von Krenner, Walther G., and Ken Jeremiah. Following the Martial Path: Lessons and Stories from a Lifetime of Training in Budo and Zen. Spring House, PA: Tambuli Media, 2016.
After reading Walther von Krenner’s Atemi, I wanted to acquire more of his work to understand how he reached his conclusions in Atemi. Soon, I found his Following the Martial Path. Krenner’s book is a collection of stories and lesson from a lifetime of training in the martial arts. What sets this book apart from others that discuss similar topics is the addition of Krenner’s own first-hand experiences after years of training, study, and research into the martial arts, Zen, and other related field. His experiences demonstrate the path he has taken – the ups and downs of his journey – showing the reader that even though he traveled far on his path, he still has a ways to go and he embraces the long road ahead.
While there are a number of chapters that discuss Morihei Ueshiba’s (O-Sensei) training habits and spiritual concepts in his later years, Krenner also includes several chapters on Zen, calligraphy, and sumi-e. In these chapters, he relates the similarities between the martial arts and the other three arts, stating that the concept of mushin and zazen are needed to continue and grow in the martial arts; there should be no hesitation when performing a technique, drawing strokes of characters or scenery, or remaining calm. In doing so, it brings the practitioner closer to mushin and zazen.
It is from this foundation that Krenner explores the martial and spiritual background of O-Sensei. In his exploration and opinion, Krenner states that he follows the path laid out by O-Sensei more closely than others. Because of his experiences in Zen, calligraphy, and sumi-e, he has gained a deeper understanding of aikido and its relation to daily life. Even with this deeper understanding, as Krenner says outright, he is still learning and still growing, no matter how long he has traveled this path.
In closing his martial autobiography, Krenner writes of how the aikido he learned from both Isao Takahashi in Los Angeles and O-Sensei in Japan changed drastically since the latter’s death in 1969. To Krenner, the current way aikido is trained does not align with that of what O-Sensei laid out nor does it produce the quality aikido instructors like that of Koichi Tohei, Mitsugi Saotome, and Rinjiro Shirata. Regardless how aikidoka practice today, there is still an avenue to uncover and rediscover the founder’s meaning and purpose of the art; Krenner has offered practitioners such a glimpse into the path that leads back to O-Sensei.
Those interested in not only a great story based around martial arts but something that can be learned from someone with more than fifty years in the martial arts and Japanese cultural activities, then Walther von Krenner’s Following the Martial Path is for you.