Book Reviews

Book Reviews

This book review is complied by Sensei Henry Lynch, Head of Riai Aikido and Chief Instructor of Auckland Riai Aikido Learning Centre, NZ and is designed to help people deciding on what book is for them! Obviously, the books have been read over a long period of time and in Sensei Henry’s own words “your view of a book changes as your Aikido changes”. As at October 2011, 64 books books had been reviewed and the “Book Review” section of the Riai Aikido website is updated on a regular basis.
5 Star | 4 Star |3 Star | 2 Star | 1 Star

***** 5 Star Reviews

Arts of Strength, Arts of Serenity: Nicklaus Suino. Weatherhill, 1996

A compact book of 117 pages that covers a number of Japanese Martial Arts namely, Aikido, Iaido, Judo, Jujutsu, Karate, Kendo, Kobudo and Kyudo.
This book also has appendixes that cover eight identical texts (8 books that the author recommends). Annotated bibliography (books that the author recommends to martial art students – there are 29), Budo Periodicals (obviously a bit out of date now) and Budo Organisations.
A well thought through book that covers training the body, the mind and also 3 martial virtues namely, strength, courage and loyalty.
A quote in the book from KARL W SCOTT III, Karate and Aikido instructor on the essentials for any important task sums up the book and its contents “Right place, Right time, Right frame of mind”.

The Philosophy of Aikido: John Stevens. Kodansha International, 2001

John Stevens is a well known author of over 30 books on Aikido, Buddhism, Zen and Asian culture. He is also a Professor of Buddhist studies and an Aikido instructor.
The book has a foreword from Moriteru Ueshiba, Aikido Doshu, and is divided into 2 parts. Part one theory and part two practice.
The theory section covers 5 key areas namely:
1. Essential principles
2. Aikido nature and health
3. Aikido as tantra
4. Aikido and art
5. Aikido and Global Society
The book has crisp photography with extremely good linkage of Aikido photos to other cultures and religions. Whilst it is a small book; only 131 pages it does give a “different view” of Aikido.

Remembering O’Sensei, Living and training with Morihei Ueshiba, Founder of Aikido: edited by Susan Perry with a foreword by Moriteru Ueshiba. Shambhala, 2002

Susan Perry is well known within the Aikido world as a experienced Aikidoist with well over 30 years practice and the editor-in-chief of Aikido Today Magazine which started in 1987 however has now ceased publication.
The book has a foreword by Moriteru Ueshiba, Aikido Doshu. The book is a collection of stories about O’Sensei basically taken from interviews over 15 years.
The introduction from Susan Perry makes a very good point:
“O’Sensei’s lessons were not always the same for every student. Instead he matched his lessons to what he preserved as a student’s interests and abilities. Accordingly, his live-in students as well as students who trained more briefly under his authority came away with different perspectives of the art and different stories about their teacher”.
There are 31 contributions to this book some of them are:
Seiseki Abe, Kenshiro Abe, Ken Cottier, Terry Dobson, Robert Frager, Mary Heiny, Robert Nadeau, Morihiro Saito, Mitsugi Saotome, Moriterau Ueshiba and Yoshimitsu Yamada.
This is a unique book as the 31 contributors provide snapshots of their training with O’Sensei, their off the mat interactions with him and their observations of his daily life.

The Tao of Bruce Lee: Davis Miller. Vintage, 2000

Author Miller’s other work prior to this book was The Tao of Muhammad Ali. This is a very well researched and written book on Bruce Lee that combines unique insights into the man, art and movie business. In Millar’s own words “parts of this tale don’t fit with other stories. Look at the edges of even the “hardest”, most immutable “facts”. Look long enough, look honestly – the edges will shimmer.” A great read.

Budo training in Aikido: Morihei Ueshiba – translated into English by Larry E Bieri. Sugawara Martial Arts Institute Inc, 1997

This book was written by the founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba. It has been revised as an English edition. The original name of this book was “Budo Renshu”. Morihei Ueshiba only wrote two books on Aikido, of which this is one. A very easy book to understand with surprisingly very good illustrations, given the historical context. No Aikido person should be without this book.

Total Aikido the Master Course: Gozo Shioda with Yasuhisa Shioda. Kodanshia International, 1996

Gozo Shioda was a student of Aikido under Morihei Ueshiba. Total Aikido covers Aikido principles, Tai Sabaki No Kihon (basic body movement), Kihon Waza (techniques) not to mention self-defense techniques and OGI (hidden techniques). I really enjoyed this book’s written style, photography and layout.

The Secrets of Police Aikido: Bill Sosa. Citadel Press Book, 1997

Sensei Bill Sosa is an accomplished martial artist as well as an author. His book the Essence of Aikido with Bryan Robbins (see under 4 stars) is a worth while read. This book combines the historical aspects and technical “Dojo Aikido techniques” with the view of moving Aikido techniques into the world of Police work. A well thought through book that has a real “street application” without losing the integrity of the Art.

