Moving Toward Stillness

By Dave Lowry

Lowry admits, in the introduction to his book, that in re-reading these short pieces "I was struck by the fact that a lot of my writing has, a, oh, I don't know ... curmudgeonly tone to it." Curmudgeonly? Possibly. But also a tone of passion and compassion. Lowry, who writes almost exclusively about Japanese martial arts, is here assembled through essays that span over a decade and have appeared in magazines such as Black Belt. And, reminding one a bit of Wendell Berry, the book here seems to represent the man: his dislike of cant, his natural attraction for strong values, his stalwart loyalty to the martial as a refinement of perception as much as a method for homicide.

We find Moving Toward Stillness refreshing in its honesty, thoughtfulness and - most important - forthrightness of opinion. Lowry has, for instance, a nice little piece on the martial idea of enryo or "emotional reticence". He writes the following in relation to current competitions: "Losers storm and stamp about and display all sorts of anger and frustration and disappointment. Winners acknowledge the adulation of the crowd. Losers sulk or protest. None of these displays of emotion or feeling will occur at contests involving traditional budoka. There the spirit of enryo pervades. Without looking at the signals of the referee at the end of such competitions it will be impossible to tell who had won, both competitors will be that perfectly stoical..."

Lowry sees clearly the martial in the mundane. He recognizes with a kind of quiet Yankee dignity that it is not just a Japanese martial trait to understand the use of ritual, reticence and control but a civilized trait. And a sign of that seemingly forgotten word: character.

This book of 45 essays deals with not only martial arts, flower arranging, the perfection of opening a door, the skill of knowing how to bow, but other important topics that-to our mind- the martial world is poorer missing. He pithily deals with many concepts from Zen Buddhism such as "Direct Mind" "Daily Habits" "Looking to See". If you read Lowry's book and you are a martial artist you will sometimes find yourself a little uncomfortable but never uninspired.

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