Monday, October 9, 2017

4 Ninja Stars for "Samurai Swords, A Collector's Guide" by Clive Sinclaire

In the interests of full disclosure, I was given this book for review purposes

Title: Samurai Swords, A Collector's Guide, A Comprehensive Introduction to History, Collecting and Preservation
Author: Clive Sinclaire
Publisher: Tuttle Publishing
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 187
Price: $29.99 Cover Price ($21.99 on Amazon)

    As readers should know, I practice Japanese martial arts.  My initial investment in martial arts came from a interest in the Japanese sword.  There is something involved in a katana that perfectly exemplifies what martial arts is supposed to be.  It is, in my opinion, the perfect balance between deadly purpose and gentlemanly refinement.  There are places to embellish a sword, but they must be done in a way that still has purpose first in mind, and speaks of refinement.  However, the world of Japanese swords can be a very deep pool to jump into.  There is a new level of attention to detail that must be paid to artistically appreciate them.  This book provides a place to start, an introduction to what Japanese blades are, and how to start to recognize real examples of them.


  This book is a combination book.  It's one part coffee table book, full of glorious pictures, and enticing artwork, and another part instruction manual, and guidebook.  By the nature of the subject, you have to start with the history of Japan, and how the sword played a role, as well as was shaped by that history.  Many people don't know that there are different types of Japanese swords depending on the era it comes from, and the way it was worn.  This book does a great job of explaining what the details to pay attention are.  The high quality pictures give you superb examples of each of the details discussed.
    It then features other bladed weapons from Japan.  This is something, I haven't seen a lot of other Japanese sword books do.  It goes on to describe yari (spear), and the many different shapes used in Japan, as well as other Japanese polearms.  It concluded by talking about the more modern aspects of appreciating them, as well as the modern smiths that continue the tradition of forging.


    There are several things I immediately like about this book.  First, I love the size and high quality of the pictures.  There was no expense spared for quality for this book.  It also does a great job of balancing being an introductory book for such a deep subject.  It would be very easy to either gloss over a lot of detail, or to fall into the rabbit hole of minutia of Japanese swords.  This book does neither.  It is easy enough to comprehend, yet detailed enough to serve as a reference book for later study.  That's a hard thing to accomplish.
    The second thing that I really appreciate about this book is the attention paid to the other high quality bladed weapons of Japan.  Most books are specific about the tachi, katana (both long swords),  wakizashi (short sword), and tanto (dagger).  This book spends several detailed pages showing you yari and naginata, as well as other polearms, and bladed weapons.


    I really don't have anything to complain or nitpick about this book.  For what it is designed to do, it accomplishes this beautifully.


    This book accomplishes a lot.  It is a beautiful book just to have lying around house.  It can also be
a great conversation starter.  It fulfils both of these functions, while still being detailed enough in its information to be a useful resource.  So it has both beauty and brains.  That being said, I have to give this book only 4 out of 5 Ninja Stars.  And that's due to my other criteria for martial arts books.  How useful is it to ALL martial artists.  I think almost any martial artist, regardless of style can appreciate the craftsmanship, and functionality of the Japanese blades.  However, If you don't practice a Japanese martial art, specifically, one with swordsmanship as part of the curriculum, it might not be as readily useful in your martial journey.  If you're looking to at least be able to understand, and carry on a conversation about Japanese swords in an intelligent manner, than you shouldn't look any farther than this book.  The price is a little higher than most martial arts books, but the high quality of the pictures and material combine to make this book very much worth it.


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