The books I review here are, in order:
- Kendo: The Definitive Guide by Hiroshi Ozawa
- Kendo: Elements, Rules and Philosophy by Jinichi Tokeshi
- Looking at a Far Mountain: A Study of Kendo Kata by Paul Budden
- The Heart of Kendo by Darrell Max Craig
- The Way of Kendo and Kenjitsu by Darrel Max Craig
Kendo: The Definitive Guide
by Hiroshi Ozawa
Written by Prof. Ozawa, a professor a the Tokyo University of Science, and the head sensei of Kobukan kendojo. It is a well structured book aimed on beginner and intermediate kendo players. I imagine advanced kendo players can also benefit from having an instructive book for teaching, as well as the sections on refereeing and correct training mentalities.
It contains a brief history of kendo, maintenance of the equipments, the fundamentals of kendo (inc. Kata), and a comprehensive well-structured description of the wazas. The author, being a 7th Dan Kyoshi and an experienced kendo instructor, included an unique section on the best mindset for improving kendo. He travels regularly overseas to hold international seminars.
This book is a very comprehensive kendo handbook that any kendo enthusiast alike would find it helpful to have on the shelf.
I personally look into it when something didn't work out in the training, and I cannot get an useful advice from the instructor.
Kendo: Elements, Rules, and Philosophy (Latitude 20 Book)
by Jinichi Tokeshi
This book is written in clear language, and explains the basic concepts well, but the weakness is that, the techniques are sometimes too abstract. The footworks in waza (or techniques) are not explained. For this purpose, I recommend "The definitive quide".
This book however contains some (6 pages) on nitto-ryu. But it's mostly for curiosity as for beginners, it's not so useful. Another unique section is the personages of some kendo masters. It's good if you want to know about more the historical development of kendo. It contains a chapter on kendo philosophies and concepts, with the Japanese idioms explained. It is good for your kendo as well as personal development.
Looking at a Far Mountain: A Study of Kendo Kata (Tuttle Martial Arts)
by Paul Budden
Though I haven't read in detail this book, since I don't spend much time on Kata. But in my opinion, this is a good book focused on Kata, which can compliment any general kendo textbook. It contain the historical evolution of the kendo Kata (with nice old photos). The Kata are explained in good detail, with breathing methods, and illustrated with nice photos.
The Heart of Kendo: A Comprehensive Introduction to the Philosophy and Practice of the Art of the Sword
by Darrell Max Craig
Semi-biographic. Some sections. Having alread "The Definitive Guide" I sometimes do wonder why I got this book. (In fact this book was given as a gift). There is a chapter on his conversations with the author's late sensei. Sometimes it feels like a long ramble, when the author asks "But Sensei, why?" over and over again, and the sensei says "Well, this is simply so. Don't you think?"A such example is:
Graig: Sensei, I'd like to ask a question.
Sensei: I know.
Graig: I'm sorry.
Sensei: I know. What is your question?
Not terribly exciting is it? I much prefer a concise writing rather than that of a transcript type. The conversation was also somewhat stiff. The basic waza is not described as systematic and comprehensive as in "The Definitive Guide".
The Way of Kendo and Kenjitsu: Soul of the Samurai
by Darrell Max Craig
Some sections overlap with the earlier book "The Heart of Kendo". I do not see the point of having a book, which is aimed at advanced kendo players, that contains still the very basic parts such as etiquette, equipment, and basic exercises.
The most valuable parts of the book are on the advanced techniques, for example, tsuki, which the author explained with finer details. The techniques covered were not comprehensive, but with a bit of thinking, the reader can apply similar principles to the other techniques.
The rest of the book contains kenjutsu and kendo kata, as well as personal stories. The stories are readable, though not terribly exciting.
Not suitable for beginners and maybe not the best for intermediate players. But it is a nice book if one likes to expand his/her variety of "arsenals".
Apart from the sections on the advanced waza, I almost never read the other parts of the book.