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Twigger, Robert -- Angry White Pyjamas
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Description: Adrift in Tokyo, translating obscene rap lyrics for giggling Japanese high school girls,, "thirtynothing" Robert Twigger comes to a revelation about himself: He has never been fit nor brave. Guided by his roommates, Fat Frank and Chris, he sets out to cleanse his body and mind. Not knowing his fist from his elbow, the author is drawn into the world of Japanese martial arts, joining the Tokyo Riot Police on their yearlong, brutally demanding course of budotraining, where any ascetic motivation soon comes up against bloodstained "white pyjamas" and fractured collarbones. In Angry White Pyjamas, Twigger blends, the ancient with the modern--the ultratraditionalism, ritual, and violence of the dojo (training academy) with the shopping malls, nightclubs, and scenes of everyday Tokyo life in the 1990s--to provide a brilliant, bizarre glimpse of life in contemporary Japan.
Keywords: twigger yoshinkan
ISBN: 0688175376


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Registered: April 2001
Posts: 1319
Review Date: Would you recommend the product? Yes | Price you paid?: None indicated | Rating: 8 

 
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Author: Philip Akin
E-Mail: Send E-mail to Philip Akin
Date: 0000-00-00

In the bio at the beginning of the book Twigger list his former jobs and skills. Everything from winning the Newgate Prize for poetry, driving a hearse, rap artist to personal secretary to a Russian princess. But at no time does he ever list that he was a student of Aikido. This feeling permeates the book. Yes he does describe in detail many of the daily encounters while training at the Yoshinkan Honbu dojo with the Tokyo Riot Police during the senshesei [specialist] course. Fellow students and teachers are praised and slashed. He enumerates the harsh training and personal characteristics of everyone around him. Many times quite humourously and with a piercing eye. But in spite of the Aikido setting this is more of a "foreigners guide to the incomprehensible Japan" mixed with a "coming of age" story of someone finding themselves through harsh physical and mental training. And this I think is the one major disappointment for me. At the end of all this Twigger seems as aimless and as lost as when he started. Yes he received his shodan and can quote Tesshu with the best of them but somehow he is still drifting. I don't get the idea that wherever he is that he is still training. And maybe that's alright. Perhaps he achieved his goal and know can move on. I did enjoy much of the book. In many ways it provides a window into a way of life that only a few aikidoka ever experience. It made me laugh many times and more importantly it gave me a better understanding of the psychological workings of some of the senshusei when they return back to their homes. And if for nothing more that was worth it. All in all an interesting read despite it's flaws.

I must add a bit of a disclaimer. I practice Yoshinkan Aikido and although I do not know Robert Twigger I know many of the people involved in the book. I have met a number of the Japanese senseis and have trained with and under a number of the foreign teachers. I have also had the opportunity to be a senior in a dojo when a senshusei returns. Many of these people that have been a big part of my Aikido life are in this book so for me it has been an interesting dilemna of viewing them in a diferent mirror.

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Registered: April 2001
Posts: 1319
Review Date: Would you recommend the product? Yes | Price you paid?: None indicated | Rating: 0 

 
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Author: Michael Kimeda
E-Mail: Send E-mail to Michael Kimeda

While Phil [ed note: referring to Philip Akin's review] has a few disclaimers because he is a practitioner of Yoshinkan and knew some of the subjects, I have a much bigger one. I am in the book - but I have a very minor role. I am also a graduate of the same course, and was an assistant for Twiggers course.

Off the bat I will say I enjoyed the book. It is a good read, contains some interesting observations about Japan, and on occasions is very funny. It is also very well written.

But I have several problems with the book. The biggest is his treatment of Robert Mustard Sensei. Twigger explains early in the book one of Mustard's teaching ideals- He teaches students who want to learn, who show interest and try; people who waste his time get ignored. Twigger got ignored - but he never figured it out. So he thought Mustard Sensei was an asshole - and nothing could be further from the truth.

