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A Sensible Approach to Your Martial Arts Books – 4 simple rules + one more

Books I'm reading or planning to read
Books I'm reading or planning to read
Photograph taken by Paul Rest

It’s so easy to get buried in all the great books about martial arts available today, especially those about Aikido. And it’s also easy to get overwhelmed. Very quickly!

The result then is that books get put in the “I’m going to read this later” pile. And unfortunately will stay there until the cat knocks it over or it gets put in another stack for “later, later” reading.

Here are a few sensible rules for reading (and keeping) your favorite martial arts books.

Rule No. 1: Take your time reading. As in, you have time. There is no book report due Monday. You don’t need to put on your Evelyn Woods Reading Dynamics hat and whoosh through the book at 16,000 words a minute.

For example, Linda Holiday’s excellent tome “Journey Into the Heart of Aikido” states right away that, “It [the book] is a work of love, an offering of the heart.” Well, I think most people would not eat a whole box of delicious chocolates all at one time. Nor would you attempt to read a book from the heart all at once either.

So, Rule No. 1 is to take your time. Enjoy what you’re reading. Go back and re-read a paragraph or sentence or even a page or chapter that caught your attention or inspired you.

Have fun. Enjoy your journey.

Remember, you’ve got time.

Rule No. 2: Don’t be afraid to take notes, underline a passage or put sticky tags on pages you like. A book, that is most books that are not rare or antiquarian, are designed and produced for real use. This means you can thumb through the pages to find a favorite passage and so forth numerous times and the book will take the wear and tear.

Most books will not survive your dog chomping on them like they’re their favorite chew toys. They will however survive sticky notes, yellow underlines and other notations.

I absolutely hate it when I run across a passage or sentence I want to underline or note, and then the phone rings (or there’s another distraction) and as I reach over to pick up my iPhone the books falls on the floor and I lose my place AND the passage I wanted to remember.

So perhaps Rule 2a would be to mark, save and note what’s important to you then and there. Think of this as hurling along with a Word document thinking you can save it “in a minute” and then something happens like your computer crashing and you lose the whole thing!

I know that’s happened to you (as it’s happened to me). So now I make notes, add stickies or underline right then and there. My books may look like a porcupine with all the stickies poking out but I know these are reminders that something important is there.

Rule No. 3 is put all your martial arts books in the same spot if possible. I can’t remember how many books I just put someplace where “I’ll remember it” and then looked for it for what seemed forever.

Over time, I learned to have a shelf or two in one of my bookcases for my Aikido and other books (they take up more than one or two shelves now). If I need to refer to a book, I’ll know where it is.

Unless that is I put it somewhere where “I’ll remember it.” Then you might need a combination of St. Jude and kami to help you find the book.

Some of my books are still unfound. I mean, they’re just nowhere to be found.


Rule No. 4 is loan out your martial books carefully. [Maybe I was guilty of this Rule…so see above Rule.] And I mean very carefully. It’s one thing to what to share the joy and excitement of your martial arts journey by loaning out your favorite book.

But realistically, the chances of the book being returned, even with the best intentions of the recipient, are well, problematic at best.

The best example of this was a dojo rummage sale I attended some years ago at the dojo where I was training at the time. Students and friends of students brought their "used" martial arts books to sell. Suddenly, I saw students (and a couple of teachers) looking through these books and saying,

“Isn’t this the book that I loaned so-and-so?”

“Oh look, here that darn book. I wondered what happened to it?”

“Look, here’s my name inside the book. So that’s what happened to it.”

Unless you’re serious about loaning out your books and having people sign chits that they are borrowing your books with a promise to return by such and such a date, either don’t do it, or say goodbye to that book.

And of course, this holds true to not only Aikido and martial arts books but also all books. Unless you’re willing to part with the book, I’d suggest checking with yourself anytime you get in a giving mood with anything from your library.

Okay, these are some simple Rules to help you with your reading for the remaining weeks of the summer and beyond.

Oh, and there’s one more rule. A very simple one:

Rule No. 5 is write your name and phone number or email address in all your books right after you bring them home or they arrive. It’s the same as putting your mark on your bokken, jo and tanto. You’ll know it’s yours and if by chance it does become waylayed, it has a higher probability of finding its way back into your hands now that you’ve done this.

But the bottom line is, whatever you do (or don't do), have fun reading!

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