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Old 03-06-2003, 09:26 AM   #1
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A new review has been posted in the AikiWeb Book database:
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Book Title: Angry White Pyjamas
Book Author: Twigger, Robert

Review author: Matt Wake
Rating given: 5 (out of 5)

Review:
I think Robert Twigger has done a superb job of creating an enjoyable and insightful narrative from a year of intensive Aikido study. It works brilliantly as a novel and as a credible introduction to a Japanese dojo.

Having practised kendo intensively in Japan, I can understand his paranoia towards certain teachers, and others who he obviously respected. He also effectively describes the torture and occasional humour of budo practice, while sparing time to explore modern Japanese society.

Personally I would like aspiring martial artists to read this book before setting foot in any dojo. They might be more realistic about what budo means -- repetitive practice, some pain, occasional breakthroughs -- rather than a romanticised image gleaned from the latest self-help manual.
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Old 03-06-2003, 12:35 PM   #2
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Although I dont know Robert Twigger and even never met him, after reading Mike Kimedas and Nic Mills reviews, and talking to Nic Mills about Twigger I have no aspirations or intentions in reading the book. I believe Twigger didnt train in Aikido before going through the senshusei course. It seems as though he had no desire to become an Aikidoka and this is evident in the responses given by by both Mike and Nic.

Twigger is a writer who travels around the world in search of new adventures and writes about his experiences. By no means is he an Anthropologist. It seems as though he went into the course with a frame of mind focusing on survival and not focusing on learning and self discovery. Im told there is a difference between those who get through the senshusei course and those who "complete" it. Apparently they will not kick you out of the senshusei course, it is just expected that you leave if you can not handle it. Many westerners dont seem to understand this and get through the course and feel like they have accomplished something. Those who complete it are those who actually care about what they are doing, trying to get the most out of it, and trying their best. I dont feel that anyone that hasnt "completed" the course would have anything valuable to say towards Yoshinkan Aikido.

Im just going by what I have read about the senshusei course and Robert Twigger, and what I have learned through those that have known him. I have absolutely no intention of reading the book. The only suggestion I could make is for the Yoshinkan Honbu dojo to have a better screening policy for the senshusei course so they can weed out those Westerners who know nothing of the culture and have no affinity for Aikido.

Have a Great Day!
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Old 03-06-2003, 02:34 PM   #3
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Quote:
I believe Twigger didnt train in Aikido before going through the senshusei course.
I don't think he claimed too. Except for the brief stint in the regular classes before starting the course.
Quote:
It seems as though he had no desire to become an Aikidoka
I don't think he makes a secret of that in his book. Aikido was basically something that he and his friends decided to do to get them off the couch (as I remember it). I can't count the number of people who have come into our dojo in my short time there looking for "something to keep them active". They have no idea what aikido is or what it's about. Some fall in love with it and stay but most drop out.
Quote:
It seems as though he went into the course with a frame of mind focusing on survival and not focusing on learning and self discovery.
I'd agree. From what I rememeber he was just trying to get through it in order to show himself that he could. He needed to challenge himself to do something difficult and the senshusei course was what he used. For him just finishing was far more important than becoming a good aikido practitioner. Again, we've had many people come into the dojo because they had heard that aikido is difficult to learn and they want/need to challenge themselves. They have no particular love of aikido they just want to push themselves toward some goal. Most leave when they find out the "goal" in our practice is more practice.
Quote:
I have absolutely no intention of reading the book.
That's too bad. You should read it and form your own opinions. You may be in a unique position to understand/refute things in the book with your background knowledge.

All in all I liked the book. I read it understanding that it was written by someone who took the course looking for something difficult to challenge himself with, not neccessarily to learn aikido.

Bronson

"A pacifist is not really a pacifist if he is unable to make a choice between violence and non-violence. A true pacifist is able to kill or maim in the blink of an eye, but at the moment of impending destruction of the enemy he chooses non-violence."
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Old 03-06-2003, 03:34 PM   #4
shihonage
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I found that book boring.

Couldn't make myself read more than a fourth of it.

