Book Review: The Twelve Winds of Aikido and Judo by Karl Geis

A disappointing book written by a great Judoka.  Well... they can't all be winners.
The Twelve Winds of Aikido and Judo

The Upshot:
Honestly, I'm a little bitter about this one.  First, the book should have been called "Stuff Karl Geis thinks about life and martial arts, and how it sort of relates to Aikido!" - though I guess that may not have sold as well.  But it really irks me that the "Judo" in the title is approximately 1/3 of the total mentions of Judo in the book.  If I'm exaggerating, it isn't by much.  I guess somebody told him that adding the word "Judo" to the title would get him more sales.  And it worked on me, I guess.  Fool me once...  That said, it isn't devoid of merit and does contain some interesting thoughts.

What's In It and How It's Organized:
This is a book of musings about, I suppose, the "soul" of  Aikido, broken into an intro and 12 winds (get it?):

  • Introduction
  • The Graceful Wind:  How to put the "art" into being a Martial Artist.
  • Wind is Wind:  Don't worry about the different flavors of Aikido... they all have merit.
  • Our Invincible Inner Winds:  Thoughts on Self-Discipline, Self-Confidence, and Self-Respect
  • The Wind of the Mind:  Thoughts on personality development, culture ("Oriental" vs. Western), how the West needs to consider how to apply this art developed in the East, and how Aikido can help the individual. 
  • The Pure Wind:  Geis's thoughts on why martial arts should not be combined.  Not sure whether I agree with him, but it's definitely an interesting argument.
  • Nature's Wind:  The importance of being able to execute in real situations.
  • The Flowing Wind:  Thoughts on Ki.  (He doesn't seem to view it as mystical energy with which one can zap someone across the room, but his views do seem to be somewhat mystical...)
  • The Miracle Wind:  Multi-channel communication and Aikido.  And how Aikido helps you know who to trust.
  • The Safe Wind:  Aikido as self-defense.
  • The Wind of Life:  Aikido keeps you healthy.
  • The New Wind:  Thoughts for the fledgling Aikidoka.
  • The Divine Wind:  Thoughts on mastery.
The Good:
He had some really interesting things to say on the combination of martial arts.  He is decidedly not in favor of it, believing that an art focuses on the path (a.k.a., the "Do" - the way, or the path), not on the end (e.g., ridding yourself of an assailant).  Each Do distills its own path into some core principles and fundamentals that manifest themselves in the techniques of the art.  Combining arts, then, contaminates what had been a pure path, all for the sake of the wrong goal...  There is other interesting stuff in here, too, that you certainly won't find in any other book that I have read.

Could Have Been Better:
That said, I don't believe that because you are a genius with martial arts (while I have never met him, I heard enough to make me believe that he is) that you are necessarily qualified to tell me how to live, and that's what I feel is going on in a lot of the book.  And it gets to psuedo-poetical for me, at times, with passages like "The Miracle Wind of Aikido is like a jet stream high in the sky that, if ridden by us honestly and with humility, will carry us into and allow us to see a larger and more exciting world.  Come, let us join hands and fly this wind together."  And lastly, the whole deal with the false advertisement in putting "Judo" in the title.  Sure, a lot of it can apply to Judo as well, but that just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.  But who knows... maybe I will appreciate this more as I progress down the path...

One Thing I Learned:
Well, it may be a bit trivial, but my first instructor (Chris Dewey) used to tell a story about a guy who wanted to learn Uchi Mata while he was in Japan.  This guy's instructor sent him to the resident expert in Uchi Mata, who proceeded to blast him with it for a few years straight.  Well, a funny thing happened during this blasting.  The unexpectant uke got so familiar with the path to his demise - the wrong step he'd take, the feel of the off balance, the contact at the load point, etc - that he subconsciously got really good at Uchi Mata.  Plus, after being thrown by one of the best, *nobody* else could throw him with it.  Well, evidently that guy was Karl Geis.  Either that, or there are a few people with that story... But my money is that he was talking about Geis.



Patrick Parker said...

Best review of that book I've ever read. I agree 100% and btw, you're right re the uchimata story at the end.

kodokanjudo said...

The part about the uchi-mata is similar to one of Kano's own story about his jujutsu sensei throwing him with the same technique until he understood it well.

Chad Morrison said...

Thanks, Pat. But gosh... don't you risk excommunication by saying that? =:>

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