularly priceless. But the most interesting aspect of "Angry White Pyjamas" is Mr. Twigger's search for validation as a male through overcoming adversity. He reminded me of an "Iron John" or "Wild at Heart" kind of guy, looking for affirmation of his masculinity via completion of the brutal riot police course. As a former Marine and current martial artist, I identified and sympathized with his quest. The course was a rite of passage for Mr. Twigger, and I rooted for him every step of the way. Many times he came close to quitting due to constant pain, injuries, fatigue, interpersonal conflicts, and his own perceived ineptitude with aikido. But despite these hardships he didn't give up, and for that I commend and respect him.
I read "Angry White Pyjamas" in conjunction with "Iron and Silk" by Mark Salzman and "Moving Zen" by C.W. Nicol to get multiple perspectives on martial arts training. It's interesting to compare and contrast Mr. Twigger's 90s presuppositions and experiences with those of Mr. Salzman's in the 80s and Sensei Nicol's in the early 60s. Each book is a fascinating snapshot of a particular era, culture, and martial art style (Aikido, Wushu, and Karate). But despite their different philosophies, motivations, and levels of immersion, all of these men achieved personal growth and maturation through practicing the martial arts in a persevering fashion. I found that to be inspiring, and so I recommend all three books.