Thursday, April 08, 2010

Moving Zen

Have recently read and enjoyed CW Nicol’s Moving Zen: Karate as a Way to Gentleness (1975). It’s an autobiographical account of Nicol’s journey from novice to karate black belt. Originally from Neath Nicol moved to Tokyo in the early 1960s where he enrolled at a dojo and set about learning the secrets of karate from Shotokan masters.

Not only does he become proficient at his chosen martial art but he gets married to a local woman and learns to speak Japanese in the process. He also strives to overcome his hot-headedness and street-fighting temperament – a legacy of his western upbringing and being bullied in high school (in England) for having a Welsh accent.

The pupil who finds peace and strength through the discipline of a martial art has become something of a cliché in western culture (particularly after the popularisation of karate and kung-fu in the 1970s) but Nicol’s book steers clear of any lazy stereotyping. Moving Zen has been reprinted several times and remains highly regarded in martial arts literature. CW Nicol has since become a famous environmentalist.