The Way of the River: Adventures and Meditations of a Woman Martial Artist Hardcover – May 1, 2001
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From School Library Journal
Carol DeAngelo, Kings Park Library, Burke, VA
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
- Item Weight : 14.4 ounces
- Hardcover : 228 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1585743011
- ISBN-13 : 978-1585743018
- Dimensions : 5.75 x 1 x 8.25 inches
- Publisher : The Lyons Press; 1st edition (May 1, 2001)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #2,973,919 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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That alone is such a blessing. Because discouragement is our most potent enemy-- BK Loren delivers a stunning death blow to that block. Fell comfortable giving this book to anyone and make sure and keep a copy for yourself. Excuse me, I have a 4:30pm martial arts class I'm on my way too.
The gums are soft and remain.
The teeth are hard and fall out.
These essays are about finding the sublime in the ordinary. In an exotic setting unfamiliar to most of us--those ancient disciplines known collectively as martial arts--Loren shows us our own strength and resilience. She weaves stories with bright threads of common longing and communal victory, touching and surprising us along the way. Her prose takes us beyond the mats, into our own real lives. On one level, Loren seems to target women, hoping to show us that we don't need to be afraid physically, that our "softness" can "remain," even against the "hardness" of men's more showy muscles. But on a deeper, more lingering level, the softness and hardness aren't about bodies or self defense or hours of training. Loren shows us a way to approach life flexibly, courageously, head-on, like the river of the title.
There is much to love in the words of this slender work. "Embrace Tiger, Return to Mountain" is the title for one of the essays, and an apt metaphor for the purpose of this book. Loren's voice is predominantly earnest, sincere, heartbreakingly honest; but occasionally she hits your humerus (I do love a pun): "In my life I have had little opportunity to snap spears with the tender part of my throat, and if ten people tried to push me off balance, I'd likely walk away and let them push each other" (p. 7). And then there are the characters, people you aren't likely to forget anytime soon. Jack, the talented but terrifying teacher in whose studio you could lose a toe or sever a tendon; Sifu, the venerable Chinese master who never quite mastered English; Laura, the survivor; Mickey, the resourceful mother; Natasha, the Zen priest.
At first glance, some of the stories seem implausible, especially taken alone, out of the context of the others. Come on, a skinny broad takes on a gang of swastika-tattooed Skinheads? A gawky 13 year old girl lays out three guys? A high school kid intimidates an abusive father? Only in the movies.
Or in this book, where rigorous training meets vigorous prose, lending credibility to the incredible. Loren confronts cruelty, poverty, and assorted other control issues of the inexorable sort. Yet I ended this book with a feeling of calm, squinting at the glint of the sun on the river.
As a female martial artist of almost twenty years, I was fascinated to read of the ease of which the author excelled in the styles she practiced. One thing my experience in martial arts has taught me is the importance of size and strength. I've realized how much, on average, women are at a disadvantage in a physical confrontation. Although I am confident that practicing a martial art will mitigate those disadvantages, the net result will depend on the situation and other people involved.
So it was intriguing to learn that the author attributes so much of her success both in and outside of the kwoon to the practice of internal martial arts. Almost all the physical confrontations the author describes were resolved without force, using instead the acute observational and decision-making abilities that she had learned and practiced in her martial arts training.
It is for this reason I believe this book would be interesting to a wider audience than just female martial artists (although I recognize my inability to make that judgement from the 'inside'). So much of self-defense is about what comes before things get physical. So much of a healthy life comes from granting attention to the silence within. So much of living on Earth involves recognizing that humanity is part of the natural world. BK Loren expresses these sentiments and more with this collection of beautiful and sometimes disturbing anecdotes, so that reading this collection feels like dipping into a river of refreshing and challenging insights.
BK Loren uses words like brushstrokes in painting intimate images quietly charged with feelings, emotions and insights gathered from a life well lived and grounded in the flow of the martial arts. Unpretentious, she directly shares what she has learned and experienced and seen and felt. Her essays -- meditations -- gradually unfold and grow on you with the resonance of life and clarity. They grow like flowers, well rooted in the earth and opening to reveal personal memories and lessons learned. The cumulative effect stays with you.
I don't know that my words do her book justice. At the very, very least this is a great read. But it goes beyond that. This book is a gift to share with others. Read it and you'll know why.