Due to the many posts about this book, I had to read it. So shortly after it was published in English, I read it. I have held my opinions until now for the same reason tea is brewed.
Because parts of my review parallels the general opinions of others, like it's not an instructional book etc. I will skip that and provide what I feel is more specific to me in an overview.
Is the book good, yes. Lot of martial arts books are very technical and not motivating. I lend this book to be something equivalent to an autobiography (with a ghost writer who throws in his 2 cents) of any sports superstar or legend. It is done very much in the Japanese and Chinese traditional model of writing any martial art's book. That is having a student write down what the master said. This parallels books like that of Musashi's and Sun Tzu's. Therefore, makes it very popular and lends credibility among Japanese readers. It's written in formal model say like a great American novel about a sports legend. The thing here though Segawa wasn't well known in the public or martial arts world, in comparison to say O'Sensei.
Most people didn't know about Segawa until after his death per the book; Aikido Journal did do an interview with him. The interview was didn't provide the same depth or motivation. It wasn't revealing at all compared to the book. The interview was done in a typical Japanese martial art interview that wasn't controlled by Segawa who wasn't open at all about himself as in the book. It was a mantle article. I believe a Japanese news reporter also interviewed Segawa with the same results. Therefore, Segawa was relatively unknown. The public had no idea of who he was or what his abilities where, only a very few were aware of Segawa. Those few where seemingly hand picked by Segawa who stayed extremely private and selective.
The book, as some have pointed out does have layers of Segawa's personality which upon an initial read, can come off in English as an ego manic and braggart. Though more uncomfortable for me is the blending of the author's gushing on about his sensei and what Segawa was crafting per dictation to the author. Segawa was crafting a public image of himself, remember the public didn't know him or his skill.
Most of the book we have to go on Segawa's account of events and people that he uses to legitimize himself as well as discounting others. There are few solid footprints that attest to Segawa's accounts of events and connections. Yes, his sensei was Takeda, but that relationship we must depend on Segawa's account much as the whole book, as anyone who could of confirmed or refuted Segawa had already passed away.
Segawa was a reclusive martial artist, who was very selective and conservative with his image and those he taught. The book seems to do a 180 degree turn to promote Segawa, putting him in a spot light he wasn't in during his lifetime.
The book was very motivating but not unique. Much of what he said can be found in other well known books about martial arts, and is staple martial arts dictums and propaganda. O'Sensei's book has been criticized for him doing the same thing, a type of recycling information, for lack of a better term. But Doing so, may be a common device in Japanese martial arts literature. But, Segawa does it without abstract or mystical prose. There is no decoding in that sense to interfere with the read.
But, Segawa does seem to code things in his words and by what he doesn't say, again a traditional device that may lend to the public credibility of Segawa, who had never seen his skill publicly.
The coding doesn't lend to revealing technique as mentioned, rather insight into the check list of martial arts concepts. I think this lends to Segawa's depth in knowledge about understanding martial concepts and their application, in place of demonstration. It is like some you need to hire for a job, and by the prospective's explanation of a concept you are convinced he knows what he is talking about, and can do the job. Even before he starts.
Segawa was a great motivative speaker, and his student Kimura a good writer. That is evident by the popularity of the book in Japan. The Japanese love book's like Segawa's because it is about them, and it models a great book for them. Much like we love a great American novel. And much like a good motivational and inspirational speakers. This lends to Segawa’s greatest measurable skill.
Generally, I feel the book does a great job (vs. what we see by the attempts of McdDojo's and hack martial artists) of self-promotion in a way that is inspiring for some. Overall, the book is much like an old school basketball player no one has ever seen who writes about how great he is. We can easily discern that Segawa isn't a McDojo or a hack. That he has a solid understanding of martial arts concepts as applied in how he did the book and within the book. He has put himself now on everyone's lips, he has gotten a huge public spot light and has become a legend means of words printed with ink on pulp.
How Segawa compares to his peer, how much fact behind his claims and accounts in his book will always be a mystery. And the accuracy of Segawa’s accounts and stories, will also be a mystery. But, what we will know is Segawa has inspired many to become as great as the archetype of martial arts master he portrayed himself in this book. A market that walks hand in hand with martial arts.
Segawa and the author cut though the abstract prose to give a clear understanding that martial arts isn’t a kata dance, a McDojo, and all that. Rather he explains that the secret, like anything else, is martial arts takes hard work, dedication, allot of time and allot of effort. You don’t have to be special to achieve great skill, you stick your nose to the grind stone, don’t go
“Superstar,” don’t go “McDojo,” and all that, rather be dedicated to developing your art by working hard, being patient and concentrating only on that. And you only go public when after you die. That appeals greatly to Japanese as others. Remember, Segawa wrote the book for the Japanese only.
If you are looking for a book to put down what most Japanese and Japanese martial artists know that has been encoded by prose and verse, or unknown by most of us who got caught in McDojo's or convoluted or parsed dojos or just interested in Japanese martial arts then this book will be helpful. One thing Segawa did was he took allot to his grave, and gave us just enough morsels posed as secrets to keep our attention. But by no means are those morsels anything more than attention getter's. Segawa isn't going to shoot himself in the foot and expose anything. Otherwise it would strip him of his popularity and image. It was just a different way to keep things secret and inciting. The same model as so many recognized popular Japanese martial artists did including O'Sensei .That is the greatest secret in the book IMO.
BTW, image isn't it everything? It is important if you want to be known for something. The book is a good thought out well done publicity piece that is enjoyable to read.