This is not an entertaining book. This is not a story and
is not engaging. What it is is illuminating! This very
short (and frequently hard to find) collection of three letters/essays
from Takuan Soho to masters of the sword arts contains some
incredible gems. It is the kind of book that should be read
a page or even just a paragraph at a time followed by a period
of thought. The ideas of the interval between striking flint
and steel to the production of the spark, or the visual and
mental image of the glint of light on the blade of a sword
become captivating and even revelatory.
If you are a martial
artist, you MUST read this book. If you are in business,
this is as essential as Musashi's Book of Five Rings.
Takuan Soho has a book made of 3 parts, the first is a letter he wrote to a sword master about not "stopping the mind" and "the right mind" which basically amounts to "practice makes perfect" to the modern marital artist. I can't say that it went any further than that.
The next section reminded me very strongly of Plato's republic, as Takuan Soho went into the nature of the world as it is, which is very much seen through the lense of his understanding (16th century Japanese science I guess) which is sometimes ridiculous, and of limited use.
The third section is interesting, as he takes writing of various martial artists and interprets them or critiques them. This is useful for a modern martial artist, as we lack much of the historical and cultural context to interpret these directly from the translation. This section, along with the first are what makes the book worth reading. Still, I think that there are many more useful books out there for the martial artist to read before this one. Try Frederick Lovret's "Way and the Power", or Sun Tzu's "The Art of War" or Musashi's "A Book of Five Rings". All of these are much more useful.