井の中の蛙

8/30/2010

Young Samurai: The Way of the Sword: Ancient Culture, Modern Politics

Reading The Way of the Sword while listening to the “Restoring Honor” event, I began to wonder if our current shift to discourses of honor and warriors is a side effect of the ubiquity of martial arts in the US over the last 35 years. The values of martial arts, even the most modern ones, include personal and collective honor in ways that were, for a long time, rather absent in most American rhetoric. Sarah Palin said “If you look for the virtues that have sustained our country, you will find them in those who wear the uniform, who take the oath, who pay the price for our freedom.” That’s as good a paraphrase of the Imperial Rescript for Soldiers and Sailors as I’ve ever heard from an American politician.

The cultural and historical problems which made Young Samurai: The Way of the Warrior such a weak hash of Harry Potter plotting and dojo delusions persist in the second book of the trilogy. Like the first volume, it’s a quick read, probably most suitable for middle school/junior high readers, though older readers with an interest in the martial arts won’t find it childish. Historians of Japan, however, will find this gaijin-boy-in-early-Edo tale a test of character not unlike the one the protagonist faces: to get through it, you must ignore exhaustion, overcome moments of sharp pain, focus on the goal, and achieve a state of no-mind…. [spoilers ahead, of course, though the fact that it's the middle part of a trilogy probably tells you most of what you need to know.]
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8/24/2010

Young Samurai II: A Bad Start

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 11:16 pm

I picked up the second installment of the Young Samurai at the library today. I was thinking about starting it, and looked at the back inside dust cover, where I read the following:

Chris Bradford is the author of Young Samurai: The Way of the Warrior. Aside from having a black belt, he is trained in judo, karate, kickboxing, and samurai swordsmanship. Before writing the Young Samurai series, he was a professional musician and songwriter. He lives in England.

I’ve read that a dozen times, and I read it to my wife, and the question remains: “Aside from having a black belt….” in what? Is there some default martial art whose black belts speak for themselves and which need not be named? Or is he just making a fashion statement?

No, a quick visit to his website reveals that the black belt is in “Kyo Shin Tai-jutsu, the secret fighting art of the ninja.”1

If only Disney/Hyperion had some black-belt copyeditors….

  1. Secret? Never mind. []

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