A new review has been posted in the AikiWeb Book database:
Book Title: Angry White Pyjamas
Book Author: Twigger, Robert
Review author: Christopher Ross
Rating given: 5 (out of 5)
I have waited for the dust to settle before adding to the competing
views of Robert Twigger's 'Angry White Pyjamas.' Now that five years
have passed since publication I would like to comment. And I must
point out at once that I too am in the book and was present during the
whole narrative period and, of course, know all the characters. My
views are as follows:
(1) Comments along the lines of 'this is not the true aikido' or
'Robert Twigger learned nothing from his period as a senshusei' are as
insulting as they are untrue. I am writing a book at the moment which
takes episodes from the life of Yukio Mishima and have of course,
encountered technical iaido comments on (I quote) the 'piss poor waza'
of his seppuku; sure his kaishaku made a mess of it, but Mishima did
cut open his stomach and his head was (eventually) cut off -- as was
that of the kaishaku-nin in turn. In some areas it is illegitimate or
at least ungenerous to comment unless you have actually experienced
what is under discussion.
(2) Against this general point a number of Yoshinakan senshusei who do
know what they are talking about -- Spike and Mad Dog (Mike Kimeda
Sensei and Nic Mills Sensei) -- have also reviewed the book in
negative terms. In Spike's case it was mainly his perception of an
insulting characterisation of Robert Mustard Sensei that he wished to
highlight as unfair; and in Mad Dog's case, I am sure, it was his own
portrait that drew blood. First off, Robert Twigger wrote about how he
felt during the course, not how an idealised aikidoka should feel, and
it is an outstandingly honest account. He knew, as did those around
him, both other senshusei and non-senshusei aikidoka, that Robert
Mustard possesses a genius for teaching and understanding his students
and that he was deliberately targeting Twigger because of his own
bloody minded character and dogged resistance to being taught. It
would not be exaggerating to say that those of us who were first
taught aikido by Robert Mustard in Japan identified ourselves then as
his followers through and through, still are, and always will be --
this includes Robert Twigger who I have never heard utter anything but
totally respectful and admiring statements about his teacher, Robert
(3) The episode of Kancho's death is also misunderstood. No one was
celebrating the death of Kancho. What they were delirious about was
the holiday, which nothing short of Kancho's death would have brought
about. Kancho Sensei would have roared with laughter at the idea that
training was so hard that standing all day in the hot sun of his
funeral rites would seem such a respite. A further factor is that non
of the senshusei in Angry White Pyjamas (the 4th course) had ever been
taught by Kancho, who had been ill for some time. For bonds of
affection to be real, rather than sanctimonious cant or cultishness,
you must at least have met the person towards whom such feelings are
directed. In budo the bond is with your teacher, not your teacher's
teacher, other than in a formal sense or unless he too taught you.
(4) I am aware of significant numbers of later generation senshusei
who were inspired to train by Angry White Pyjamas. I doubt whether
anyone doing the course ignores this book, unless they are from Mad
Dog's dojo and have been banned from reading it. (I am sure they would
still read it.)
(5) This is not a technical manual, but it is an authentic work and
has captured the Yoshinkan Honbu faithfully. I recognise everyone,
even myself, where such unpleasant things as my suffering from spots
on my shoulders and having said something unkind about someone's teeth
are reported as they happened, not improved versions to keep me
Angry White Pyjamas is one of a tiny number of original and utterly
authentic accounts of real budo in the English language -- and is of
the same stature as Dave Lowry's 'Autumn Lightning'[Yagyu Shinkage
Ryu] and C.W.Nichol's 'Moving Zen.'[Shotokan Karate] and has, for the
reading world, forever fixed the position of Yoshinkan as a source of
authentic aikido in one of its toughest guises.
My review of Kancho Sensei's 'Total Aikido' also appears on AikiWeb.
I read "AWP" a few years ago, and I enjoyed the book, I was shocked at the reaction to Kancho's death! Also, I found some of the reactions to training, er, disapointing. I gave my copy to my (sadly also Late) teacher, who was once a student of Kancho.
Now, having spoken with a fellow Aikidoka recently who is in the book, I have a better perspective.
It is a good book, but I think it should be remembered the approach that Robert Twigger is taking in his authorship, and the conditions they endured. I would say it is definitely worth reading, particularly by those practicing in unchallenging and comfortable ways.
My teacher disliked some of the commentry, but recognised the conditions, although with a somewhat differing view. I must say that his time in Japan was quite a long time previous to Mr Twigger's time there.
I have read the book last year and I liked it so much I finished in one night. I believe there is nothing shocking about the book itself except that it is honestly relating what happened without idealization and embellishement.
The book is not all negative and in fact it made me admire the yoshinkan style and want to do one day the Senshusei course. The negative things are just the by-product, and somehow they do not surprise me as I have seen these in aikido dojos everywhere.
I have found out long ago that there is a great difference between the idealized image of aikido that we read in books and the sad reality on the ground. We are all human beings after all, and I don't believe that aikido makes a saint out of you.
Don't forget that you can put your thoughts on this book in the book reviews section:
If you've read the book, your comments in the above section would be greatly appreciated. Reviews of other aikido books would, of course, be greatly appreciated as well.
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