Being only able to read English, and living in Australia, I have found a shortage of good books on the Japanese sword arts. As I come to the Japanese sword arts from a weapons collecting background my library reflects this. The publications in my collection that I refer to often are detailed below, in no particular order, though if it keeps growing I promise to organise it :)...
Japan College of Physical Education
Kunio Shizawa and Daizo Hakamada
This was first published in 1985, it is available in both English and Japanese, the Japanese ISBN number is ISBN 4-7727-0063-3 (if I am reading the cover correctly, of which I offer no guarantee), it has line drawings of everything and covers kendo basics, basic movement, personal techniques, shiai and refereeing. As an illustrated instruction manual it has very little text compared to other Kendo books. However the essential terms are all there, together with little commentaries on each technique and things such as the four sicknesses of spirit to avoid in yourself and exploit in others. The English translation was done by ACB (NZ).
The Samurai Sword
Johm M Yumoto
Charles E Tuttle Company
Library of Congress No. 58-7497
First printing 1958, thirtieth printing 1992
This magnificent book was my first serious introduction to the Japanese sword, as it says on the fly leaf 'It is a complete handbook on the samurai sword. The informative text deals with the origins and development of the sword, its historical background, the various types of swords, their parts, styles, and differences in construction, the art of the swordsmith, the famous schools'. It has all of that, in very understandable form, together with comprehensive listings of smiths.
Kendo the definitive guide
Illustrated by Tamiko Yamaguchi
English language version published by Kodansha International, 1997
An exceptional book, detailed instruction and diagrams on everything from folding the tanagui to stretching exercises suburi to waza (each waza illustrated with 4 to 6 diagrams) and the kendo kata.
The Sword and the Mind
Translated, with an introduction and notes, by Hiroaki Sato
The Overlook Press
This book is the translation of the Heiho Kaden Sho, (family translated book on swordsmanship) and contains the observations of three generations of swordsmen who lived from @1508 to 1646. Many of the observations are still valid in Kendo today, and even where not are an excellent insight into the Bushi mindset, covering things ranging from 'Serving your Lord' to 'The Book of the Shinkage School of Swordsmanship'.
Gordon Warner and Donn F. Drager
Weatherill NY and Tokyo
Third paperback printing 1996
The key book on iaido in the English language, Australian Setei Gata iaido would not have developed without it (IMHO). First published in 1982 this book comprehensively covers the development of the sword and swordsmanship, and lays out the Setei Gata curriculum as it was in 1980. Published as a primer to 'make possible a better understanding of Japanese swords and swordsmanship as representing a unity of thought and action now only imperfectly known to Westerners..' it exceeds this.
My Thoughts on Iaido
Dr. Yahikto Kadono Ph.D.
ISBN 0 646 21329 6
This Australian text is an excellent source on the history of Iaido in Australia, as well as an introduction to the Zen-Ken-Ren (Setei Gata) Iaido, going through all 10 kata, with checking points in detail. There are also sections on Iaido judging and on older forms of Iaido.
Swords of the Samurai
Victor Harris and Nobuo Osasawara
Published for the Trustees of the British Museum
by British Museum Publications
This is a superbly illustrated annotated catalogue of the British Museum collection together with several major Japanese collections. It covers all major periods with swords, fittings, period artwork and armour.
This is Kendo
The art of Japanese fencing
Junzo Sasamori and Gordon Warner
Charles E Tuttle
First published in the 1960s this is still one of the definitive English language reference works on Kendo, covering tradition, fundamental techniques and the basics.
The Japanese Sword
A Comprehensive Guide
Kanzan Sato translated and adapted by Joe Earle
ISBN 0-87011-562-6 (US)
This text, first released in 1983, is another excellent work on the Japanese sword, with a good assortment of informative pictures and covering almost every area of Japanese sword lore. It is not as comprehensive in its listings as Yumoto, but is much more lavishly illustrated, so is a good complement - buy both if you see them!
The Book of Five Rings
Miyamato Musashi translated by Victor Harris
The Overlook Press
This brilliant book written @1645 by the great swordsman Miyamoto Musashi deals with both the strategy of warfare and the art of single combat.
The Overlook Martial Arts Handbook
The Overlook Press
A usefull general guide to the martial arts by the former head of the British Karate Control Commission, it has good informative descriptions. It describes what various arts are, rather than giving detail on 'how to', the major focus is on the open hand arts rather than weapons.
Judging a Japanese Blade
More a pamphlet than a book, this is an excedingly useful little ready reference on how to look at a Japanese blade for those who have already some familiarity with the terminology etc.
Toshinsha, Tokyo, 1995
An excellent book,with an exceedingly comprehensive vocabulary of both sword and more general budo terminology. Laid out with the English on one side, and kanji on the other it is usable by both English and Japanese practitioners.
Kendo no Kata
Paul H Crompton Ltd
An illustrated manual, with photos and descriptions of more than just performing the kata. (The only one of three Finn books that I have obtained at various times that I kept.)
The martial Arts and Ways of Japan - Volume 1
Donn F. Draeger
In this volume Draeger covers 16 major forms of bujutsu or martial arts of the classical Japanese warrior.
The martial Arts and Ways of Japan - Volume 2
Donn F. Draeger
In this volume Draeger covers the development and principles of budo or martial ways from the classical Japanese warrior onwards.
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