Among practitioners of Japanese martial arts both in Japan and overseas there is hardly a person not knowing the name of famous swordsman Yamaoka Tesshu, who is also renowned for his calligraphy and pursuits of enlightenment in Zen Buddhism. Despite this, for over a century Tesshu's figure, buried under numerous anecdotes and mythical stories, has presented a contrasting combination of broad popularity with the absence of critical biographies and the lack of verified data.
In this book, Anatoliy Anshin draws from his doctoral dissertation to create the first critical biography on Tesshu, over 120 years after his death in 1888. Based on scrupulous investigation of primary and secondary sources, Anshin shows that Tesshu's whole life was an uncompromising quest for the authentic Japanese swordsmanship, which had been practically lost by his time. Anshin further analyzes how this quest eventually led Tesshu to play the central role in the bloodless surrender of Edo Castle - one of the most important events in the Meiji Restoration of 1868.
Looking at everything, from the beginning and development of Tesshu's thoughts and belief systems to establishing his own swordsmanship school called Itto Shoden Muto-ryu, Anshin chronologically highlights Tesshu's dramatic life path. This path reflects like a mirror centuries-old cultural history of Japanese warrior class, the samurai, and its martial arts.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
It was evident that the information was very factual due to extensive research. It was interesting to hear the critique from Yamaoka, a person who lived in the era, of "flowery" martial arts back then.
The truth of the ancient ways, A critical biography of the swordsman Yamaoka Tesshu by Anatoily Anshin
I first came across the name of Tesshu Yamaoka when reading the book “The sword of no-sword” by John Stevens. Having read most of John Stevens his books, this book became one of my favorites by him.
When I found out about the publication of this biography of Yamaoka Tesshu I ordered it right away.
At first, reading the introduction, I worried a bit that this was a criticism at the biography done by Stevens.
However reading the book I found out that it’s focus was rather to have a look at who the historical Tesshu was rather than looking at the legend that was built around him.
The book starts off with the author explaining the history of the bugei, the Japanese warrior.
He explains the changes in the way bugei trained and apprehended swordsman skills before the period of peace during the Tokugawa...
This biography lays out its arguments beautifully. It tries not to state more than can be derived from reliable sources, so it is content to leave blanks in the story. This earns the respect and trust of readers, and it does not hurt the structure. In the main argument, the purpose is revisionist, and the book boldly calls previous historical studies to task. It both contests previous assertions about Tesshu's life, and it presents a point of view that previous scholars have not explored: Tesshu's essential identity as a swordsman as opposed to a politician, revolutionary, religious figure, etc. The material is brilliant, solid, and unconventional.
The objective of this work is to revise previous erroneous scholarship and portrayals of the life of Tesshu. It is also to tell the story of his life from the narrow focus of his swordsmanship goals and techniques, stating that to be a "true warrior" was the heart of his person, and this goal informed or overshadowed all of his...
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