He carries the theme of "school yard bully" throughout the book. The course seems to him to be reminiscent of school yard days. He and his fellow senshusei are the weak, innocent, late-bloomers with thick glasses - victims of the Yoshinkan teachers who are the mean, over developed bullies constantly trying to steal his lunch money. He goes into the course acknowledging it as the toughest of it's kind in the world, and seems quite upset when it tries to live up to that reputation. No coddling, no group hugs.

He scorns those students who try hard and get upset at their failures. When the group gets yelled at for not trying hard enough in class he believes those who take it to heart are the victims of Yoshinkan brainwashing. Brainwashing is another subject he talks about- he resents the teachers trying to change his mind and his attitude. Unfortunately changing your mind and attitude is one of the main points of the course, and Unfortunately I believe Twigger succeeded at resisting our efforts at changing him.

Michael Kimeda

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Review Date: Would you recommend the product? Yes | Price you paid?: None indicated | Rating: 0 

 
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Author: Nic "Mad Dog" Mills
E-Mail: Send E-mail to Nic "Mad Dog" Mills

I bought the book last fall (Oct or Nov). I ordered it from Chapters, it arrived in three weeks, and read it in a day.

I enjoyed parts of the book but was shocked and dismayed by other parts and the overall tone. I laughed at some parts too, but I wondered if I was laughing because I knew all the people in the book and their characters -- so it was like an inside joke. Twigger twists the truth throughtout the book, and these twists, it would seem, would make the book an enjoyable and/or funny read to many people; I hope this is the reason he twisted the truth, but I'm not sure.

In some parts of the book he has taken things out of context or fabricated them entirely. Again, I assume this is for the comedic value!???!???

Twigger is a good writer; you can tell because he actually wrote the book in such a way that he comes across as a skilled (with some problems) aikidoka. Twigger was pulled, pushed, coddled (as much as possible), helped, assisted,coached, tutored, and nursed through the course by almost everyone else in it, especially those who worked with him. In the course (although I didn't realize at the time... well maybe I did) those students who are struggling in a particular area are partnered for a number of months with those that are progressing well in their aikido training. (Weak spirit with strong spirit, high skill level with low skill level.)

Twigger was partnered with the highest ranked (prior to the course) and the most focused "going for it" senshusei throughout the course. This should say something to all who read the book about the person who wrote it. I stayed in Japan after my course (the 4th course) was finished, and helped out with the course that followed mine (the 5th). Mike Kimeda and Mike Stumpel eventually started calling me kitchen boy - I was allowedd in the kitchen to do lots of menial chores - very cool. The following March I was given the title Itaku shidoin - like the other foreign instructors. I helped teach the 6th course and got to do even more menial chores - even cooler!!!! I left Japan at the begining of the 7th course. The years in Japan after the course let me see the 'other side' of the course and be involved in discussions about how different senshusei were doing and what partnerships might work best. So Twigger either has to be a good writer or good at his aikido training and have the proper senshusei spirit; so like I said, he is definetly a skilled writer.

I did the same course as Twigger. Well actually I didn't, really. I thought I did because we were there at the same time and in the same classes. But after reading the book I realized (with some shock, disapointment, and sadness) that we did not do the same course!

Twigger attended the course -- that's all. He got nothing out of it and has no understanding of what the course was about. He talkes in the book about HIS (and only his) "senshusei survival rules" (he lists a few of them); I think this shows his true colours.

A few of us in the course were really there to train and listen and learn, to work hard and push to ourselves beyond any concievable limits that we thought we had beacuse of our love, passion, and enrapture with aikido. Twigger wasn't so. He was there "to survive." I suppose when your parents tell you never to quit something that you've started, it's a good thing; I just wish Twigger's parents had not belaboured the point!! One of his survival rules was to know when to go at 30% and when to go at 70% (or some percentage close to this). I never heard any of the Instructors (Japanese or Gaijin) ever state a % under 150%. I wonder where this concept came from -- certainly not from the course.

