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On the Warrior's Path: Philosophy, Fighting, and Martial Arts Mythology

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From the "chop-sockey" kung-fu epics on the big screen to practices like tae kwon do at local community centers, the martial arts have become a major phenomenon in Western culture. In On the Warrior's Path, author Daniele Bolelli examines the central figure in this trend: the warrior. Bolelli, himself a martial artist, looks at every facet of the warrior lifestyle, from the unbreakable tenacity of the Japanese swordsman to the contemplative practices of the mysterious warrior monks of China. Drawing from both classical and popular sources of warrior culture, Bolelli shows what it takes to inhabit this singular role, along the way making surprising connections between martial arts and psychedelic culture, basketball, American Indian society, surfing, Star Wars, and more.

200 pages, Paperback

First published February 1, 2003

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Daniele Bolelli

12 books91 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 59 reviews
Profile Image for Rye.
2 reviews
February 23, 2013
I have no doubt that looking back on my life, this will be a book I think of as shaping some of my ideas about life, it gave me new perspectives and also made me re-evaluate others. Bar a year of Karate as a child, I have not much personal experience with training martial arts but have always been one of those people looking from the outside in at it. This book re-affirmed my lingering desire to start some classes, although I have never molded myself via martial arts, I have always been the type of person to sweat away my problems in other sporting endeavors, so this book opened my eyes to the possibilities ahead.
However the big inspiration I got from the book (along with Daniele himself) was living life in the moment with the reverence for feeling, rather than the outlook of most "spiritual" people who are miserable, applying the ideas and experience you have gained into everyday life and not just in small forms such as on the grappling mats, or in books and speeches. It's all well and good to take the path of the warrior in business, or in martial arts, but where it really matters is also the mundane and common aspects of life, if you don't apply your philosophy at these moments, then it is worthless.

Thanks Shiva for this book, and thank Thor for Daniele.
Profile Image for Alain Burrese.
Author 16 books45 followers
September 30, 2012
"On the Warrior's Path: Philosophy, Fighting, and Martial Arts Mythology" by Daniele Bolelli made me think about my own journey with martial arts and military combatives over the years, and for making me ponder my own warrior's path, I thank Bolelli. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and found myself engrossed with some of the essays contained within the just over 200 page text. It's a book I'd recommend to any martial artist wanting to explore more than just techniques found within martial systems.

Bolelli writes with an elegant prose that pulls you in and makes you think about things you may not have thought about before. You can compare it with the subtle finesse of an accomplished master of internal martial arts who overcomes you without you really even realizing what has been done, rather than a young MMA stud who just knocks your head off like Brer Bear in an Uncle Remus tale. Bolelli wrestles with the urge to forge one's character by fighting, a somewhat contradiction, but one that makes sense when reading this book. (One that makes sense to most of us who practice martial arts for any length of time.)

The book is more like a collection of essays, and I found I connected with some of these more than others. However, as a whole these chapters connect the dots and form a comprehensive look at what the title says it will: philosophy, fighting, and martial arts mythology. Topics such as the body as a temple, ancient warriors such as the samurai and Chinese poet warriors are addressed, warrior rites and archetypes are looked at, and various arts and styles from traditional to the modern MMA are examined. There is also a chapter devoted to the philosophy of Bruce Lee's Jeet Kune Do that those who are interested in this martial art icon should find most interesting when wanting to learn more about what shaped Lee's philosophy. Plus so much more.

This is one of those books that will be different for each reader. While Bolelli shares parts of his journey, or path, the real importance of this work is how it stimulates the reader to look within and discover their own reasons, their own philosophy, and their own path. This is what the book did for me, and if you read it with an open mind, ready for self-introspection, you may find it does the same for you. Highly recommended to those martial artists looking to take their training to a higher philosophical level.
16 reviews11 followers
September 24, 2017
I'm thoroughly disappointed with the book. There were a few nuggets of information which I could actually use and find useful but they were carefully hidden between poor attempts at humour, random references to pop culture, undisguised rants about organised religion, new age movements etc., schizophrenic switches between hero worship and hero disdain, cherry picked "wisdom" and a host of other distractions.

