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J. Christoph Amberger on the Sword
The Best Book Yet on Western Martial Arts
© 2013 James LaFond
Hi, my name is James and I'm addicted to martial history...
Years ago I was lucky enough to have a copy of The Secret History of the Sword given to me by a training partner. I have been remiss for not reviewing it earlier, but had not read it in a few years. I it picked up yesterday however, and it was like a reunion with that devilish lady you can’t forget…
The Secret History of the Sword
Adventures in Ancient Martial Arts
J. Christoph Amberger
Unique Publications, Burbank, CA, 1998, 281 pages
This is a thematic book that focuses on swordsmanship as a point of entry into the lives of fighting men past. The author illuminates many western martial practices that have spanned the ages. From early modern, to medieval, to modern, to ancient, and back to modern times, the author explores the arts of the swordsman with a piercing academic eye, and with the intuition of the fighter. The author never lets the focus of his work drift far from the motivation of a warrior. In large measure, this book is a study of human behavior. Martial traditions are investigated as societal dominance rituals and war-fighting methods, not just as a set of physical mechanics, or as interesting aberrations out of a best-forgotten past.
The Secret History of the Sword is by turns, insightful scholarship, gruesome fun, a mediation on the warrior spirit, and the peeling away of the layers of a tradition whose own practitioners have long been ignorant of. There are rare photos and illustrations sensibly illuminating the text. But, the best thing about Mister Amberger’s book is his skill as a writer. Here are a random sample of book marks: Men behaving badly; Medieval Whacky Whackers; Loss of limb; Wooden Weapons; Legend of the Lost Crusaders; Divine windbag; Dance, monkey boy, dance!; Moon of skulls; Deaths to please the eye; Garden of fear…
If that list of headings did not make you want to read The Secret History of the Sword than you are going to want to avoid most of what is on this website. J. Christoph Amberger has provided a precious resource for martial history buffs, a rollicking good read, and quite a few telling snapshots into the male aspect of the human condition.
You will find a link to his site on our network page.
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