A regretful purchase.
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Old 03-06-2003, 04:32 PM   #5
ianb
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I bought and read the book and quite enjoyed it, but not because I necessarily agreed with or even liked the author as portrayed.

I felt that he wanted to be a published author and did the senshusei course so he would have an experience to write about.

I trained for a year under Paul Stephens and Eva Stauffer, who are both mentioned in the book. I have a hard time reconciling the Paul of the book with Paul Sensei, whom I found to be a patient and generous teacher with considerable sense of humour.

Worth a read though, if only so you can disagree with the man. :-) I guess it wasn't written with the Aikidoka audience in mind.

Last edited by ianb : 03-06-2003 at 04:46 PM.

Kia ora
Ian
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Old 03-06-2003, 07:54 PM   #6
Edward
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It took me just a few hours to finish the book, and I found it quite entertaining. It is not a serious book, but rather something like those B class movies about some mischievous people enlisting in the army. I think only aikidoka will be able to understand what the author is trying to tell, and there are a few interesting anecdotes. I didn't take this author's opinions about yoshinkan aikido and its practitioners too seriously because to judge by the kind of marginal life he was himself leading as he describes it in the book, he doesn't really earn neither my respect nor my trust, but the book is intertaining and funny, so why not read it?
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Old 03-06-2003, 08:17 PM   #7
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Hi Edward;

I was of the same mind for pretty much the same reasons until Mike (in the book) Kimeda suggested I should read it anyway. Glad I did - my review is already posted. Even read it a second time.

I was watching a film the other day where one lady was protesting a book she hadn't read. While I think that not reading a book you have no interest in is perfectly acceptable, condeming the same based on heresay is - well the character in the film came across a bit shrill.

Spring Gashko this week-end. Beer, Onsen, and maybe just maybe aq bit of Aikido.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 03-06-2003, 09:09 PM   #8
Peter Goldsbury
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I read Twigger's book as an example of the "Foreigner-'doing'-Japan-for-a-year-or- two-and-then-writing-a-novel" type. I certainly did not read it for the aikido or for the picture of the dojo he presents, which does not bear much resemblance to the many I have practised in here.

I found Christopher Bates' "The Wave Man" much more satisfying.

Peter, have a good gasshuku and give my best regards to Prof Shishida, should you meet him.

Best regards,

P A Goldsbury
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Old 03-06-2003, 09:57 PM   #9
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Quote:
While I think that not reading a book you have no interest in is perfectly acceptable, condeming the same based on heresay is - well the character in the film came across a bit shrill.
I know two people that were in the senshusei course with Robert Twigger, they are both my sensei's. They both have the same opinion on the book, and on Robert Twigger. They both feel they were poorly portraited in the book. I am basing my understanding of the book and Robert Twigger upon what they told me, and I have no reason to doubt anything they say since they are both intelligent, whole hearted, and truthful people. I have no reason to doubt them or the experience they had with Robert Twigger. They arent the only ones with this view either.

If the stories about him are true,(ex. jumping for joy upon hearing of Gozo Shiodas death) then I have absolutely no respect for him or anyone that shows this kind indignity.
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Old 03-06-2003, 11:41 PM   #10
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Relax Bryan;

First I am sure your senseis are all you describe and secondly, if you read my post, I also did not read the book initially because of reports I heard. Of course I also only commented on the book after I read it.

The Christopher Ross review (just look under Books) is a very interesting one written by a man who was there. His descriptions of the whys and wherefors of Twigger basically agreed with my impressions - including the Kancho death dance. Have you read his review?

A lot of what Twigger describes resonated with my experience (more in my review - did you read that?). In this respect I differ from Peter Goldsbury in that I got more out of the book then just a golly gee look at Japan. He writes well, offers a perspective on something unusual, and considering at the time I was suffering from considerable pain and frustration from over-training gave me something that I easily relate to.