The book could benefit from some serious editing but it would compress it into a pamphlet. Some chapters could be altogether excised (e.g. the one on martial artist types). Others could be refined to be more useful and hard hitting (e.g. the on Lee's epistemology)

All in all, you can shoot through the book in a few days and you might pick something up but if this is on your reading list and you're planning to seriously look through it, I'd suggest that you won't lose much if you give it a miss.

Maybe my opinions will change if I reread it in a few years but right now, very disappointed.
Profile Image for Adam Waz.
15 reviews
October 31, 2016
Bolelli's attempt to capture the martial art's mindset and the spiritual nature of being a soldier or warrior falls short, as his book is almost ironic. His historical examples are extremely generic and show that he is no expert in philosophy, fighting nor mythology, and it reads as though no real research was done.

I recommend NOT reading this book.
Profile Image for Jared.
296 reviews14 followers
March 15, 2019

"Knowledge is fixed in time, whereas, knowing is continual. Knowledge comes from a source, from accumulation, from a conclusion, while knowing is a movement. - Bruce Lee

CHAPTER 1: THE BODY IS A TEMPLE
- During a fight, there is no time to analyze...Neither logic nor intelligence can help us

- Those who have never approached their bodies as temples have no idea what they are missing.

- Nietzsche...adds"...a mere disciplining of thoughts and feelings is virtually nothing ...one first has to convince the body."

- But the harmony between mind and body is something that has nothing to do with the obsession for fitness. The body is not a product. It is an experience.

CHAPTER 2: MORE THAN MARTIAL, MORE THAN ART: MARTIAL ARTS AND THE ALTERATION OF CONSCIOUSNESS
- Chi is anything but supernatural. It is something used on a daily basis in order to make their arts effective.

- For example, the ability to feel an impending attack is not the product of George Lucas' fantasy; rather a talent that has saved the lives of many warriors throughout the centuries.

- Drunken style fighting (video): https://youtu.be/d9wq7QC1Qi0

- The very simple action (simple in theory, that is) of remaining relaxed in the midst of tension and chaos is an example of manipulating the consciousness, which most decent martial artists get a chance to eventually experience.

- Horse stance (video): https://youtu.be/yxqrxYC0i70

- Without a mind reminding it of its limits, the body discovers new sources of energy.

CHAPTER 3: IN THE COMPANY OF A NOMADIC SAMURAI AND A CHINESE POET WARRIOR: THE STRATEGIES OF MARTIAL ARTS APPLIED TO EVERYDAY LIFE
- Miyamoto Musashi, samurai and author of 'The Book of the Five Rings' (video): https://youtu.be/UNLx326JQzE

- Sun Tzu, general and author of 'The Art of War': https://youtu.be/FTiXgpuDXLE

- In everyday life, conflict never leaves our side. It follows us closely at every step.

- ...truly understanding the strategy of combat means understanding how to face reality rather than endure it.

- Truly skilled are those who win without fighting. This is the origin of the strategy of martial arts.

- The strategy of martial arts begins by looking around and reading the state of things.

- In no other field of experience is recognizing the natural rhythm of things as important as in human relationships.

- Annoying, distracting, or embarrassing are only some of the ways to dominate conflict by using peoples' emotions. Inducing a certain state of mind is sufficient to control those who don't know any other way than reaction to stimuli.

CHAPTER 4: THE PRINCESS AND THE WARRIOR, THE YIN AND YANG: THE FEMININE IN THE MARTIAL ARTS
- Contrary to popular perceptions, Warrior and Princess are not separate entities, but energies that complement each other. Balance in a person, man or woman that he or she may be, is achieved when there is harmony between these opposites.

- The Warrior's way doesn't necessarily pass through the practice of the martial arts.

- The essential attribute of the Warrior is the refusal to give away one's power.

- Nietzsche writes "Free from what? As if that mattered...But your eyes should tell me brightly: free for what?"

- This is the main reason to become warriors in the first place: in order to be strong enough to turn our sensitivity into a source of joy rather than of suffering.

CHAPTER 5: THE WARRIOR'S RITES
- Translated more or less literally from Japanese, the dojo is "the place where to find the way"...

- The only thing that can help us is a stimulus to remind us of who we truly are.

- Ding Ming Dao: "Discipline is freedom, and the companion to imagination. Discipline makes it possible for you to become whatever you want to be."

