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Autumn Lightning: The Education of an American Samurai

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Dave Lowry juxtaposes his singular experience as an adept student of kenjutsu (the art of swordsmanship) under a Japanese teacher in St. Louis with a riveting account of the samurai tradition in Japan. Intertwining tales of the masters with reflections on his own apprenticeship in the samurai's arts, he reveals in their time-honored methods a way of life with profound rele Dave Lowry juxtaposes his singular experience as an adept student of kenjutsu (the art of swordsmanship) under a Japanese teacher in St. Louis with a riveting account of the samurai tradition in Japan. Intertwining tales of the masters with reflections on his own apprenticeship in the samurai's arts, he reveals in their time-honored methods a way of life with profound relevance to modern times. The result is a fascinating, singular autobiography. Lowry captures the sense of wonder and mystery that makes martial arts compelling to so many practitioners. Even those who do not practice martial arts will delight in this unusual coming-of-age story.


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Dave Lowry juxtaposes his singular experience as an adept student of kenjutsu (the art of swordsmanship) under a Japanese teacher in St. Louis with a riveting account of the samurai tradition in Japan. Intertwining tales of the masters with reflections on his own apprenticeship in the samurai's arts, he reveals in their time-honored methods a way of life with profound rele Dave Lowry juxtaposes his singular experience as an adept student of kenjutsu (the art of swordsmanship) under a Japanese teacher in St. Louis with a riveting account of the samurai tradition in Japan. Intertwining tales of the masters with reflections on his own apprenticeship in the samurai's arts, he reveals in their time-honored methods a way of life with profound relevance to modern times. The result is a fascinating, singular autobiography. Lowry captures the sense of wonder and mystery that makes martial arts compelling to so many practitioners. Even those who do not practice martial arts will delight in this unusual coming-of-age story.

30 review for Autumn Lightning: The Education of an American Samurai

  1. 5 out of 5

    David

    There are a few books that I read when I was in middle school and high school and have continued to re-read once every couple years since then. Autumn Lightning is one of these. The book is partly a story of Lowry's own early studies in kenjutsu as a young man, and partly a story of the development of the style in which he studied. But this is not just an interesting book on martial arts; it is a simple good story, thoughtfully and skillfully written, and something about it keeps making me come There are a few books that I read when I was in middle school and high school and have continued to re-read once every couple years since then. Autumn Lightning is one of these. The book is partly a story of Lowry's own early studies in kenjutsu as a young man, and partly a story of the development of the style in which he studied. But this is not just an interesting book on martial arts; it is a simple good story, thoughtfully and skillfully written, and something about it keeps making me come back for more.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey

    This is a great summary of Japanese samurai history through a specific martial arts style lens. Plus, what a great character development of Dave himself. It's books like this that remind me why I love bushido - the personal development inherent in it are extraordinary. I was most surprised to learn it was written in 1985 - felt like it could have been at any time. (That said, Dave's childhood is clearly explained, it's just that the book/experience is sort of timeless.) This is a great summary of Japanese samurai history through a specific martial arts style lens. Plus, what a great character development of Dave himself. It's books like this that remind me why I love bushido - the personal development inherent in it are extraordinary. I was most surprised to learn it was written in 1985 - felt like it could have been at any time. (That said, Dave's childhood is clearly explained, it's just that the book/experience is sort of timeless.)

  3. 5 out of 5

    Dwayne Coleman

    Quite good. Written with respect for the tradition the author studies, this book exemplifies the way that Western authors ought to write about Asian martial arts. The author is adept at relating what he learned and the value found in it without being preachy or self-serving.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Brown

    This was an interesting overview of Dave Lowry's education - a singular martial artist who became skilled at both Judo and Yagyu school of fencing. It was a good interplay between his childhood as well as key historical moments in Japan and the founding of the Yagyu school. This was an interesting overview of Dave Lowry's education - a singular martial artist who became skilled at both Judo and Yagyu school of fencing. It was a good interplay between his childhood as well as key historical moments in Japan and the founding of the Yagyu school.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Imma Njowa

