Ratti, Oscar and Adele Westbrook, Secrets of the Samurai: A Survey of the Martial Arts of Feudal Japan. Rutland, VT: Charles E. Tuttle. 1973.

Reviewed by Leigh Kimmel

Review copyright 1996, 1998 by Leigh Kimmel

For permission to quote or reprint, contact Leigh Kimmel

This review originally appeared in Science Fiction & Fantasy Workshop Newsletter

Anyone who wants to write stories set in feudal Japan or a society based upon Japanese models will find this book an excellent resource for material on Japanese warfare. This book provides as thorough a study of Japanese military thought and practice in the feudal period as can be done within the two covers of one book. It includes copicious illustrations of various kinds of armor, weapons and techniques, which will help a writer visualize what is being described.

The book is divided into three main parts. The first part discusses the social factors that shaped the martial ethos and military practice in Japanese society. These factors include the place of the military class in relation to the authority structure, their relationship with other elements of Japanese society and the ways in which warriors were educated in the martial arts. The second part discusses the military factors, with in-depth examination of each of the various kinds of armor and weapons and how they were used, as well as looking at the various concepts of unarmed combat. The third and final part discusses the philosophical factors that shaped military thinking in feudal Japan and in many ways has continued to shape Japanese thought. The most important of these philosophical foundations of Japanese thought is the hara or "center," a concept that incorporates ideas of balance and stability and form the basis for the way that Japanese military thinkers regarded how a warrior should fight and think and be.

Unfortunately this book is old enough that it is probably no longer in print. However the information in it is valuable enough to justify at least trying to get it via interlibrary loan or even obtaining one's own copy through various used-book stores' out-of-print search services.

Copyright 1995, 1998 by Leigh Kimmel

For permission to quote or reprint, contact Leigh Kimmel

Home | Naval History | Reading | Writing | Fandom | Gallery | Articles | Bookstore | Personals | Work at Home | Link to Me