- Before forging a sword, Japanese blacksmiths purify themselves, the forge, and all the working tools.

- Bruce Lee (speaking on creating his own martial arts style that also incorporates numerous disciplines) "Any technique, however worthy and desirable, becomes a disease when the mind is obsessed with it."

CHAPTER 6: MARTIAL ARTS, MEDIA, AND MYTH
- Heraclitus was right when he said that conflict is at the root of all things.

- [Some good martial arts movies, per the author] Fist of Legend, Chinese Connection, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Sanshiro Sugata, The Seven Samurai.

- Also, the author says Girlfight, Conan the Barbarian, Lord of the Rings, Big Wednesday, Star Wars are good 'martial arts' movies

CHAPTER 7: SIX WARRIOR ARCHETYPES
- THE SAMURAI (lived rigidly by the Bushido code)

- THE NINJA (polar opposite of a samurai; the outlaw, the anarchist, the iconoclast)

- THE SEARCHERS (elite group of warriors bound by a common mission)

- THE HERMIT (worldly affairs have no interest to him)

- THE RONIN (a samurai who does not serve any master)

- THE TRIBAL WARRIOR (fighter for his people)

CHAPTER 8: THE WARRIOR AS BODHISATTVA

- For others still, martial arts are an inner path of self-discovery aimed at learning how to live calmly, in peace, beyond conflict.

- It can be frightening to go beyond the boundaries traced by society and to move into unchartered territory, putting at risk economic security and social reputation. But if we choose not to risk, we end up paying a much higher price.

- The bodhitsattva is one of the the most beautify figures of the Buddhist pantheon. Different from those who, after reaching enlightenment, ascend to superior realms of existence leaving behind the material world, the bodhitsattva comes back to earth using his or her power for the benefit of all living beings.

- In its highest form, the way of the warrior is that of the bodhitsattva: putting one's talents at the service of a superior destiny.

CHAPTER 9: MAKING ORDER OUT OF CHAOS: A TYPOLOGY OF MARTIAL ARTS STYLES
- According the [the author's] model, all martial arts can be divided in the following five categories:
- Performance Arts
- Internal Arts
- Weapons Arts
- Self-Defense Arts
- Combat Sports
- Grappling
- Striking
- Combined

- ...most styles may belong to several categories at once, but in most cases they tend to place their emphasis mainly on one of these five aspects.

CHAPTER 10: FINDING THE BUDDHA IN A CAGE: THE DIFFICULT MARRIAGE BETWEEN MARTIAL ARTS PHILOSOPHY AND NO-HOLDS-BARRED COMPETITION
- UFC 1 (1993) pitted martial artists from different disciplines against one another and had few, if any rules: https://youtu.be/nQtemIenEsA

- Among the men responsible for [UFC] were members of the Gracie clan, a family of Brazilian fighters who had learned Jujitsu from a Japanese immigrant...and had partially modified the style after testing it in hundreds of street fights and martial arts competitions.

- [UFC 1 being won by a Brazilian Jiujitsu martial artist] sent many martial artists back to the drawing board in order to make up for the deficiencies of their styles of choice. Very soon ground fighting skills alone were not enough either. Strikers learned how to grapple, so grapples had to learn how to strike.

- Among the reasons why the UFC offended many martial artists is the fact that it forced them to prove their theories through a concrete test.

CHAPTER 11: EPISTEMOLOGICAL ANARCHISM: THE PHILOSOPHY OF JEET KUNE DO
- Rather than setting itself up to be a new martial arts style with its codified set of unique forms and techniques, Jeet Kune Do advocates the elimination of styles in favor of styles in favor of a constant process of individual research aimed at finding the techniques and training methods that best fit one's needs.

- In Chinese martial arts however, innovation is rarely looked upon kindly. Creating something new inevitably implies that one is at least partially departing from tradition.

- Bruce Lee: "Art lives where absolute freedom is, because where it is not, there can be no creativity."

- Taking charge of one's own life and making all the decisions alone is much harder than following an established way.

- Since there can be no concept of "we" if there is no "them" representing the antithesis of everything that "we" stand for, group identity is built on opposition to something.

- Why belong to any school of thought-Lee asked-if all that it does is divide us into opposing factions and prevents us from seeing the truth of different points of view?

