A graphic novel version of this classic collection of martial arts parables, written by Issai Chozanshi, an 18-century samurai, brings these tales alive in a captivating and immediately accessible way. The stories, which feature demons, insects, birds, cats, and numerous other creatures, may seem whimsical, but they contain essential teachings that offer insight into the fundamental principles of the martial arts.
Infused with Chozanshi’s deep understanding of Taoism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Shinto, the tales elucidate the nature of conflict, the importance of following one’s own nature, yin and yang, the cultivation and transformation of ch’i (life energy), and the attainment of mushin (no-mind). Ultimately, the reader learns in a visually exciting way that the path of the sword is a path of self-knowledge and leads to an understanding of life itself.
About The Demon’s Sermon on the Martial Arts
This collection of parables written by Issai Chozanshi, an eighteenth-century samurai, is a classic of martial arts literature. The tales are concerned with themes such as perception of conflict, self-transformation, the cultivation of chi (life energy), and understanding yin and yang. These parables seem light and fanciful, but they offer the reader valuable lessons on the fundamental principles of the martial arts. This version, translated by William Scott Wilson, is the first direct translation from the original into English and he captures the tone and essence of the text while also making it accessible and meaningful for a contemporary audience.
The “demon” in the title story refers to the mythical tengu, who guard the secrets of swordsmanship. A swordsman travels to Tengu Mountain and in a series of conversations he learns about mushin (no-mind), strategy, the transformation of chi, and how the path of the sword leads to the understanding of life itself. Some of the fables in the collection–such as “The Mysterious Technique of the Cat”—are iconic.
Chozanshi’s deep understanding of Taoism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Shinto, as well as his insight into the central role of chi in the universe, are succinctly explained in William Scott Wilson’s fine introduction and extensive endnotes. This is essential reading for anyone who wants to truly understand the philosophical underpinnings of martial arts, and how these principles relate to our existence.
“This poetic book immediately stands out as the best of Sean Michael Wilson’s three graphic novel adaptations of classical works of Japanese philosophy. As a book of philosophy, it’s fascinating; a dreamlike exploration of consciousness, life, and death. Michiru Morikawa’s artwork is the perfect match for the text, her eerie, detailed illustrations—especially the lovely renderings of various animals—perfectly fitting the poetic feel. Recommended.”—Jason Thompson, Otaku USA magazine
“Wilson and Morikawa capture all the wisdom and beauty of these original texts and enhance them with the visual vitality and playful charms of modern manga. Their faithful retellings of these allegorical fables and philosophical reflections prove how timeless and rewarding they truly are.”—Paul Gravett, editor of 1001 Comics You Must Read before You Die