In the introduction of  Stephen Turnbull’s The Lone Samurai and the Martial Arts, he points out, “the figure of the lone samurai, whose popularity is never in doubt throughout history, stands in direct contrast to what are perceived as the essentially group-led values of Japanese society.” Instead of being a book about modern martial arts, it is actually a history of the role of individual samurai (that is the warrior aristocracy) and martial arts from the time of the Gempei War to the current day.

Naturally, at the beginning the focus is on the samurai, which then shifts as the idea of actual swordfighting schools develops, and then the idea of martial arts develops in the centuries of peace under the Tokugawa.

In all, it’s an enjoyable book, that does a good job of presenting some of the social context of Japanese history.