By the by - I found it very refreshing that he did let it all hang out. So many martial art journey books read like the author is some sort of monk. If you ever get to train in Japan be prepared for a few surprises.
Quote:
Bryan Siekierko (aikido_fudoshin) wrote:
I know two people that were in the senshusei course with Robert Twigger, they are both my sensei's. They both have the same opinion on the book, and on Robert Twigger. They both feel they were poorly portraited in the book. I am basing my understanding of the book and Robert Twigger upon what they told me, and I have no reason to doubt anything they say since they are both intelligent, whole hearted, and truthful people. I have no reason to doubt them or the experience they had with Robert Twigger. They arent the only ones with this view either.

If the stories about him are true,(ex. jumping for joy upon hearing of Gozo Shiodas death) then I have absolutely no respect for him or anyone that shows this kind indignity.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 03-06-2003, 11:45 PM   #11
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Quote:
Peter A Goldsbury (Peter Goldsbury) wrote:
Peter, have a good gasshuku and give my best regards to Prof Shishida, should you meet him.
As Peter G. in an ever so subtle manner - tells me to learn to spell. Thanks I will on both counts.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 03-07-2003, 01:52 AM   #12
Paul Sanderson-Cimino
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Another "What I've heard" thing (from a sempai at my dojo)...

He basically bitched about having to work hard, and complained about "Yoshinkai brainwashing". ... okay, he should have expected as much from such an intensive program, but I suppose I might be irritable too after so much work.

The bit where he says he was happy Shioda-sensei died because he got a week off of training is just /atrocious/. I don't care if he's "joking". It's horrible to say something like that about /anyone/, and especially about someone who by most accounts was a good person. It just makes this guy sound scummy.
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Old 03-07-2003, 02:42 AM   #13
Edward
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Quote:
Bryan Siekierko (aikido_fudoshin) wrote:
I know two people that were in the senshusei course with Robert Twigger, they are both my sensei's. They both have the same opinion on the book, and on Robert Twigger. They both feel they were poorly portraited in the book. I am basing my understanding of the book and Robert Twigger upon what they told me, and I have no reason to doubt anything they say since they are both intelligent, whole hearted, and truthful people. I have no reason to doubt them or the experience they had with Robert Twigger. They arent the only ones with this view either.
This reminds me when I was still a student at a famous Jesuit high-school in Lebanon. I went to the school library to borrow Nietzsche's book "beyond good and evil". When I showed the book form to the friar in charge, he told me: "I cannot allow you to read this book, my son, because you will loose your Christian faith if you read it". Nothing I said could change his mind.

I then went to buy the book from a local bookshop, and read it. I forgot to mention to the friar that time that my Christian faith was gone long time before I read the book. Anyhow, I found the book quite boaring, except for a few remarquable statements about religion and women. I certainly couldn't find anything that would make me loose my faith....

Last edited by Edward : 03-07-2003 at 02:47 AM.
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Old 03-07-2003, 02:45 AM   #14
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Quote:
Peter Rehse (PeterR) wrote:
Beer, Onsen, and maybe just maybe aq bit of Aikido.
La Dolce Vita....
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Old 03-07-2003, 02:54 AM   #15
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Quote:
Edward Karaa (Edward) wrote:
La Dolce Vita....
Ah Edward we are going to get togeather.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 03-07-2003, 02:56 AM   #16
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Quote:
Peter Rehse (PeterR) wrote:
Ah Edward we are going to get togeather.
AMEN...
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Old 03-07-2003, 08:32 AM   #17
Peter Goldsbury
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Quote:
Edward Karaa (Edward) wrote:
This reminds me when I was still a student at a famous Jesuit high-school in Lebanon. I went to the school library to borrow Nietzsche's book "beyond good and evil". When I showed the book form to the friar in charge, he told me: "I cannot allow you to read this book, my son, because you will loose your Christian faith if you read it". Nothing I said could change his mind.

I then went to buy the book from a local bookshop, and read it. I forgot to mention to the friar that time that my Christian faith was gone long time before I read the book. Anyhow, I found the book quite boaring, except for a few remarquable statements about religion and women. I certainly couldn't find anything that would make me loose my faith....
Ah, Edward, so you were taught by the Jesuits. So was I. I am sorry that they did not take such pains with your education as I would have done. I would have let you read Nietzsche and much else besides.