Aikido and the New Warrior: edited by Richard Strozzi Heikler. North Atlantic Books, 1985

This book is an anthology of 17 men and women who as Heikler states “have the experience of taking the principles of Aikido training and applying them to their daily lives and to their professions as well”. This book is a wonderful treat that communicates the art with writings from John Stevens, Terry Dobson, George Leonard, Richard Moon to Robert Nadeau, just to mention a few. This is a must in your Aikido library..

Aikido for Life: Homma Gaku. North Atlantic Books, 1990

This book appeals to the new beginner and experienced student alike.

Aikido in Three Easy Lessons – The Power of Harmony. The Performance Edge: Richard Moon.

A unique look at Aikido – this book is in a series called The Aiki Dialogues and has a very unique, practical and well thought out “view of Aikido”

The Shambhala Guide to Aikido: John Stevens. Boston and London, 1996

Highly recommended as it covers all areas of Aikido and written by one of Aikido’s foremost authorities.

Marital Arts Teachers and Teaching: Carol A. Wiley

Thoroughly recommended as it discusses the process of learning and teaching a martial art, from the ‘nuts and bolts’ of teaching techniques to the philosophical underpinnings of training.

Tales of Jord’s Storage – Unit Aikido: Rudy Higgens-Evendon with cartoons by Philippe Martin. Arete Press 2000

These stories were originally published in Aikido Today Magazine from 1995 to 1997. This is a lovely book of only 59 pages and is a humorous tale of a band of Aikido followers who practice in a Dojo that is a storage unit.

4 Books for Young People by Terence Webster-Doyle with illustrations by Rod Cameron. Atrium Society Publications, 1988, 1991 and 1992

Eye of the Hurricane Why is Everybody always Picking on Me
Maze of the Fire Dragon Facing the Double-Edged Sword
These books are designed for two Martial Arts audiences, young people in the Martial Arts and Martial Art Instructors. They offer excellent common sense stories on bullying, conflict in the world through to young people understanding violence around them. A great teaching tool for children’s classes.

Angry White Pyjamas: Robert Twigger. Indigo 1997

This is considered an ‘Aikido Classic’ and takes us on the journey of the author who commences the year long Tokyo Riot Police course. Controversial in places but brilliant writing with captivating insights.

The Pyjama Game – A Journey into Judo: Mark Law. Atrium Press Ltd, 2007

A fantastic book that gives an amazing insight into the world of Judo. Mark Law at nearly 50 takes up Judo and then takes the reader on a journey that makes you want to turn each page with pace only seen in a randori!

Mishima’s Sword: Christopher Ross. Fourth Estate, 2006

An original and surprising book that provides fascinating insight into the Samurai code, as Ross tracks in search of a Samurai legend. The book is based on the death of acclaimed novelist Yukio Mishima who in 1970 was the most notorious instance of Seppuku since World War II. A top read. Incidentally Ross features in Robert Twigger’s, Angry White Pyjamas book (see above)

The Way of Aikido- Life Lessons from an American Sensei. George Leonard, Dutton, 1999

A well written book that covers a multitude of areas that will suit all levels of Aikido.

Martial Arts Instruction – Applying Educational Theory and Communication Techniques in the Dojo: Lawrence A. Kane. Ymaa Publication Centre, Inc, 1997

This is a must have book for all instructors who want to help people learn; not instruct people to practice! Students who read this book will understand their learning style and therefore progress better and faster. A must have in your martial art library.

Children of the Martial Arts – An Aikido Point of View: Gaku Homma. North Atlantic Books, 1993

An excellent book that gives a different perspective on the value of martial arts training for young people.

A Dictionary of the Martial Arts: Louis Frederic. Translator and editor Paul Crompton. Charles E Tuttle Company Inc., 1998

An exceptional reference book that covers a large number of martial arts with line drawings to illustrate hundreds of techniques.

Aikido Exercises for teaching and training: C.M. Shifflett. Round Earth Publishing, 1999

This is truly one of the better books on teaching Aikido. It doesn’t matter whether you teach Aikido to people or not you will find this book invaluable.

Ki in Aikido – A sampler of Ki exercises: C.M. Shifflett. Round Earth Publishing, 1997

This book has detailed instructions and Ki exercises. It is presented in a Step-by-Step manner with detailed illustrations. There are a number of tests in the book. Recommended due to its simplicity of purpose for what at times can be a complicated subject to explain and of course practice and master.

Progressive Aikido – The Essential Elements: Moriteru Ueshiba, Translated by John Stevens. Kodansha International, 2005

The author is the current Doshu of Aikido, who became Doshu in 1999 after his father’s death. This book has a systematic approach to mastering the basics of Aikido. The photography is excellent with top class notes to each photo.