Mike Kimeda wrote:
He carries the theme of "school yard bully" throughout the book. The course seems to him to be reminiscent of school yard days. He and his fellow senshusei are the weak, innocent, late-bloomers with thick glasses - victims of the Yoshinkan teachers who are the mean, over developed bullies constantly trying to steal his lunch money. He goes into the course acknowledging it as the toughest of it's kind in the world, and seems quite upset when it tries to live up to that reputation. No coddling, no group hugs.

He scorns those students who try hard and get upset at their failures. When the group gets yelled at for not trying hard enough in class he believes those who take it to heart are the victims of Yoshinkan brainwashing. Brainwashing is another subject he talks about- he resents the teachers trying to change his mind and his attitude. Unfortunately changing your mind and attitude is one of the main points of the course, and Unfortunately I believe Twigger succeeded at resisting our efforts at changing him.


I was one of the ones that took what the sensei at the Honbu were saying to heart. I got upset and on occasion cried when they said we were not trying or were not "senshusei." In retrospect it seems that the senshusei students either took everything (the instruction, the wisdom, the spirit, and the beratings) to heart or they didn't take any of it anywhere. I feel I tried to take everything to heart. Reading the book confirmed my suspicions that Twigger took nothing.

I was upset after reading the book. It took some time (and some help from Mike Kimeda - thanks Mike) to figure out where Twigger was comming from. It was really a shock that someone could have such an entirely different experience. Although I realized even during the course that people were getting different amounts and things and expereinces out of the course, I was just overwhelmed by HOW different all those things could be.

I don't know if I would recommend reading the book. (I certainly would not recommend buying it - it's not that good.) Borrow it from a friend or the library or whatever. I've passed mine on already. If you do read it, please keep in mind the type of person the author is, and how much/little he was into the course and aikido. To give you some idea, Twigger and another Senshusei, upon hearing the news that the founder of our style had passed away jumped up and down and danced around the room for joy because the dojo would be closed for a week and that meant we had an unscheduled holiday -- no training. Think about your reaction if someone you knows dies, think about your reaction if your sensei died or the founder of your style died, think about what you would think of someone who reacted the way twigger did.

To sum up, the book takes a joking look at the course because that's how Twigger approached the course. He was not serious. He was not focused. He just needed to get through it so he could have something to write about. I guess everyone needs a reason to join the course. It's up to the individual to decided if it's an appropriate, strong enough, good enough reason.

I'm still training and teaching and trying to improve my aikido and myself. I don't know where Twigger is but I pray he's not teaching. I doubt he is training, and I KNOW he's not training hard. But if he is training somewhere -- I'd love to find out where -- I'd like to practise with him again.

Nic Mills
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Review Date: Would you recommend the product? Yes | Price you paid?: None indicated | Rating: 0 

 
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Author: Mark Gorsuch
E-Mail: Send E-mail to Mark Gorsuch

I finished reading Angry White Pyjamas, Robert Twigger's account of his experiences on the Yoshinkan Senshusei Course. I have never met Twigger nor am I affiliated with Yoshinkan aikido so I my review will differ from previous reviews which have appeard on this list in that I cannot offer any first hand commentary on Twigger's aikido abilities, the course itself, or anyone associated with the Yoshinkan Honbu Dojo. The closest connection I have with any of this is that Michael Kimeda lent me his copy of the book.

I found the book to be very entertaining. I read it in about four sittings, never tiring of the content or hoping for it to end. Twigger keeps the book going at a quick pace and relates his experiences with humor, candor, and bluntness.

Although he recounts various experiences he had over the course of a little over a year, I sensed that Twigger was always at odds with the way Yoshinkan aikido is taught. He states many times that he was often told that the most important aspect of Yoshinkan aikido is spirit, but it's obvious he does not buy into the way they build spirit. In the senshusei course, spirit is forged through intense, focused, and exhausting training, while the physical result is an often bruised and battered body.