- Our reassuring sense of identity-Lee seemed to suggest- is nothing but a comfortable prison shielding us from the intensity of unfiltered experience.

- Tibetan meditation master Chongyam Trungpa: "The key to warriorship...is not being afraid of who you are."

- As Taoism clearly pointed out, only by changing and flowing could water remain pure.

- 'Epistemological anarchism' is an extremely open-minded approach willing to adopt any method showing promise for delivering results.

- Lee articulated his own very open four-step methodology:
- 1. Research your own experience.
- 2. Absorb what is useful.
- 3. Reject what is useless.
- 4. Add what is specifically your own.

- "This is my way; where is yours? -thus I answered those who asked me 'the way'..." - Nietzsche (in his book Thus Spoke Zarathustra)

CHAPTER 12: SACRED AND PROFANE: COMABT SPORTS AS ATHLETIC PHILOSOPHY
- Learning how to die is what a samurai's training is all about.

- The relationship with fear is what separates combat sports from other martial arts, and from a million other purely artistic or spiritual disciplines.

CHAPTER 13: ON FAILED FRIENDSHIPS, MARTIAL ARTS, NIETZSCHE, AND SELF-PERFECTION
- Most of the friendships I have experienced directly or witnessed in others are the shallow reflections of small individuals. Most are "situational" friendships.

***

BONUS

Bruce Lee’s approach to martial arts: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=AqHqMdR...#

Fighting without fighting: https://youtu.be/o_Ycw0d_Uow

“Be like water” - Bruce Lee: https://youtu.be/cJMwBwFj5nQ
Profile Image for Gavin Jefferson.
Author 8 books23 followers
April 24, 2013
I bought the book roughly seven months ago after listening to Daniele on numerous podcasts. I only started reading it a few days ago and steamed my way through it very quickly.
It has felt like certain books have found me at the right time over the past few months, first it was The Alchemist, then 600 hours of Edward and The Dark Tower series, I finished on the warrior's path roughly half an hour ago and I feel compelled to write a little about how it affected me.
to begin with, it feels like a number of my own philosophies were legitimized because Daniele writes about them.

in the end,I have learnt more about myself through reading this book than I have about martial arts, but I'm not sad about this in the slightest.

they say a good teacher doesn't show you the answers, but shows you where to look in order to find them for yourself.
if you feel like your life is on limbo or you've come to a cross roads and you cannot decide on which direction to take, give this book a read.
if you enjoyed the book, go on iTunes and grab Daniele's Drunken Taoist podcast.

I'll most-likely revisit this book a number of times, just to gain more clarity.
loved it.
50 reviews
January 19, 2014
The first three chapters of this book are the best part. He lost me a little towards the middle and got me back at the end, but even with that, the first three chapters warrant the book getting five stars. I was drawn to martial arts and signed my whole family up. When they asked after the honeymoon period wore off why we have to study martial arts, and when others asked me why I like martial arts, I could never come up with a good answer. This book put into words what was swirling around in my spirit, but I wasn't eloquent or aware enough to verbalize.
Profile Image for Jim.
6 reviews1 follower
December 28, 2009
This book just knocked my socks off and my mouth piece out...
March 28, 2013
5 Star ratings from me are like perfect employee reviews or unicorns - it's sometimes questionable if they even exist.. This book is different. This book is life-changing.
Profile Image for Miroku Nemeth.
263 reviews56 followers
May 18, 2012

A thoroughly enjoyable book on many levels. Written in an erudite yet humorous tone born of education as well as experience, I found the venture into traditional martial arts, modernity, the nature of the warrior, and existential to be incisive, philosophical, creative, and humorous. It essentially is several books in one, including an extended essay on Bruce Lee and the principles of Jeet Kune Do that I think any mature martial artist will appreciate. As a lifelong martial artist, student of history, professor, teacher, etc., I found the book extremely rich and would recommend it highly.

I think that these passages (and I leave my notes here)sum it up well--for I believe in the warrior poet and the hippie samurai....


