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HomeMartial ArtsBook review: Transparent Power - Martial Journal

Book review: Transparent Power – Martial Journal

English cover and original Japanese cover of Tomei na Chikara

Title: Transparent Power A secret teaching revealed

Author:  Tatsuo Kimura

Publisher: MAAT Press

Publish Date: September 1, 2017

Format: paperback

Pages: 254, 6 x 0.75 x 9 inches

Cover Price: $24.95

ISBN: 1893447111





Most people nowadays have heard the name Aikido. At least those with a passing interest in martial arts. They might know it because of Steven Seagal and his movies which kinda catapulted both him and the style to fame. Less people will know that Aikido is a Japanese style founded by Morihei Ueshiba in the 20th century. It’s a soft style, emphasizing locks and throws over strikes, a distant cousin of Judo and related to some koryu (old school martial arts of Japan). But Ueshiba, a renowned fighter himself, was disciple of another famous fighter by the name of Sokaku Takeda. Takeda taught a style called Daito Ryu Aikijujutsu. Aiki is according to the style’s practitioners a skill that allows a fighter to defeat opponents much stronger than themself. This is the transparent power that the book references.


Sagawa Sensei in the tower of Matsumoto Castle, 1986.
Sagawa Sensei in the tower of Matsumoto Castle


Transparent Power or Tomei no Chikara in its original Japanese is a book by Tatsuo Kimura. And it’s a recollection of the author’s 20 years of study with Yukiyoshi Sagawa. Sagawa was a direct disciple of Sokaku Takeda and a contemporary of Aikido founder Morihei Ueshiba. Over that time, Kimura compiled almost 5,000 pages of notes written during or immediately after his training sessions with Sagawa Sensei. The beginning of the book contains a short historical section, in which Kimura weaves from the threads of these notes a rough narrative of Sagawa Sensei’s youth and his early studies and travels with his own teacher, Sokaku Takeda. The remaining sections essentially are loosely organized quotations from Sagawa Sensei, and we are able to “hear” Sagawa’s voice directly.



Sagawa sensei using aiki with his students
Sagawa sensei using aiki with his students

The book is a direct testimony of Sagawa sensei’s last decades from the perspective of one of his closest disciples. It’s filled with anecdotes about training from both Sagawa sensei and the author. It’s an insight into Sagawa sensei’s life, beliefs and thoughts. And also how the author reflects himself onto his teacher and his martial arts practice. And includes pictures, a lot of them. Though it never fully explores what Aiki is or how to explain it, the author states very clearly his and Sagawa sensei’s thoughts on the subject. Aiki is a skill that one can acquire and refine through training. Not a supernatural power, nor a special ability that people like Sagawa sensei, Takeda or Ueshiba possessed. And that is also clear in how the author describes Sagawa sensei’s classes. How he taught and some of the excercises he used.


Though I wasn’t expecting an in-depth study of what Aiki is, let alone a guide to develop it, I was hoping for something more along those lines. My previous experience with books on the topic was with Ellis Amdur’s Hidden in Plain Sight. The author of this book, Tatsuo Kimura is a mathematician from the University of Tokyo. Between his background and the fact that he called Aiki a skill my hopes were high of finding some new perspective. As a computer science major myself, I share some of their logical and analytical tools. Sadly there’s nothing of that sort. There’s a few mention of training exercises but not much else. The biographical part of the book is very short for my liking and the rest of the book is mostly quotes and anecdotes.


In conclusion I didn’t like this book very much and I can’t really recommend it if you’re like me. Either if you’re looking for a more analytical view on what Aiki is, how to train it and such. Or if you’re looking for a historical perspective on the subject. Even as a biography of Sagawa sensei I believe this book falls a bit short (maybe there wasn’t much to tell either, I don’t know). If you like a more philosophical book, with an insight on what Sagawa sensei thought and his influence on his students. Or you like books with a collection of sayings and quotes. Then this book might be what you’re looking for. Sadly as I said it wasn’t the case for me so I’ll give it a 2.5 out of 5 ninja stars.

As always, feel free to comment. Any and all comments will be answered, I’m happy to read your thoughts on the subject.



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