The Art of Holding – Principles and Techniques: Marc Tedeschi: Weatherhill. 2001

The author at the time of writing this book was a 5th Dan in Hapkido. A book that shares an in-depth look at core principles on a board range of Martial Arts. Well laid out with excellent photography.

Centre: The Power of Aikido: Ron Meyer and Mark Reeder. Frog Ltd, 2000

This book employs a question and answer format and covers 9 key areas from power to connection right through to spiralling ending up with timing and position. The book not only deals with technique but the relationship of Uke / Nage and “The Centre”. This is a remarkable book if you want to look beyond techniques.

Jo: Art of the Japanese Short Stuff: Dave Lowry. Ohara Publications Inc, 1987

This is a dynamic book on the weapon that is called the Jo. The author is an accomplished martial artist. There are 8 chapters with an introduction to each chapter. The photographs are very good and the 2 page glossary is very helpful. Whether you are experienced with the Jo or not you will enjoy this book.

Aikido for Self Discovery: Stan Wrobel, PHD. Llewellyn Publications, 2001

This book talks about entering, harmony and internal energy and the sensory nature of these concepts. At the time of writing this book the author was a 3rd Dan in Aikido. This is a book that you will dip into well after your first reading.


**** 4 Star Reviews

The Book of the Samurai-Hagakure: Yamamoto Tsunetomo – translated by William Scott Wilson. Kodunsha International, 1979

The author Yamamoto Tsunetomo was a samurai who never engaged in warfare. The book was completed by a younger samurai over a 7 year period. William Wilson the translator has done an excellent job with this Japanese classic. This book takes us to another time in another place with Zen enlightenment.

Mind over Matter – Facts and Feats Beyond the Bounds of Nature: Glen Barclay. Native Pan Books Ltd, 1956

An absorbing study on the human use of intrinsic energy; challenges the very foundation of conventional science and technology.

The Aikido Student Handbook: Greg O’Connor. Frog Ltd, 2003

A very small book (108 pages), however, one of the better books available regardless of whether you are a beginner or have been practicing Aikido for a while.

Aikido – Its Heart and Appearance: Morihiro Saito. Minato, Tokyo 1975

Considered one of the Aikido classics.

The Essence of Aikido: Bill Sosa and Bryan Robbins.Unique Publications, 1987

Very good photography. Book details basics exceptionally well. A book that you will dip into and out of as your Aikido grows.

Aikido in Daily Life: Koichi Tohei. Rikugei Publishing House, Tokyo 1972

A detailed book on all aspects of Ki.

How to Develop Ki (Co-ordination of Mind and Body): Koichi Tohei. Ki No Kenkyukai H.Q., 1974

A small (44 pages) book on practical Ki exercises.

Budo, Teachings of the Founder of Aikido: Kisshomaru Ueshiba.Kodansha, Tokyo 1974

One of the first books on Aikido and whilst photograph technique has improved over the years this book should be considered in your library.

Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere: Adele Westbrook and Oscar Ratti. Reed, Sydney 1969

Probably the definitive book on Aikido and is very well recognised by its illustrations, throughout the Aikido world. A must have in your library.

Ultimate Aikido – Secrets of Self Defence and Inner Power: Yoshimitsu Yamana with Steven Pinsler. Carol Publishing Group, 1994

One of the best Aikido books for crisp photography of techniques.

Zen Combat: Jay Gluck. Personally Orientated books, 1962

Considered a classic when published in 1962. Over 400,000 copies sold of the original edition. Obviously dated but worth a read to understand the journey of martial arts.

American Shaolin: Matthew Polly. Gothan Books, 2007

This is a hilarious story of Matthew Polly’s 2 year tale of studying Kung Fu at Shaolin Temple. A very good book that has a very good blistering pace and I found the description of Shaolin true to my brief trip there in 2008.

The book of Martial Power – The universal guide to the Combative Arts: Steven J. Pearlman. The Overlook Press, 2006

A very detailed book that discusses ‘fundamental principles’ of all martial arts. A well written book that at times is not an easy read. Well researched and thought through. Very different to most martial art books.

Aikido Talks – Conversations with American Aikidoists: Susan Perry and Ronald Rubin. Arete Press, 2001

This book contains 20 interviews with prominent American teachers and students. The interviews were originally published in the excellent Aikido Today Magazine (ATM) that no longer is published but has now a very good website,

Sumo from Rite to Sport: P L Cuyler. John Weatherhill Inc, 1979

The author graduated from Princeton University where she majored in Japanese history. A well thought out book that goes into great detail on the sport of sumo and its origins.


