A lot of material for the blogs that I've published to date have come from some awesome books. In this blog I shall inform you of the 3 best books that I got the most out of and rate them from 3 to 1; 1 being the one I got the most out of and there for recommend the most. This is an opinion based list.
Written by Taejoon Lee, Hwa Rang Do: Defend, Take Down, Submit is a great book that focuses primarily on documenting the science of unarmed self defence. However approximately 1 quarter of the book is dedicated to the history of Korea's expressions of the Martial Arts, the spirituality of the Martial Arts and a theoretical explanation of the um-yang (yin-yang).
Pages 50/51 are what I enjoy the most. There are 2 fantastic diagrams, 'Three Elements Of The Self' and 'Spheres of Knowledge', that explain where all the elements of a Martial Artist fit into place. I personally find 'The Spheres of Knowledge' to be the most intriguing; however it is fairly detailed and difficult to put into words. The 'Three Elements of the Self' is a triangle with a circle inside. One side of the triangle is labelled 'Physical', another side represents 'Mental', and the other is 'Emotional'. The circle within the triangle is labelled 'Spirit'. The 3 elements of the self (Phisical, Mental and Emotional), when harmonised, create a strong internal Spirit.
"Like an equilateral triangle, all three elements are equally dependant on each other to create a stable structure. When the sides are balanced, a perfect circle can form within."
Also on page 50 is 'NEW CATEGORISATION OF MARTIAL ARTS', a comprehensive section that I previously wrote a blog about. Taejoon Lee gives definitions to Martial Sport, Self-Defense, Martial Art and Martial Way. Lee's definition of the Martial Way is what we commonly refer to as True Martial Arts.
I used material from this book to write these blogs:
Etymology of the Martial Arts:
NEW CATEGORISATION OF MARTIAL ARTS:
Morihei Ueshiba's book 'The Art of Peace' is one of the best books I have ever had the pleasure of reading. Broken up into three parts, 'Part One Morihei Ueshiba, Prophet of the Art of Peace', Part Two 'The Art of War versus the Art of Peace', and Part Three 'The Art of Peace', it is a great tool to utilise for our journeys towards spiritual enlightenment. I felt I had a deeper understanding of what Freddie teaches us after reading Ueshiba's biography which in itself is very interesting. If you're a history buff like myself then you will probably enjoy reading about how he took part in the 1905 war between Russia and Japan over Manchuria. How he developed Aikido and had to keep his teachings of peace secret to avoid being jailed during World War 2. And how, after his "dramatic enlightenment experience", in the spring of 1925, "his life was transformed and his mission made clear." As a result "Morihei became an invincible warrior and set off on his mission as a prophet of the Art of Peace."
After Ueshiba's biography (Part One), Part Two focuses on the true spiritual significance of Bushido/Budō. In Ueshiba's day, the concept of Budō was being severely corrupted by the warmongering shoguns, who were expanding the oppressive empire of Japan as far south as Indonesia. Even threatening to invade Australia. Morihei stated "There was nothing noble about using weapons and the arts of war to seize the land of other domains out of sheer greed." He decried this as a false mentality of "honour" and further stated " Bushido is not learning how to die; it is learning how to live."
Part two also focuses on becoming your own artist. It tells us how Morihei Ushiba would teach people to express themselves honestly as individuals. To "Use your body to manifest the spirit in physical form." This is Martial Art. He would teach people to be spontaneous; always to be changing. He expresses this teaching by saying "Learn and Forget! Learn and Forget! Make the techniques part of your own being!". Morihei also told his students to label their own techniques as to make them more personal. I wrote the following blog on this section:
Morihei Ueshiba on Technique - Analysis:
Part three, the largest part of the book, contains the direct teaching of the Art of Peace. At first I found these teachings difficult to comprehend because they weren't placed in any context like the first and second chapters. However, as I have grown over time, I have developed a greater understanding of these teachings of wisdom. It's important to remember that when reading books of wisdom, you probably won't understand everything the first time round. However you will most likely gain an understanding of where the sage is coming from and what he/she is expressing in time. Here are some of Ueshiba's teachings of the Art of Peace with some of my comments below:
"Life is within death, death is within life; you must exist right here, right now!"
(I believe he is teaching us about meditation)
"As soon as you concern yourself with the "good" and "bad" of your fellows, you create an opening in your heart for maliciousness to enter. Testing, competing with, and criticising others weakens and defeats you." (What I get from this one is to not get stressed over some fellow collegians who claim themselves as Martial Artists but value Taekwondo and Karate tournaments. Stressing over their severely misguided mentality doesn't do me any good; it rips me apart from the inside.)
"All life is the manifestation of the spirit, the manifestation of love. And the Art of Peace is the purest form of that principle. A warrior is charged with bringing a halt to all contention and strife. Universal love functions in many forms; each manifestation should be allowed free expression. The Art of Peace is true democracy." (Another good statement.)
"The techniques of the Way of Peace change constantly; every encounter is unique, and the appropriate response should emerge naturally. Today's techniques will be different tomorrow. Do not get caught up with the form and appearance of a challenge. The Art of Peace has no form - it is the study of the spirit." (This is what Freddie demonstrates in practically every video.)
"The divine is not something high above us. It is in heaven, it is in earth, it is inside us."
(Just like how Jesus said that the "kingdom of heaven is within you". The truth is always found within.)
