The Principles of Aikido
A&E reviewer, Roberto Pecora, requested a review copy The Principles of Aikido by Mitsugi Saotome (Shambhala Publications, 1989) once he decided to test for his next aikido rank. After perusing book reviews posted on aikido school websites and aikido databases, he thought this book would be the best bet for what he required; namely, a better understanding of the concept of aikido movements. Here's Roberto's assessment of whether the book fit the bill:
Aikido is a complex martial art, which, in the early stages of learning, largely focuses on body positioning with respect to the attacker, posture and breathing, positioning of the feet and hands, and the curvature of the arms. The abundance of well-composed photos in this book addressed each of these areas, which are a concern to beginners. On average, there are about 11 photos per technique, with some sequences having as few as 6 and others having as many as 16. This allowed me to see a very detailed step-by-step explanation of how certain techniques and their variations could be carried out. This brings me to my next point: I assumed that, in ordering an aikido book published in 1989, many of the techniques would be outdated. Not true! Many of them are quite similar to what I have learnt over recent years. As a result, studying the techniques in this book did not confuse me or lead me against the instructions of my teacher.
Before each sequence of photos, Saotome gives a concise explanation of the technique. In the chapters not dedicated to the techniques, the author goes into some easily understood philosophy. He has some insightful explanations of mental attitude and vision, harmonizing with your attacker, the importance of learning, the philosophy behind ikkyo (the most fundamental technique in aikido), and many others. He also includes some quotes and explanations by O-Sensei, the legendary founder of aikido. These non-technical elaborations are an essential part of learning a martial art. Unfortunately, the philosophy of aikido is not enough of a priority in most aikido schools, and for this reason alone it is worth investing in any martial art book that focuses on the philosophy of one's discipline.
Despite some instances towards the end of the book where words are missing and sentences are repeated, I found the text just as understandable and helpful as the visuals. I'd strongly recommend this book for all levels up to the 1st kyu rank.
For more information on this and other Shambhala publications, please visit http://www.shambhala.com/