    Not active

  6. 4 out of 5

    Devon

    Juxtaposes Authors experiences with the experiences of his ancestral timeline in the art of bushido.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Stacholy

    probably one of my FAVORITE Dave Lowry books

  8. 5 out of 5

    Gri

    First and foremost: I'm biased. Besides being an avid DL fan, I'm a sucker for rite-of-passage stories related to Japanese martial arts and I was fortunate enough to translate this book in my native language (Greek), meaning I had the chance to work with it up close and personal. The book is, simply put, great. Although DL writes basically for the martial arts cognoscenti, he’s smart enough to make his language comprehensive to a broader audience –at least he does in “Autumn Lightning” and in “P First and foremost: I'm biased. Besides being an avid DL fan, I'm a sucker for rite-of-passage stories related to Japanese martial arts and I was fortunate enough to translate this book in my native language (Greek), meaning I had the chance to work with it up close and personal. The book is, simply put, great. Although DL writes basically for the martial arts cognoscenti, he’s smart enough to make his language comprehensive to a broader audience –at least he does in “Autumn Lightning” and in “Persimmon Wind”, “Autumn Lightning’s” sequel (so to speak). Even if you don’t do martial arts, you will enjoy at least exactly the half of the book. Why “exactly”? Because “Autumn Lightning” is, actually, two books. Besides DL’s personal journey into classical swordsmanship and Japan’s culture (the odd-numbered chapters), there is also a history of the school he was taught (the even-numbered chapters). And, funny thing: while the former are fun in a “Karate Kid” sort of way, the latter are also fun –in a more scholarly, mature way. At times hilariously funny, at times heartbreakingly sad and most times profoundly wise, “Autumn Lightning” has it all –in spades. If you are even remotely interested in Japan and its culture and especially if you care some for its martial culture (i.e. the samurai and their world), “Autumn Lightning” is probably among the Top Ten titles you will find in the English language. The particularity of its subject considered, this is not a five-star book; it’s easily a ten star one.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Andreas

    This was one great book about the present, past and future of Kenjutsu and to a lesser extend Kendo. Being educated and trained in the more or less classical ways by a Master of the Art in private, daily lessons is an unbelievable privilege in our times. The strain put on Dave, be it mental or physical, must have been too much to bear sometimes. However, the result of such a training can be clearly seen in Dave Lowry. I am glad I stumbled upon this author and this book and highly recommend it and a This was one great book about the present, past and future of Kenjutsu and to a lesser extend Kendo. Being educated and trained in the more or less classical ways by a Master of the Art in private, daily lessons is an unbelievable privilege in our times. The strain put on Dave, be it mental or physical, must have been too much to bear sometimes. However, the result of such a training can be clearly seen in Dave Lowry. I am glad I stumbled upon this author and this book and highly recommend it and almost all his other works ("Moving towards stillness" especially) to anyone who is interested in the Martial Way and the meaning of Budo in Modern Times.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    This was probably the closest I've got to gaining some insights into the ways of samurai and their history. I'm glad a fellow Goodreads member recommended it to me. The story chronicles the life of an American who decides to undergo the tutelage of a samurai sensei. The story nicely contrasts Occidental and Oriental cultures and tells a parallel story of historic Japan where the sensei's ancestors made the art of the sword (kenjutsu) popular. Although the reading was slow at times, it did a good j This was probably the closest I've got to gaining some insights into the ways of samurai and their history. I'm glad a fellow Goodreads member recommended it to me. The story chronicles the life of an American who decides to undergo the tutelage of a samurai sensei. The story nicely contrasts Occidental and Oriental cultures and tells a parallel story of historic Japan where the sensei's ancestors made the art of the sword (kenjutsu) popular. Although the reading was slow at times, it did a good job of conveying samurai ideology to a westerner.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Rick