I train at a Japanese university which takes much the same approach to training. Although I do not pretend that an extra-curricular activity is anywhere near as intense as the senshusei course, there were times in the book when I felt like Twigger was describing some of my own experiences. Skinned knees from shikko, endless ushiro ukemi, long periods of sitting in seiza, and "knobbies" on your back are all part of the approach, and as Michael Kimeda pointed out there are "no group hugs." This type of training is very taxing on the body, but that is part of the process in order to build "konjo" (spirit) and increase one's ability to "gaman" (endure, put up with). Twigger, however, never seems to take to this type of training to heart, prefering to focus on the physical punishment he and others underwent. While this makes for eye opening reading, it made me wonder where Twigger's focus was during the course.

Interestingly, Twigger's accounts of his and others' physical ailments make for the most memorable incidents in the book. However, because he was uninsured, Twigger had to borrow the insurance card of other students on the course to get treatment. While his experiences with getting treatment provided the most hilarious episodes of the book, such risky tactics made me wonder if Twigger really had it all upstairs; I just couldn't fathom joining such a physically demanding course and relying on others to get my medical bills paid for me.

Along the way, Twigger does apply the aikido lessons he learns at the dojo to other areas of his life. In one incident, at the risk of their own safety, he and a friend defuse what was about to become a gang beating of an innocent gaijin. At the school where he taught English part time, Twigger developed a lesson plan based on the strict discipline of the dojo.

Several times in the book, Twigger writes how important it was to finish the course regardless of what he was feeling. While I certainly admire him for graduating, his reluctance to accept what he was being taught led me to conclude that he was more interested in getting through the course rather than getting something out of it.

I would recommend Angry White Pyjamas to anyone who is interested in aikido, especially if they have trained in Japan. Twigger's attitude and conclusions may be different from my own, but his skill at conveying his experiences make it an interesting read. I doubt he will ever have the nerve to show up at the Yoshinkan Honbu after what he wrote, but if he does, Michael or one of the others who train there, please let us know how it turns out.

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Registered: April 2001
Posts: 1319
Review Date: Would you recommend the product? Yes | Price you paid?: None indicated | Rating: 8 

 
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Author: Ted Ehara
E-Mail: Send E-mail to Ted Ehara
Date: 2001-06-09

This is a well-written book by a talented writer. In it, Robert Twigger describes his stay in Japan and attending the one year Yoshinkan training program for the Tokyo Riot Police. In fact, the book is subtitled: "An Oxford Poet trains with the Tokyo Riot Police". This book won the 1998 Somerset Maugham Award and the 1998 William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award.

The disappointment I read in the other reviews, especially by Yoshinkan practitioners, is understandable. Twigger never intended to "study" Aikido just as he never intended to "live" in Japan. He is an observer, a tourist with a pen, who records his thoughts and moves on.

This reminds me of the many classmates who try Aikido for a while and then leave. Generally, I find their leaving saddens me, because you've gotten to know someone and suddenly they're gone. It also gets you to wondering why they would leave an activity that you find interesting enough to continue.

There are tourists who try things out and there are people who dedicate themselves to one thing and live in one community. It's up to each of us to make our own choices.

Philip Akin's review of this book mentioned: "At the end of all this Twigger seems as aimless and as lost as when he started. Yes he received his shodan and can quote Tesshu with the best of them but somehow he is still drifting."

I disagree. At the end of the book he has become a writer. Something that he was denying in himself during his stay in Japan.

I am a student at the Chicago Ki Society. I haven't meet Robert Twigger. I am not associated with Yoshinkan Aikido.
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Registered: April 2001
Posts: 1319
Review Date: Would you recommend the product? Yes | Price you paid?: None indicated | Rating: 6 

 
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Author: Ian Dodkins
E-Mail: Send E-mail to Ian Dodkins
Date: 2001-06-15

Frankly, I found this book disturbing. However this meant I read it from cover to cover, staying up all night to finish it. It shows the intense discipline of the Yoshinkan dojo in Japan, including blood, pain, bruises and breaks. It also represented many aikido sensei as egotistical, insecure and over proud. I do hope the author of this book exagerated the physical damage caused during training, because the training methods were definately not geared towards technical advancement in aikido and an atmosphere of hate appeared to be encouraged.

