In the interest of full disclosure, I was given this book for review purposes.
Title: Following the Martial Path: Lessons and Stories from a Lifetime of Training in Budo and Zen
Author: Walther G. von Krenner with Ken Jeremiah
Publisher: Tambuli Media
I have a policy about my personal library that when I lend out books, I fully don't expect to get them back. So there are some books that I don't loan out. This book may be part of that short list. This is the third, and I believe final, book in von Krenner Sensei's trilogy on aikido, and martial arts in general (Aikido Ground Fighting, and Atemi). Von Krenner was a student of O-Sensei and Tohei at the hombu dojo. I conducted an email interview with von Krenner Sensei, as well as have an episode of Martial Thoughts Podcast with co-author Ken Jeremiah (Episode XLIV). I have been looking forward to reading this book for a while. In fact, that's why it took so long to read. I wanted to savor each part of it.
This book has 28 chapters with stories and parables in each one. Each story is given its origin, whether from personal interaction, history, or just legend. After the story, there is an explanation, and a why this is important to martial artists portion. Because it isn't one continuous book, but rather 28 small stories, this is a great book to carry around and read a 5 page chapter whenever you have the time. It reminds me very much of the acclaimed Zen in the Martial Arts by Joe Hyams.
I cannot give this book enough praise. It is elegantly put together, and exemplifies one of the concepts presented in the book Shibumi. Shibumi is "a quality of serenity, introspection, modesty, formality, nobility, and reserve. It is opposed to everything that is garish, lewd, sensuous, or noisy." It also does an excellent job of explaining why martial artists would want to have and appreciate the lessons and stories presented. Everything always comes back to the study of martial arts.
I really don't think there are any cons in this book, except if you were looking for a book of techniques. Then this is not the book for you. My copy is already highlighted, dog-eared, and thoroughly traveled. Some people may think in concentrates too much on aikido, or Japanese arts, but I believe that any martial artist who wants to truly delve into what it means to be martial artist, and not just a fighter can look past the illusion of styles and countries.
If you are interested in becoming a whole martial artist, then do yourself a favor, and read this book. There are only positives that can happen from it. I cannot give this book enough praise. My hope is that this book becomes one of the new classics that make their way around martial arts circles. With that in mind, I have to give this book a 5 out of 5 Ninja Stars. Remember, the way I give my ratings is on a three-fold scale of readability, content, and usefulness to ALL martial artists. This book hits 5's on all thre categories. The only negative is that there isn't more. I loved the previous two books, and will definitely have a cherished place on my shelf for this one. I think I'll have to buy another copy just for loaning purposes.