“Only a surfer of emotions can mend this fracture which tears apart the potential of individuals as well as the health of the planet. Somebody able to ride in balance between the waves of yin and yang. A poet warrior. A hippie samurai. The last image is not just a metaphor, but is the root of the kind of human being who could rewrite the rules of the game. Stereotypes blackmail us and try to convince us that we can only be one thing: either pragmatists or visionaries, either romantics or realists, either artists or athletes. If we buy into this idea and fall into the trap of clearly defined roles, we end up settling for a very low definition of what we can be. Specialists without global vision. Fractions of the happy divinities we forget to be.
On the contrary, the hippie samurai is the perfect Tao. It is a sweet samurai who smiles and dances softly under the moonlight. It is the reliable, organized hippie who arrives on time to any appointment and has the lucidity to manage an economic empire. The hippie samurai is what the yin and the yang talk about over dinner. It is the synthesis between sensitivity and efficiency. Am I kidding? Am I letting the lyricism of paradoxes lead me astray? Not at all. The hippie samurai is the union of two archetypes that shouldn’t sound new to martial artists. An artist and a warrior: a martial artist. A hippie who ignores the code of honor and the warrior power of a samurai is prisoner to his own limits, just as much as a samurai who doesn’t know how to relax, how to joke, how to play with children, or how to lose himself in laughter as he plays the banjo under the stars. One without the other is a caricature at best. In facing the complexity of the modern world, the stereotypes of the spaced-out, artistic hippie and of the belligerent samurai living only to fight anyone crossing his road would be at best anachronistic, and in the worst case, just pathetic. Throughout the world, the resurrection of the warrior spirit is badly needed, but the solution cannot come from blindly copying old models. Being warriors today is more difficult than ever because there is no ready-made formula that we can follow to stand up to the increasing complexity of our time.
What we need is a new alchemy. The warrior can only be born from a haphazard synthesis, from unlikely marriages such as the one between hippie and samurai. It is not a question of going to battle against The Enemy, a kind of ultimate villain who, in the style of James Bond movies, oppresses the whole world. If it were so, it would be easy, but reality is much more complicated. Shallowness and mediocrity kill more people than the most ruthless tyranny. Being warriors today is about fighting those forces trying to crush us as much as it is about having powerful visions. Creating new ways of life is the way to give battle.” (Bolelli 111-112) “On the Warrior’s Path: Philosophy, Fighting, and Martial Arts Mythology.”



“Restricting our horizons is encouraged in order to seek perfect efficiency in only one activity, avoid dispersing our energies, and dedicate ourselves to a well-defined career. This is how experts are born and life dies. These goals, in fact, are fitting for an assembly-line, not for human beings. Specialization is a spiritual disease--a contagious virus of the personality that is hard to escape from. It forces us to limit the range of our choices and vivisect our global vision to the point where even the most ecstatic experiences lose life and magic; it’s like killing a splendid animal only to place it in a museum.” (Bolelli “On the Warrior’s Path” 2).



“Physical education is the fundamental discipline of life, but it is actually despised, neglected, and taught intellectually, because the true intent of our schools is to inculcate the virtues of cunning and calculation which will make money….The establishment is a class of physical barbarians…they do not know how to transform money into physical enjoyment. The were never taught how to husband plants and animals for food, how to cook, how to make clothes and build houses, how to dance and breathe, how to do yoga for finding one’s true center, or how to make love.” Alan Watts quoted by Bolelli in “On the Warrior Path” 11-12

Bolelli has a chapter on “The Philosophy of Jeet Kune Do called “Epistemological Anarchism” I love that.

[Bruce] Lee would probably agree with the Tibetan meditation master Chogyam Trungpa when he said ‘The key to warriorship . . . is not being afraid of who you are.’ Being fearlessly willing to make mistakes in the process of making one’s own choices free from any dogma is the only path that Lee advocated. Much more than a methodological change, Lee’s challenge to martial arts styles should therefore be seen as a challenge to do what people are most scared of doing: refusing to submit to the power of any superior authority and taking full responsibility as the leader of their own lives.” (171)


