Classical Weaponry of Japan: Special Weapons and Tactics of the Martial Arts
Serge Mol

Kodansha International, 2003
ISBN 4770029411

This is a great little book, and I daresay a must-have for those with an interest in Japanese martial arts. This is the author's second book, and though I haven't read the first one, by all accounts it is excellent. This book, however, stands on its own. The author makes only brief mention of the katana and other weapons that have already had many many pages written about them. Instead, he focuses on the "lesser" weapons: kusarigama, shuriken, jutte, and other less well-known weapons.

The format is simple: each chapter focuses on a class of weapons, and is separated into sections that treat individual weapons. The chapter on shuriken is particularly informative: in addition to the typical shuriken portrayed in most books, he describes a number of more unusual forms, and includes pictures of a great variety of them. He also discusses hidden weapons, small striking weapons, and chain weapons. Every time he uses a Japanese term, he includes both the English transcription, its meaning in English, the Japanese characters, and, where applicable, alternate readings. Mol generally focuses on the history of the weapons, but includes descriptions and photographs of techniques as a clarification rather than as instruction.

The author leaves us with a short bibliography, divided into Sources in Japanese, and Sources in English. You get a sense of the amount of research he has put into it, and it leaves you hoping he'll write more books just like this one. I look forward to reading Classical Fighting Arts of Japan.