Title: Drawing the Samurai Sword, The Japanese Art of Swordsmanship
Author: Darrell Max Craig, Shihan
This is a retitling and republishing of 1981's seminal book IAI-jutsu: Center of the Circle, of which I have an original edition copy. It is an important book by itself, and was probably the first book on Japanese swordsmanship I ever owned. I have since added many more, but I still go back to this one for many reference points. In fact, after studying sword arts for about 4 years, I re-read it, and got a whole new appreciation for both my art, and the book itself. The newest edition has added some important pieces on test cuttings, several pages of color pictures in the middle, as well as a new introduction by the author.
ContentDrawing the Samurai Sword goes through the basics of everything that you'd need to know, or be exposed to in a the use of Japanese swords. It starts with the physical sword itself, and gives you an overview, so that anyone can learn the basics of appreciation of the fine artwork that is a Japanese sword. It includes a chapter on the process of forging a sword, and the proper procedure in examining one. It continues in dealing with the proper ways to care for and wear the unusual uniform of Japanese swordsmanship. Basic dojo behavior when dealing with swords is also discussed. As always, all dojo are different, but it helps to have a basic framework to start with. The majority of the book is used to discuss and show the art of iaijutsu, which is a specific art of drawing, cutting, and re-sheathing a Japanese sword. In the middle of that is, as I stated before, a new section dealing with the historical art of test cutting, and how that was accomplished.
ProsThere are so many good things to say about this book. The author's love of swordsmanship shines through the text. He wants the reader to appreciate the sword as both the instrument of combat that it is, as well as the art piece it paradoxically also is. There are many intricate drawings, which illustrate many of the nuances of the katana. Examples include the different hamon patterns present. The hamon is the wavy line which differentiates the hardened edge of the blade with the softer backbone of the blade. Each school, and indeed smith, has a specific way they put this onto their blade, which results in a different hamon.
The description and illustration of the kata are well done, and easily followed. If you had to start on your own, without a qualified instructor, perform these kata as directed wouldn't be the worse place to start. They give you a lot of the basics to learning the art of iai.
ConsThe only problem I would possibly have with this book is its specificity. I'm a Japanese sword guy, so this is right up my alley. However, if you're not, I understand. It is a restricted subject matter, and will probably not be entirely useful to other
This is one of the more important books in my initial development as a martial artist interested in Japanese swordsmanship. I still go back to this book for some reference points. I think if you have any kind of initial interest in any of the Japanese swords systems: kenjutsu, kendo, or iaido, then this should be a book on your shelf. However, if your not interested, then this may not be the book for you. Because of the limited range of overall interest to all martial artists, I'm going to give this book 3.5 out of 5 ninja stars. If I was writing this for any sort of Japanese martial arts group, I would give it 4.5 or 5 Ninja Stars. The latest edition does add some very nice color photos in the middle, that help by adding to the story of sword presented in this book, and extra bit about sword testing is just cool.