"The divine does not like to be shut up in a building. The divine likes to be out in the open. It is right here in this very body. Each of us is a miniature universe, a living shrine."
(Both you and I are divine. We have the right to exist because we do exist. In reference to being "shut up in a building"; when we practice Martial Art, it is not necessary that it always be in a Kwoon/Dojang/Dojo/Training Room or whatever label you give it. Your training could take place in the park. It could take place on the beach. You can train in your back yard or your shed. Martial Art can be practiced anywhere. This is why I say "The martial techniques I execute is my paint brush, the Universe is my canvas".)
"The Art of Peace is the religion that is not a religion; it perfects and completes all religions."
(This basically tells us that the Art of Peace expresses the truth of the universe. Religions try to, however, they become corrupted by people seeking political gain in their organisation.)
"Unification of the body and spirit through the Art of Peace is an exalted state, so high and pleasant that it brings tears of joy to your eyes" (He said it!)
The Art of Peace is a great, easy to read guide that will over time, strengthen your understanding of the truth of the universe and the Martial Arts. I highly recommend this book to everybody.
About the same size as Sifu Freddie Lee's Reflections Volume 1, I've placed The Art of Shoalin Kung Fu in first place due to the vast variety of Martial Art topics it covers. I'm not an expert on the historical structures of Martial Arts from China. This book does however, provide someone like me a good introduction. The Chinese terminology can be difficult for people relatively unfamiliar with terms like "Taijiquan" such as my self. It took me a while to figure out that Taijiquan refers to soft Martial Arts; in particular Tai Chi!.
The Art of 'SHOALIN' Kung Fu does not specifically document/refer to people with orange uniforms and shaved heads. It touches on mainly the hard Martial Art systems (that fall under the category of Shoalin) from China as a hole. This book contains a comparative history of the various systems of Shoalin Kung Fu such as Choy Lay Fut, Win Chun and animal styles; all of which are considered Shoalin arts according to my current understanding. This book also contains an in depth study of the construction of Kung Fu set patterns, the training of internal force (Chi) and traditional Kung Fu weapons. It helps one better themselves through detailed practical exercises and meditation techniques. In addition to all the above, this book also contains stories of Shoalin wisdom and healing.
This book has many illustrations that I find helpful. It illustrates combative forms, displaying one step self defence clearly and talks you through it in written form. I find it thought provoking, but also understandable that Kung Fu is more holistic than anything to be found in the commercialised world. The book even states this on page 75: "Although many people may not be aware of it, there are actually more kicks, falling techniques and holds and grips in Shoalin Kung Fu than in all the other world famous martial arts put together! All the kicks found in Taekwondo and Siamese Boxing, all the throws found in Judo, and all the holds found in Aikido are also found in Shaolin Kung Fu, but there are kicks, felling techniques and holds not found in them, well known though they are for different kinds of attack."
The Art of Shoalin Kung Fu, in terms of artistic self defence, is a huge versatile system that would, when studied seriously, open a doorway of innumerable technique combinations to practice. This is why Kung Fu schools are so hard to come by. Because they are closer to the truth. Their quality of Shoalin systems is too good to be mass produced in the west. An example of this is that there are only 3 Choy Lay Fut schools in Australia.
The last 3 chapters focus on developing good Chi (Philosophy and Methods of Shoalin Chi Kung), understanding Zen (The Study of Reality and Phenomenal World), and The Shoalin way to Enlightenment (Methods of Meditation for Spiritual Development). There are 2 expository sentences from page 189 that go as follows: "Zen or enlightenment is the majestic, sublime experience of cosmic reality in it's transcendental dimension, where all dualism has disappeared, where the enlightened being is emancipated from the illusory prison of the physical body and becomes the infinite, eternal universe as he or she realises that the personal mind is in reality the Universal Mind. The essential path to enlightenment is meditation."
I think this is really cool. To me, Martial Arts is a pathway to gaining an understanding of the universe, while keeping you physically, mentally and emotionally in shape to enhance the spirit. The longer I study this sort of thing, the stronger my understanding of it and everything else becomes. The Art of Shoalin Kung Fu is the most well rounded Martial Arts book that I have looked at to date, and thus it takes the number 1 spot on this list. The reason I love books, in particular this one, is because they contain so much detail that I feel I am exploring a gold mine. Yes all the information for almost everything is online, however it's not much fun when my iPad battery goes flat.
Inspiration and material to write the following blog came from The Art of Shoalin Kung Fu.
Formlessness to Form to Formlessness:
Earlier this week I received 'Living the Way', 'Spiritual Martial Arts' and 'Reflections - Volume 1' by Sifu Freddie Lee in the post from Amazon.com. I have flicked through all three and I'm currently reading 'Spiritual Martial Arts'. I must say I find them very enjoyable. A general trend I've found in Freddie's writing is that his sentences are structurally simple, and the sentence typing is expository. I find it all easy to read and the content comprehensive so far. It also helps that Freddie contextualises the Martial Arts in the modern day. This is a large reason why FMK is so refreshing. It's Freddie's MODERN Kung Fu!.
I now have one question for Freddie. It goes as follows:
"Can we expect Reflections - Volume 2 any time soon?".
Thank You so much for reading my current top 3 book recommendations. Do you guys know of any books that you would recommend to me?.