If you give this book to someone in your dojo who likes violence, within a week they will have broken someone's arm thinking this is 'real aikido'. If you give it to a weedy pacifist they'll either leave your dojo or become more forceful in their technique. I would recommend you borrow it off somone or get it out of the library just to help you clarify to yourself what you think aikido should be.
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Review Date: Would you recommend the product? Yes | Price you paid?: None indicated | Rating: 8 

 
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Author: Peter Rehse
E-Mail: Send E-mail to Peter Rehse
Date: 2001-07-17

Well I finally bought and read the book, Angry White Pyjamas. It was definately worth a read. I have spent four years in Japan doing a style of Aikido which like that described in the book was derived from a pre-war student of the founder of Aikido. Three of those years was at the Honbu (Origin) dojo of Shodokan Aikido where after a few years absence I am training for a three month period. My only connection to Yoshinkan (the style Trigger studies) is through a friendship with some of its practitioners including Michael Kimeda who besides also writing a review is in the book.

It became clear very quickly that Trigger was describing a personal journey and the changes in his attitudes and beliefs as he progressed. I found a lot of sympathy for what he describes and my impression is that many of those who reviewed the book might have got it wrong.

True he describes Mustard sensei in less than glowing terms at one point but if you read further his attitude changes. It was more a reflection on himself than on the teacher.

In my own personal journey I have some amazing parallels.

I too would mention Michael Kimeda, but only in passing

I have a sensei here who to put it politely is not comfortable around gaijin. I used to dislike him for it but now go out of my way to observe Japanese patterns of politeness. He responds much better. He has yet to join me specifically for a drink this time around but he has sent beer to my table.

Last night I was paired with a student about a year senior to me. His Aikido is not as good as he likes to think and he was going out of his way to make my Aikido look bad while Shihan was watching. Instead of working and gaining benefit from the situation - all I kept thinking about is how I would like to lace the guy. Twigger's murder plot came to my mind and reminded me what I should be doing.

Also last night to work out my frustration at the above I took a junior student and worked him over. I should have taken a senior student and had him work me over. Plan for tonight.

I train everyday. This morning my body just gave out. The walk down the stairs (Japanese stairs are different than the West) to the toilet was a study in agony. I collapsed back in bed and instead of going to work spend an extra hour or so reading Trigger's book. I took satisfaction in reading about someone else's pain.

Trigger, whatever his motives, whatever his attitude, did and finished something quite remarkable. He also wrote a very entertaining book in which I see my own experiences. I have said to anyone who will listen that there is an intrinsic difference between Budo in Japan and elsewhere. I think the book gave more than a glimpse into that world without the super serious treatment that some feel obliged to give.

I was not going to buy the book because of the reviews. It was suggested by one of the reviewers (Hi Mike) that I buy it anyway and I am glad I did. It was very well written.
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Review Date: Would you recommend the product? Yes | Price you paid?: None indicated | Rating: 6 

 
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Author: James Ashby
E-Mail: Send E-mail to James Ashby
Date: 2002-03-11

I bought the book on holiday and, I must admit, I quite enjoyed it at the time. Looking back on it, having read and re-read it, I too am disappointed at Mr Twigger's lack of insight. I have actually met one of the previous sensushei instructors (David Rubens) and trained with him on a BAB course. I found him to be a firm but fair instructor with a great deal to offer. If Mr Twigger had the feeling of "just finishing the course" I'm certain that he missed the point. Like the old song says "you know all the words and you've sung all the notes but you never quite learned the song." As a disclaimer, I would like to stress that I have nothing to do with Yoshinkan Aikido.
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Review Date: Would you recommend the product? Yes | Price you paid?: None indicated | Rating: 10 

 
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Author: Fiona Umphray
E-Mail: Send E-mail to Fiona Umphray
Date: 2002-04-11

I would like to say how much I've enjoyed and loved this book!

