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Posted May 13, 2004
Taiho - Jutsu Law and Order in the Age of the Samurai by Don Cunningham Tuttle Publishing, First Edition, 2004 Hard cover, 6x9 inches, over 180 pages, over 210 ilustrations (grayscale photos and drawings) Review by Dr. Ivica Zdravkovic, April 2004 It is always hard to write an objective review on something done by your friend. In this particular case, I have the privilege and honour of considering the author of fascinating 'Taiho - Jutsu', Mr. Don Cunningham, a very dear friend of mine. Actually, the autographed copy of this book arrived to my home address as a gift - once more as a help from Don, who made it possible to read his book even here, in part of the world seldom seen from the distributors. 'Taiho - Jutsu' comes almost as a natural extension of Don's first book 'The Secret Weapons of Jujutsu' - which also was a huge success. It is obvious that 'Taiho - Jutsu' reaches even deeper in Japanese history, culture and martial arts in particular. This is outstanding and condensed presentation of Edo culture, evolution and organisation of juristic system, and at the same time, impressive presentation of civil authority, policing and arrest methods. One of my first impressions while reading this book was that it was far beyond simple definition of martial arts books. It is giving much more than just a usual instruction in implementing weapons and body arts. The first 60 pages are so well composed that they deserve to be reprinted even as a separate textbook. It is a fruit of Don's long research work, travels to Japan and serious analysis of all the resources available. It is especially nice to see Don's list of acknowledgements - which reveals a truly impressive individuals and institutions who contributed to the final look of 'Taiho - Jutsu': Nawa Yumio sensei, S. Alexander Takeuchi, Kusunoki Toshi, Mizutani Tonomori, Rich Hashimoto, the staff of Tokyo National Museum, Meiji University Criminology Museum, Keisatsu Museum, Fukugawa Edo Museum, and others... Chapters 1, 2 and 3 are simply amazing: The rise of Edo as central city of shogunate is richly illustrated by original photos taken in Japan in second half of 19th century! Even brief descriptions on 'small issues' such as cooking and dining habits of Edo population make the reader feel as transported directly to these ancient times. Organisation of fire fighters (hikeshi), detailed description of their methods used (with 'matoi' banners, 'hashigo' ladder etc.) - all of it is so well presented that one simply cannot resist continuing reading with no stops, from the first to the last page. What happens when a feudal shogun's government banns the wheeled vehicles? Why would they do that? What is 'sankin kotai' and how did it influence the political stability of Tokugawa era? Was there really a freedom for samurai to violently decapitate just about any lower ranked people ('kiritsutegomen') - or were there some limitations that actually made this 'myth' very misinterpreted? What about legal vendetta? To these and plenty of other interesting question Don Cunningham is giving very precise answers and insights. Then comes the description of criminal activities, organisations and famous criminals such as Jirocho 'The Tokaido's Number One Boss' - immediately followed with fascinating illustrations of Edo justice, penalties, punishment and police officers. One of the central parts of this book introduces a highly complicated structure of law enforcement in feudal Japan. Readers can learn about yoriki, doshin, komono, goyokiki and other official and 'unofficial' members of regular police and law forces. Their clothing, weapons, social status, inter-relations and regular activities, duties and jurisdiction are described in details. Starting with Chapter 4, the author focuses on weapons and arresting tools, as well as on exact techniques of jutte jutsu (and taiho-jutsu in general - meaning 'body restraining art').Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.