Thursday, May 5, 2016

Review: The Way of the River by BK Loren

The subtitle of the book is "Adventures and Meditations of a Woman Martial Artist" and one review that I read before checking this out said she didn't think it was applicable to the book that the author was female. While it's true that the insights BK Loren offers should be of interest to people of any gender, being female is of fundamental importance to the experiences in and uses of martial arts that she describes.

As a female martial artist of almost twenty years, I was fascinated to read of the ease of which the author excelled in the styles she practiced. One thing my experience in martial arts has taught me is the importance of size and strength. I've realized how much, on average, women are at a disadvantage in a physical confrontation. Although I am confident that practicing a martial art will mitigate those disadvantages, the net result will depend on the situation and other people involved. So far, this remains untested for me. I attribute this to a combination of the privilege of my socio-economic class, simple dumb luck and possibly avoiding acting like a victim, but I'm not stupid enough to think it might not, someday, be tested. So it was intriguing to learn that the author attributes so much of her success both in and outside of the kwoon to the practice of internal martial arts.

When I was competing in karate tournaments ten years ago, I started practicing yoga to increase the stillness of my mind and balance in my body. Back then, this was a separate discipline from my martial art training but I am lucky enough to be part of a martial arts school that does not stand still. Our Fukukancho, Mike Ninomiya, is bringing yoga and qigong practice into the dojo since he believes those practices will not only help us age gracefully but are also key to successful fighting. This book repeatedly validated that belief: almost all the physical confrontations the author describes were resolved without force, using instead the acute observational and decision-making abilities that she has learned and practiced in her martial arts training.

It is for this reason I believe this book would be of interest to a wider audience than just female martial artists (although I recognize my inability to make that judgement from the 'inside'). So much of self-defense is about what comes before things get physical. So much of a healthy life comes from granting attention to the silence within. So much of living on Earth involves recognizing that humanity is simply a part of the natural world.  BK Loren expresses these sentiments and more with this collection of sometimes beautiful and sometimes disturbing anecdotes, so that reading this collection feels like dipping into a river of refreshing and challenging insights. 

1 comment:

Kara said...

I'll gladly read the book and give you the perspective of a female non-martial artist.... Then we can give it to a male and see what he thinks...

Interesting review! I look forward to picking it up one day.