*** 3 Star Reviews

The 36 Secret Strategies of the Martial Arts, The Classic Chinese guide for success in war, business, and life by Hiroshi Moriya: Forward and translation by William Scott Wilson. Kodansha International, 2004

Hiroshi Moriya is an expert on Chinese culture / philosophy. Apparently he has written over 70 books on China and visited China more than 50 times from his home in Tokyo. William Scott Wilson is the translator of Hagakure (see 4 stars), the book of Five Rings and other books. This book is a collection of ancient Chinese maxims. The book is sectioned into six parts from strategies for victories in battle to strategies for a lost battle. The author states that the book is designed for the business person, the diplomat, the politician, military strategist and the martial artist. Quite a large audience! A beautifully laid out book that at times could have been a bit tighter in its commentary.

Beyond the Known, The Ultimate Goal of the Martial Arts: Tri Thong Dang. Charles E Tuttle Company, 1993

Tri Thong Dang was born in Vietnam and has studied and taught martial arts worldwide. He is the founder of the Budo Educational Centre located in Sacramento, California. This book looks beyond the technical side of martial arts and explores philosophical aspects through anecdotes. The book primarily talks about the art of discipleship.

Teaching Martial Arts, The Way of the Master: Sang H Kim, PHD. Thristle Press, 1997

Dr Kim is an author of at least 7 martial art books and 40 instructional video tapes. He holds master rankings in Taekwondo, Hapkido, Junsado and Kumdo. This book details everything from the abstract nature of martial arts to the essenceof teaching, how to develop classes, what teaching methods are effective through to the qualities of a good instructor. There is also a bonus section on launching a martial arts school. This book’s foundation is spot on however I found the insight to be at a basic level.

Ah…. To be a Kid: Michael Friedl. Gandel Printing Centre Inc., 1994

A very good book that helps with teaching Aikido to children. However, there are Aikido games for all ages in the book.

This is Kendo – The Art of Japanese Fencing: J Sasamori and G Warner. Charles C Tuttle Company, 1974

Fully illustrated book introducing Kendo. I found this book extremely helpful when I was studying the art.

The Samurai: H Paul Varley with Ivan Morris and Nobuko. Penguin Books Ltd, 1974

Not a book for those who want an easy read – a detailed account of the Samurai.

The Spirit of Aikido: Kisshomaru Ueshiba. Kodansha, Tokyo, 1984

Discusses the founder’s philosophy as well as pre-war development of Aikido.

Bruce Lee and Me – A Martial Arts Adventure: Brian Preston. Atlantic Books, 2007

At the age of 47 Brian Preston a novice martial artist embarks on a King Fu journey. A marital artist travel journey that gives you some historical background. An easy read.

The Art of Peace by Morihei Ueshiba, translated by John Stevens. Shambhala Publications, 1992

Literally a pocket sized book which draws on talks and writings of O’Sensei. A book you dip in and out of. John Stevens has written a number of books on Aikido and is also a Zen scholar and Aikido Teacher.

Leadership Aikido – 6 business practices to turn around your life: John O’Neil. Harmony Books, 1997

An extremely good idea to look at how Aikido can be utilised in business. The author is a well respected management consultant. In many ways a trail blazer book that in places misses the mark.

Tuttle Dictionary of the Martial Arts of Korea, China and Japan: Sun-Jin Kim, Daniel Kogan, Nikolaos Kontogiannis and Hali Wong. Charles E Tuttle Company, 1995

A fantastic pocket size dictionary that covers martial Arts of Korea, China and Japan

Martial Arts of the Orient: Edited by Bryn Williams. Hamlyn 1975

This book looks at 13 Martial Arts plus an overview on the history and development of Martial Arts. A good book for beginners who are unsure of what Martial Arts is all about and the difference between the different Martial Arts.

Manual of Judo: E J Harrison. W.Foulsham & Co Ltd, 1952

Written by E J Harrison who at the time was a 4th Dan and a pioneer of Judo as “a foreigner” at the Kodokan, Tokyo. A lovely book that reveals martial arts in a pioneering time.

Junior Judo: E J Harrison. W.Foulsham & Co Ltd undated but probably in the 1950’s

A small book of 61 pages that is a easy read and for its time would have been considered leading edge.


** 2 Star Reviews

Japanese Finger-Pressure Therapy: Tokujiro Namikoshi. Japan Publications Inc., 1974

Early book on Shiatsu that covers the subject very well.

The Martial Arts Source Book: John Corcoran. Harper Perennial, 1994

The book is divided into 5 parts from styles and practices of the Martial arts to the Martial Arts business directory. The book claims to be “packed with over one million facts”. The section on films with Martial Arts is very good.

Martial Arts: P T J Rance. Virgin Books, 2005

This book examines 20 definitive films and TV series from the genre’s beginnings in 1920 China to blockbusters like the Matrix etc.


* 1 Star Reviews

Aikido and Holds and Locks: Bruce Tegner. Corgi Books, Londarn 1970

Basic street Aikido with no philosophy – 800 photos. Probably in it’s time it was considered an “ok book”.