Review: Secrets of the Samurai by Oscar Ratti and Adele Westbrook 

FF’s Star Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

If I were to stumble upon a drawing of a samurai warrior somewhere online, I’m sure that it wouldn’t be much different than the one that we see here on this cover. I’ve always felt the great need to go beyond such sketches though. To fill myself with as much knowledge about the samurai’s fighting capabilities, the samurai’s role in feudal Japan, and the ideals the samurai lived, and in most cases inevitably, died by. Secrets of the Samurai by Oscar Ratti (died August 2005) and Adele Westbrook was a must.

There is a vast difference between the samurai of feudal Japan and the warrior that existed in any other time and country. It is not their distinct armor and weaponry that made them unique. Whatever it is, this is the question that Oscar Ratti and Adele Westbrook hoped to answer in the writing of this book with an in-depth examination of not just the samurai, but of every aspect of feudal Japan and, from the farmer-turned-warrior to the nightmare-inspiring ronin, of all other warrior classes that emerged across a wide span of centuries.

This book reveals how, during a time in Japan of habitual warfare, there had been numurous men with power who rose to power, but sometimes only to lose it again to someone else or to become the target of a vengeful relative of a fallen enemy. Starting readers off with a thorough understanding of the professional warrior and the farmer intent on fighting back when an unavoidable situation calls for it, the three-part structure coupled with the authors’ capacious provision of knowledge makes it a worthwhile book about the samurai to have on hand.

To deliver their findings in a way that cause readers to actually take in what they are reading, the authors adopt a willingness to leave readers with more than enough food for thought so as not to leave them with many questions after a chapter’s end. Each time I opened this book there was always something different and interesting to learn. With clear writing that presented me with a style that sticks rather than causes confusion, there was never an instance in which I felt too mentally drained to continue.

For those not particularly fond of lengthy works of writing, getting through this book might be a challenge, but for me the diagrams, charts, and Oscar Ratti’s loveable sketches made the reading less intimidating. The authors reference numerous notable authors whose works have all been published before the 1980s around the turn of almost every page, which sometimes caused me a great deal of distraction because of my growing interest in the works written by these other writers that are always referenced while, as an added negative, the authors revealed that some areas “cannot be covered adequately”.

I’ve read about legendary figures, both male and female, in Japan’s history. The authors have educated me (as much as writings can) on a variety of weapons and the art of using each subsequent one. Truly, if one from another country and one who is unfamiliar with all topics of discussion of which feudal Japan is the centerpiece wishes to learn more about it, than one need look no further than this examination. Oscar Ratti and Adele Westbrook delivered the ultimate source of information pertaining to that constant figure of old Japanese warfare – the samurai.

Free paperback received from TUTTLE Publishing.

 Kindle Edition:

Publisher: TUTTLE Publishing
Date Published:
December 20, 2011
Martial Arts
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4 thoughts on “Review: Secrets of the Samurai by Oscar Ratti and Adele Westbrook 

    1. Thx Lashaan. This book was absolutely worth the effort. The authors take you step by step and when you get to the end of it, you feel content with everything you’ve learned about feudal Japan and the samurai. An amazing book. I’m never giving my copy away lol.

      Liked by 1 person

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