Anyway, you should plan to come to Japan at an early date and come especially to western Japan, where Peter R and myself live.

I am sure we could arrange a very good training schedule for you, one that Fukakusa Shihan would be very happy with.

Best,

P A Goldsbury
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Old 03-07-2003, 01:23 PM   #18
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Quote:
Peter A Goldsbury (Peter Goldsbury) wrote:
Ah, Edward, so you were taught by the Jesuits. So was I. I am sorry that they did not take such pains with your education as I would have done. I would have let you read Nietzsche and much else besides.

Anyway, you should plan to come to Japan at an early date and come especially to western Japan, where Peter R and myself live.

I am sure we could arrange a very good training schedule for you, one that Fukakusa Shihan would be very happy with.

Best,
Thanks very much. I hope to be able to visit your dojo in the near future, and I certainly do plan to visit Japan as soon as I can save the necessary funds. I am looking forward to some hard training, as well as the beer and the onsen that Peter suggested

As for the Jesuits, I'm afraid they really weren't very successful in my education, even though they are quite notorious for their disciplinary system. Glad to hear that you too passed through the same ordeals, Dr. Goldsbury
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Old 03-07-2003, 02:46 PM   #19
Erik
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Quote:
Paul Sanderson-Cimino wrote:
He basically bitched about having to work hard, and complained about "Yoshinkai brainwashing". ... okay, he should have expected as much from such an intensive program, but I suppose I might be irritable too after so much work.
Interestingly I didn't take it this way. I suspect that not everyone likes boot camp although it has a purpose.
Quote:
The bit where he says he was happy Shioda-sensei died because he got a week off of training is just /atrocious/. I don't care if he's "joking". It's horrible to say something like that about /anyone/, and especially about someone who by most accounts was a good person. It just makes this guy sound scummy.
Again I took it differently. Imagine working at a company. You've never met the president of the company. You bust your butt everyday, go home dirty, beat up with numerous small injuries and fall asleep immediately upon going home only to wake up and repeat it the next day. One day you show up and the president of the company has died.

You get a day off from getting your ass kicked!

You never met the guy, you had no emotional connection with him, you, in fact, have closer ties to your landlord. You just got a day off from busting your butt, going home dirty and getting worn out physically.

Hell yes you might feel a bit of elation. You just got a reprieve.

Cmon guys, he didn't dance on his grave. He just related his feelings honestly.
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Old 03-07-2003, 04:00 PM   #20
MikeE
 
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I found the book amusing, fun, if not a little campy. I had my mother read it so she could understand that what I do isn't "as crazy" as it looks. (she couldn't believe the physical and psychological "torture" depicted in the book).

I'm very sure it would have much more boring if he didn't use the artistic license he did.

I find it interesting that almost all people that are offended by book the study Yoshinkan (or an offshoot). Come on lighten up, have a thicker skin, and don't get riled up over the remarks of a person who just wanted to survive the course, then write half-fiction about it

All the Best,

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Old 03-08-2003, 11:00 AM   #21
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Quote:
You never met the guy, you had no emotional connection with him, you, in fact, have closer ties to your landlord. You just got a day off from busting your butt, going home dirty and getting worn out physically
I totally disagree with this statement. I dont see how anyone could relate the senshusei course to job?!??! The senshusei course is more than learning how to fight, its about personal growth, and self discovery. Gozo Shioda contributed to many peoples lives in Japan and around the world. He even continues to do so today because of the way he taught Aikido and because his perspectives on life. You dont have to know someone to form an emotional attachment, it can be done indirectly. Those that followed his teachings and have taken it to heart will have an attachment towards him. Gozo Shioda was more than a "boss", he was their teacher and I would hope everyone in Yoshinkan Aikido would respect him for what he has given to their lives. There is a totally different relationship between a boss and a teacher. Robert Twigger has the right to have his own feelings about this, but he should have some respect for those who did care.
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