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Kurikara: The Sword and the Serpent

July 1, 2011

Kurikara: The Sword and the Serpent

You are walking on an unfamiliar path when suddenly you happen upon a Japanese dojo. Through the doorway you notice that the room is empty, with the exception of a single rolled-up bamboo mat, standing upright. You step in, sit down, and empty your mind. Not a thought passes through your consciousness.

Silence.

Suddenly, you hear a quick swish followed by a dull thud. You open your eyes. The bamboo has been halved, and before you stands the embodiment of calm, calculated power: a master of kenjutsu, Japanese swordsmanship.

In Kurikara: The Sword and the Serpent, author John Maki Evans attempts to familiarize newcomers and enthusiasts of kenjutsu with the ancient techniques required to safely and impressively carry out demonstrations such as this. As the first foreign student to train with Nakamura Taisaburo, widely noted as the master of the sword art battodo, Evans provides a wealth of knowledge on the subject. However, the book is not simply an instruction manual for proper sword form. Evans is also highly versed in Mikkyo, Japansese esoteric Buddhism — expertise he uses in order to explain the importance of inner development as well as physical prowess. In fact, the title of this book, Kurikara, refers to a manifestation of the fierce bodhisattva Fudo Mo O (the patron of ascetics and warriors in Japan), who uses his sword to destroy delusions and sever attachments. He is a symbol of the internal energy developed through sword practice.

An example of the synthesis body, mind, and sword undergo:

On the first day of training, sword and human meet as alien objects; over time, they become one living thing. Eventually the blade will magnify and project the actions of the body, reflect mood and mindset, and ultimately reveal the pathway to the core of being.

John Evans is a fascinating character. Born in Oxford in 1954, he attended Oxford University, where he developed a deep interest in Shotokan karate. in the early 1980s he traveled to Japan, where he underwent the bulk of his sword training. After studying under numerous experts such as Danzaki Tomoaki, Yoshikawa Koichiro, Fushi Murata, and the aforementioned Nakamura Taisaburo, he returned to England, where he began to focus on bringing his rare knowledge to Westerners. To understand battodo, one requires a lifetime of rigorous mental and physical training; Evans’s training is never complete.

Currently available wherever books are sold, Kurikara will be released as an ebook on July 5 (less than a week away!). Preorder now!

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