    This book was surprisingly great. As someone with a love of history and only a fledgling understanding of the history of the samurai I picked up Autumn Lightning expecting a personal account of training, not what amounts to an in depth look at the main players of some pivotal times in the history of Japan. It was a pleasant discovery to find that the author had put in the level of effort he has in this book, explaining not only personal experiences in bujitsu but also exploring this amazing peri This book was surprisingly great. As someone with a love of history and only a fledgling understanding of the history of the samurai I picked up Autumn Lightning expecting a personal account of training, not what amounts to an in depth look at the main players of some pivotal times in the history of Japan. It was a pleasant discovery to find that the author had put in the level of effort he has in this book, explaining not only personal experiences in bujitsu but also exploring this amazing period in time. It is well written and well worth the read for anyone interested in martial arts.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Nick

    This is one of my all-time favorite books. It avoids the biggest problem of most of Lowry's writing, which is his tendency to sneer at those whose studies in the martial arts lack the purity of his own (I suspect if I told him I earned my black belt from an American instructor at a dojang in a mini-mall he'd have an attack of the vapors) and uses incidents from his own education in Japanese martial arts to tell the story of how his style originated in feudal Japan. Eminently readable, if you can This is one of my all-time favorite books. It avoids the biggest problem of most of Lowry's writing, which is his tendency to sneer at those whose studies in the martial arts lack the purity of his own (I suspect if I told him I earned my black belt from an American instructor at a dojang in a mini-mall he'd have an attack of the vapors) and uses incidents from his own education in Japanese martial arts to tell the story of how his style originated in feudal Japan. Eminently readable, if you can track down a copy.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Stuart

    a good unique book that has decent information on the attitude of Bugeisha, lots of samurai folk tales and myths. I don't like overly sentimental and romantic attitudes and was going to down rate the book because of that but it was redeeming with honesty in explaining all interesting topics even the authors education in the samurai's way of love, rather than to talk all day about romantic mysticism stories. a good unique book that has decent information on the attitude of Bugeisha, lots of samurai folk tales and myths. I don't like overly sentimental and romantic attitudes and was going to down rate the book because of that but it was redeeming with honesty in explaining all interesting topics even the authors education in the samurai's way of love, rather than to talk all day about romantic mysticism stories.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sirdarksol

    A chronicle of David Lowry's study of kenjutsu under a Japanese master, this book is one of the best stories that I have read. It grants the reader simultaneous insight into the true nature of the martial arts (not flashy sport, but an art that allows the artist to hone mind, body, and spirit) and into culture of Japanese martial arts. A chronicle of David Lowry's study of kenjutsu under a Japanese master, this book is one of the best stories that I have read. It grants the reader simultaneous insight into the true nature of the martial arts (not flashy sport, but an art that allows the artist to hone mind, body, and spirit) and into culture of Japanese martial arts.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    I read this many years ago, and it was a great perspective on what it means to train in an ancient way of thinking and the discipline therein. There is a sense of melancholy of days gone past and changing times, but overall a good book on what it means to be a Samurai.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jake

    Dave Lowry is a fantastic writer. His story shared here opens your mind to the samurai culture and modern day budo. You'll need a few reads to truly adsorb all that Lowry Sensei has to teach. Dave Lowry is a fantastic writer. His story shared here opens your mind to the samurai culture and modern day budo. You'll need a few reads to truly adsorb all that Lowry Sensei has to teach.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Eileen

    More insights from Dave about budo philosophy.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Joe Weicher

    Not bad; a really enjoyable story at times. I would have liked to see the culmination of his training- but then again, maybe thats the point. With zanshin, your training is really never completed.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

  20. 5 out of 5

    Uri

  21. 5 out of 5

    Cathy M.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ŧi̾l̷͖̀

  23. 4 out of 5

    Chelsea

  24. 5 out of 5

    John Gilbert

  25. 5 out of 5

    JLG

  26. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

  27. 5 out of 5

    Dewald

  28. 5 out of 5

    Joshua

  29. 5 out of 5

    J K Hoffman

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jerry

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