“Only a surfer of emotions can mend this fracture which tears apart the potential of individuals as well as the health of the planet. Somebody able to ride in balance between the waves of yin and yang. A poet warrior. A hippie samurai. The last image is not just a metaphor, but is the root of the kind of human being who could rewrite the rules of the game. Stereotypes blackmail us and try to convince us that we can only be one thing: either pragmatists or visionaries, either romantics or realists, either artists or athletes. If we buy into this idea and fall into the trap of clearly defined roles, we end up settling for a very low definition of what we can be. Specialists without global vision. Fractions of the happy divinities we forget to be.
On the contrary, the hippie samurai is the perfect Tao. It is a sweet samurai who smiles and dances softly under the moonlight. It is the reliable, organized hippie who arrives on time to any appointment and has the lucidity to manage an economic empire. The hippie samurai is what the yin and the yang talk about over dinner. It is the synthesis between sensitivity and efficiency. Am I kidding? Am I letting the lyricism of paradoxes lead me astray? Not at all. The hippie samurai is the union of two archetypes that shouldn’t sound new to martial artists. An artist and a warrior: a martial artist. A hippie who ignores the code of honor and the warrior power of a samurai is prisoner to his own limits, just as much as a samurai who doesn’t know how to relax, how to joke, how to play with children, or how to lose himself in laughter as he plays the banjo under the stars. One without the other is a caricature at best. In facing the complexity of the modern world, the stereotypes of the spaced-out, artistic hippie and of the belligerent samurai living only to fight anyone crossing his road would be at best anachronistic, and in the worst case, just pathetic. Throughout the world, the resurrection of the warrior spirit is badly needed, but the solution cannot come from blindly copying old models. Being warriors today is more difficult than ever because there is no ready-made formula that we can follow to stand up to the increasing complexity of our time.
What we need is a new alchemy. The warrior can only be born from a haphazard synthesis, from unlikely marriages such as the one between hippie and samurai. It is not a question of going to battle against The Enemy, a kind of ultimate villain who, in the style of James Bond movies, oppresses the whole world. If it were so, it would be easy, but reality is much more complicated. Shallowness and mediocrity kill more people than the most ruthless tyranny. Being warriors today is about fighting those forces trying to crush us as much as it is about having powerful visions. Creating new ways of life is the way to give battle.” (Bolelli 111-112) “On the Warrior’s Path: Philosophy, Fighting, and Martial Arts Mythology.”

“Remembering his experience as a judoka, Mickey Hart likens the martial artist to a tiger: ‘Have you ever looked into a tiger’s eye? What immediately grips you is that the tiger is right there—all four hundred and fifty pounds focused with gleaming maximum attention on you. No distractions, no hesitations, just a calm powerful contemplation.’” (Bolelli 14)

“Those who have never approached their bodies as temples have no ideas of what they are missing. The frog at the bottom of the well only sees a fraction of light and believes it to be the whole sky. The same happens to those who have lost the address of their bodies. Life happens around them but they don’t realize it. They see and feel only the things that are noisy and excessive. Dull, catatonic perceptions. Maybe somebody put prozac in their vitamins when they were children. On the other hand, their minds are always hyperactive, too caught up in the unstoppable flow of thoughts to pay attention to the ecstasy dancing in front of their noses. Like somnambulists, they don’t even realize they are prisoners of their sleep. They don’t know what it means to live in a body that doesn’t just serve as a machine carrying the mind from one place to another. Even the ability to love and to feel loved is limited if the perceptions are dull. The martial arts are one of the methods that can teach the body to reawaken the sleepy senses. Those smart enough not to put them back to sleep at the end of the training see their everyday life fill up with magic.” (Bolelli 15)


“Some of the most mythical warriors populating the Olympus of martial arts have become famous not simply for their legendary feats as fighters, but also for the serenity of their spirits. The descriptions we have of them often coincide. Calm, relaxed, peaceful men with a genuine love for life. They walked along the Warrior’s path because it takes an indomitable spirit to be able to live beyond conflict, but once they have reached their goals, the fighter’s intensity was put to rest in order to make room for gentleness. As Nietzche put it, ‘I have become one who blesses and says Yes; and I fought long for that and was a fighter that I might one day get my hands free to bless.’
They keep the Warrior’s power handy in case of need, but they lack the rigidity of those who never remove their armor. Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido, is perhaps a perfect example. As he himself declared, ‘The way of the warrior is the creation of harmony.’ With him feminine and masculine were united in a way that granted him unlimited access to happiness’ kingdom. The Princess had drawn a smile on the Warrior’s face. Throughout the centuries, many other martial artists, like Ueshiba, have been not just fighters, but also poets, healers, painters, artists: individuals full of joy and warmth, inspired by a deep sense of love for life. There is no contradiction between having a Warrior’s power and tender feelings. The heart of a Warrior is not made to be fenced with barbed wire. His heart is sweet. This is the main reason to become warriors in the first place: in order to be strong enough to turn our sensitivity into a source of joy rather than of suffering.” (Bolelli 56-57)