I am a complete rookie to Aikido and will be starting later this month. Inspired almost entirely (believe it or not) by the book. I'm not quite sure what this says about me!

I don't believe that reading the book would encourage anyone to be practice aikido more agressively, unless that was they way they generally act and are looking for excuses.

This is a brilliantly written book and immensley enjoyable. It should not be accepted as the complete truth. No first-hand account, especially of something which is so emotionally and psychologically demanding, can ever be impartial enough to be completely truthful.

The author certainly does take an outsider's view as well as an insider's, which could be as a result of the uninvolvement suggested at above. This is not always a bad thing, as it is quite often said that writers do have this duality in their characters and if this has helped in the creation of this wonderful book, so much the better.

I hope that Mike and "Mad Dog" don't feel as though they come across badly in the book. (Please don't mind that I use your first names, I feel like I almost know you!). Everyone in the book is seen through their relationship with Robert Twigger, which any reader can understand and allow for. Even not allowing for this, everyone comes across as interesting characters with human qualities and great warmth (OK and strangeness in some cases!). The writer himself is willing to note that his opinions and feelings about the other Aikidoka and Sensei(s?) change with day to day life, as they tend to with everyone.

I just noticed I've been rambling somewhat so will just state that I will continue to lend my copy to friends, and that this is a wittily written, laugh-out-loud funny, and engrossing account of the author's (partial?) self-discovery and a window into a life-altering "way of harmony".

p.s. I hope that didn't sound too po-faced!
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Author: Scott Hall
E-Mail: Send E-mail to Scott Hall
Date: 2002-05-31

I enjoyed the book immensley as an account of a non-aikidoka in the mature world of real aikido. I must complement Robert Twigger on his resilence to endure a regime it appears he never really cared for. Quite like planning a vacation you know you will not enjoy. I am amazed that he completed the journey.

The caricature created by Twigger that Mustard Sensei was arrogant, apelike and a bully made me grimace. Surely any member of the military, law enforcement or government service recognizes that Twigger was not fitting in and this is why he was targetted by Mustard. The very treatment that nearly crushes you in fact builds you. Still to his credit he stayed on but it seemed to only endure the course and not digest it as a fine meal and the gift that it was.

I think the book was well written, and fast paced, I would recommend it as one man's journey through one of the most demanding courses Aikido has to offer. I was fascinated by his refusal at every turn to really buy into the Senshusei course. Finally, he began to see that as he tries harder Mustard begins to grudginly accept him. However, I would disagree on his "rules", "to not be last", instead "Don't be anywhere near last".

I have to wonder if he is a better man today from his experience? How is his Spirit? Does he live Aikido or is it a memory?

I am not connected to Yoshinkan Aikido but have had the pleasure of training with one of their nidans. From this limited exposure I can only say that their expression of Aikido is powerful, focused with solid footwork. My hats off to the Yoshinkan and the path they follow. There are many paths up the mountain but the view from the top is all the same.
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Registered: April 2001
Posts: 1319
Review Date: Would you recommend the product? Yes | Price you paid?: None indicated | Rating: 8 

 
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Author: Declan Chellar
E-Mail: Send E-mail to Declan Chellar
Date: 2002-07-18

I read Angry White Pyjamas because I was due to meet Aikido Sensei David Rubens at a martial arts seminar. Thinking that Rubens Sensei featured in the book, I bought it. I was a little disappointed to find that he was only mentioned in passing but I found the book interesting nonetheless.

As a practitioner of a Chinese martial art, I have no great interest in Japanese culture or Japanese martial arts. However, I found Mr. Twigger's observations entertaining. He draws his characters and relates his anecdotes with realism and humour.

