It is with a little embarrassment that I publish this book review so long after receiving the book. Seamus O’Dowd very kindly sent me a copy of this outstanding book, and I have read it perhaps four times, but failed to write the review immediately upon completing the book. As I like to review the book immediately after reading it, I felt a review a time away from the book wouldn’t do it justice.
Stan Schmidt is perhaps one of the most senior instructors in the entire world. There are times when we adorn the Japanese with the status of being the sole carriers of the karate tradition, perhaps to the ignorance of the hundreds of foreign (outside Japan) instructors that have trained, sometimes for longer. Quite literally, one cannot mention or discuss South African karate and the South African karate lineage without mentioning Stan Schmidt.
This book is Schmidt’s autobiographical reflections on some of the earliest phases of his Martial Art career. Reading this text, I made respectful comparisons to C.W.Nicol’s ‘Moving Zen’, a real favourite of mine. Like Moving Zen, this book provides a vivid taste of the experience of one of the world’s most senior instructors. Written in an anecdotal style that creates an exciting, and absorbing atmosphere, Schmidt talks initially of his first steps onto the dojo floor. It is quite hard, in the modern world of the internet, masses of textbooks and a movie catalogue that glorifies and sometimes vilifies the Martial Arts, to imaging a world where Karate was a mystical practice. In reading this book however, the reader has a real insight into the anticipation, excitement and at times trepidation that accompanied Schmidt’s early experiences.
Like many readers of this book may agree however, my favourite parts of the book refer to Schmidt’s experiences in Japan. To say that, you may think I am neglecting the value of other parts of the book, which of course I am not. The entire book is enthralling, but the Japan sections are unquestionably my favourite. Of particular enjoyments are the sections discussing Mr. Sado, the pseudo name for an unnamed volatile karateka that was the muse of some of Schmidt’s most challenging experiences in Japan. I won’t reveal the stories, but I these were a real highlight for me.
The book is written in a warm and colourful way. Having interviewed Stan myself a few years ago (See below for links), I can vouch for the fact that the humbleness that is evident within the book is an absolute reflection of the man. I must urge everyone to purchase this book, as it will leave you humbled, excited and eager to get back to the dojo. It is rare to read such a detailed and vivid account by a Martial Artist so senior, and I must say a personal thank you for the inspiration this book provided!
An Interview with Stan Schmidt Part 1 (2007)
An Interview with Stan Schmidt Part 2 (2007)