Profile Image for William.
408 reviews5 followers
August 27, 2018
Thought provoking, unconventional, and provocative in a manner in keeping with the philosophy of Bruce Lee, upon which much herein is based. I could do without the negative comments about a prophet of God (Ezekiel), Christianity in general and the slight to soldiers who consider themselves warriors (although I agree that some soldiers misuse the term). It is entirely possible to be a Christian, a patriot, a member of the profession of arms, a martialist and a warrior seamlessly and without conflict while simultaneously adhering to the bulk of what is taught in this book. One other point about the well-worn phrase of “changing one’s ‘outdated’ beliefs.” All people have values (first) and beliefs (formed next) which are at the core of our being. One cannot believe something inconsistent with one’s values. Based on these we think, producing attitudes, opinions, and positions (on issues) which then result in behaviors leading to habits which ultimately form our personality and character. It is these products or consequences of our thinking which are subject to rapid change based on acquired knowledge and experience. They are appropriate for experimentation and the like. Popular ignorant discourse includes everything on the list (all goes into the mixing bowl), thus dumbing down the meaning and reality of values and beliefs. If one sheds absolute values, morals, and beliefs then the result is anarchy or life without direction. In the context of martial art styles becoming crystallized when made into dogma, then the concept of epistemological anarchy makes sense. Synthesis in the context of ideas and techniques related to many spheres including martial arts is good. Syncretism (the mixing of true spirituality, religion, philosophy, apostasy and urban myth) in theological terms leads to rebellious lawless anarchy, which is not good. Post modern man does not seem to understand or fear the difference and his violent behaviors bear this out.
Profile Image for Mikal Svendsen.
10 reviews
May 31, 2021
I found this to be a very enlightening book on the subject of martial arts, and of the spiritual and philosophical aspects that go far beyond martial arts. I'm really pleased, as someone who owns 11 bruce lee books, that the author credits Bruce Lee for his philosophical work.

Because many label Bruce Lee as a movie star who also did this and that.. but really, if you do study him a little bit you find quickly why he was so well respected amongst his peers.

I would say that this book should be interesting to anyone who feels like they don't quite get what martial arts is about at its depths, what it used to be, how it relates to spirituality, how it can relate to peace. Or what more general aspect of life, that it relevant for all humans, it addresses.

In particular I think that the author also does a good job of teaching to view things from a more holistic viewpoint. That to hold beliefs is a pointless concept, it is self limiting. Why hold beliefs at all? You can always accept multiple perspectives, and if the truth ever emerges then it's settled.
Profile Image for John Fredrickson.
577 reviews16 followers
April 25, 2018
I liked the beginning of this book more than the ending. It is a very uneven read. Much of the book felt like it deserved 5 stars, which I do not go to very often.

Numerous chapters were very well-written and informative, and ranged from martial arts philosophy, its history, differences between approaches of some of the styles, and more. The book closes with a discussion Nietzsche and his 'Thus Spake Zarathustra' (an old favorite text of mine). This variety and range makes the book fun.

In the middle of the book are several chapters which felt very light, and somewhat out of place. As an example, he explores archetypal figures (Ninja, Samurai, Hermit, ...) as personality types which all can go easily out of balance, though each in their own unique ways. The point is made, but often feels awkward and overdone. The section on cage fighting is another example: it was never clear to me exactly what the point of the chapter is.