One thing that came across quite strongly for me was Mr. Twigger's willingness to paint everyone "warts and all", including his friends. My own feeling is that some things should remain personal between friends, even if you are an author. I'd hate to think that everything I've ever said or done could become public knowledge just because one of my "friends" took it upon himself to make it so.

The "warts" themselves I take with a pinch of salt. As a trained historian, I know that primary sources are only as reliable as the prejudices of the author. For example, Mr. Twigger's portrait of Mustard Sensei as a bully says more to me about Mr. Twigger's character than it does about Mustard Sensei's. As both a student and instructor myself, I know full well that fools are not suffered gladly, if at all, and that one tactic for getting rid of a fool is to lean on him. One way or the other the fool departs, either physically because the student quits, or spiritually because the student changes. I suspect there was some small change in Mr. Twigger towards the end of his course.

I got the impression that Mr. Twigger never tried to get fully involved in Japanese life or in Aikido. He comes across as a journalist who has, for example, joined the army for a while in order to write about military life, but never actually becomes a soldier. This could just be his writing style, but I suspect that his determination to complete the course had more to do with a simple refusal to quit (admirable enough) than a love of Aikido and a desire to become a true Aikidoka.

One episode in the book which made it clear to me that Mr. Twigger did not really love Aikido was his reaction to the death of the founder of the Yoshinkan school: he was delighted that the school would be closed for a week. There seemed to be little care for the death of the man or the loss to the school of his experience and knowledge.

Overall, it is a good read (I finished it in two days), whether or not you are interested in Aikido. As for the "historical" accuracy... only Mr. Twigger and those about whom he writes can comment.

Perhaps for the sake of historical balance another of the sensushei who trained with him could write their own account of that year at the Yoshinkan Honbu.
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AikiWeb System


Registered: April 2001
Posts: 1319
Review Date: Would you recommend the product? Yes | Price you paid?: None indicated | Rating: 10 

 
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Author: Christopher Ross
E-Mail: Send E-mail to Christopher Ross
Date: 2002-11-25

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 Mustard.

(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 happy.

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.
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AikiWeb System


Registered: April 2001
Posts: 1319
Review Date: Would you recommend the product? Yes | Price you paid?: None indicated | Rating: 8 

 
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Cons:

Author: Si Wilson
E-Mail: Send E-mail to Si Wilson
Date: 2002-11-27

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 given the book 4, as although this is a really good book, there are better books out there to read to learn about Aikido, and I am sure that wasn't the idea of AWP.

For Aikido reading there are many excellent books, especially "Aikido Shugyo" (Shioda Sensei) and "Budo" (O'Sensei, plus "Dynamic Aikido" & "Total Aikido" (Shioda Sensei) for Yoshinkan style Aikido.

Osu
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AikiWeb System


Registered: April 2001
Posts: 1319
Review Date: Would you recommend the product? Yes | Price you paid?: None indicated | Rating: 10 

 
Pros:
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Author: Matt Wake
E-Mail: Send E-mail to Matt Wake
Date: 2003-03-06

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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Paul Lemon


Registered: December 2004
Review Date: Would you recommend the product? Yes | Price you paid?: None indicated | Rating: 0 

 
Pros:
Cons:

Personally,I loved the book.It was the first thing I bought when I arrived in Japan in 1997 so that may have had something to do with it.That, and the fact that I was just about to start at an aikido dojo seemed to make the content quite relevant.As a snapshot of japanese urban culture, its a great primer if you are planning to go.I have lent the book to non-aikido friends and they have raved about it.Many people have a quasi-mystical view of Japanese martial arts and it does a good job of puncturing some of those myths.
There are some flaws however.I agree with the criticism that some events seem to be a little exaggerated for the purposes of entertainment.Twigger\'s attitude is also a little questionable, but sadly typical of many foreigners-very condescending toward the japanese.It was also interesting to read the comments of those who were actually in the book.
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