292 reviews2 followers
February 7, 2017
I sought out this book to gain a deeper understanding of the mental practice that grows from the martial arts. What I got in return was that, as well as descriptions of the various practices, the philosophies for these practices, and the mythological connections between the martial arts and life. The gems that I loved the most were the values gained from using this medium to understand the unhealthy limitations that fear holds over one's life. The most important one being the inability to become yourself and live with confidence while being inhibited by your fears. The author uses a lot of humor as well as unbridled honestly in conveying his experiences and thinking where this is concerned. He often draws the parallels of these concepts to religion, politics, and personal relationships. I hope to re-read this book in the future as I know there is more to be gleaned from his work.
6 reviews1 follower
July 6, 2020
A truly moving read, Although I realize this book is not for everyone. Daniele Bolelli captures rather well the philosophy's that are tied into martial arts in a very elegant way with a sense of humour that is to be expected from him. From ancient Asian martial arts to their modern counterparts this book covers most forms and offers great insights into the functional and historic aspects of these practises along with a deep dive into the related philosophy's. A must read for any modern martial artist looking to dive past the rough and tough outer aspects of the martial arts and into the deep foundation of philosophy that lays underneath or simply to anyone interested in the philosophical teaching of Daoism and zen applied to real life.
Profile Image for Allegra Gulino.
45 reviews
March 4, 2022
The prose in this book is all over the place. It's smooth in most cases, but then there are type-os and grammatical errors.
While the author's enthusiasm for martial arts is clear, I got almost half way through it, without learning anything new. It's rather preachy and pretentious and is filled with common sense statements -- at least to anyone who has taken care of themselves or are aware of being in their bodies. I didn't finish it, because it isn't worth my time.
This book is suitable for couch potatoes or lazy teens, that's about it.
Profile Image for Oksana Miller.
96 reviews
September 27, 2020
Wonderful book! Bolelli is a deep philosopher, a sincere contemporary and a fighter! Loved his honesty and the fact that he tells it like it is. Would highly recommend to martial arts enthusiasts all over. Love it!
Profile Image for Mayank Singh.
19 reviews1 follower
November 29, 2017
[I am] a man who wishes nothing more than daily to lose some reassuring belief,who seeks and finds his happiness in this daily greater liberation of mind.
-Nietzsche
Profile Image for Gary.
106 reviews12 followers
December 4, 2017
I won't go into depth because I find reviews a bit subjective. But I enjoyed it.
Profile Image for Stex.
13 reviews
December 10, 2018
Un libro che riesce a toccarti, farti riflettere e che sa spiegare la natura del guerriero. Imperdibile per chi pratica arti marziali ma non solo. Una piccola perla!
Profile Image for John.
192 reviews18 followers
October 18, 2020
This is just an awesome book on the practice of martial arts and all of which that entails. I could not recommend it any higher. If this is something you're interested, you must read this book.
Profile Image for Big Bear Josh.
15 reviews
November 7, 2020
Very interesting perspectives on a lot of topics related to the martial arts and finding one's own path.
Profile Image for tiffany.
7 reviews
November 9, 2021
I just love this book. I've read it at least three times. Bolelli is awesome.
October 8, 2016
Was a very fascinating book for the first three quarters, then it ended in a rather weird dramatic fashion.

This book had me seriously consider the uptake of a martial art. Was witty and even helped me understand taoism a little better by shining the light at a unique angle.
94 reviews1 follower
January 3, 2023
A delightful read, one of my favorites of the year. The history professor/brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt son of a philosopher writes a book on the history and philosophy of martial arts. The survey of martial arts styles might have been included as a useful appendix instead of a chapter per se, given that it seems at best tangentially related to what follows.
Profile Image for Luca Speciotti.
Author 2 books4 followers
September 21, 2016
C'è poco da aggiungere: è un libro stupendo. Di Bolelli avevo letto il precedente "La tenera arte del guerriero", che qui è ripreso e ampliato. E' un libro intimo e acuto che sottoscrivo e che mi ha finalmente svelato alcuni arcani misteri che si celano dietro alla pratica delle arti marziali. Ma non è solo questo e va oltre e sviscera aspetti filosofici complessi, facendo uso di un linguaggio semplice ma ispirato. E' mosso dal principio costante, che condivido fino a farne un credo, che la vera conoscenza, anche quando affonda in aspetti di per sé complessi e articolati, deve sempre risultare capibile e trasparente e non fumosa o auto referenziale. E' un libro da tenere sul comodino e da spulciare e da rileggere anche dopo averlo terminato (peccato sia un ebook, se potessi mi procurerei il cartaceo). Peccato che nella maggior parte dei saggi non scorra un decimo di questa onesta e intransigente chiarezza. Per me è un libro prezioso, da salvare.
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