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Sumo wrestling is my guilty pleasure. On the surface, it seems as if two obese men run to push each other out of of a circle. But as you watch it and get passed the terminology, you can see there are massive amounts of technique and skill involved. Sumo is awesome and I will never not think that now, even as a new fan. In comes The Way of Salt by Ash Warren. I bought the book hoping to get an inkling of how sumo works behind the scenes, maybe a history lesson or two, and see how the sport works. I did not get that. Instead, the author provided something even better: the why of sumo.
The Way of Salt by Ash Warren Reviewed
As mentioned above, The Way of Salt was a deep dive into the why of sumo and how it’s culture and Japanese culture are parallel of each other. Warren dispels of several myths in the book about Japanese martial arts in general, including the belief of the “Zen Warrior.” This book goes into how a rikishi’s mind works, how they live and their philosophy.
The first chapter had my attention immediately but I wouldn’t say it had its hooks in me just yet. It wasn’t until the chapter about emotions that sucked me into the book and had me completely enthralled.
Much of Western society is based on winning and losing. In my time covering martial arts, fighters from the West do not like to speak after a loss. Some suffer real problems with depression after being beat in front of thousands. But Warren sheds new light in Eastern mindsets with emotions in that situation. Warren spells out how winning and losing doesn’t really have as much emphasis in The Way of the Salt. Instead, and I’ve seen this with fighters from Japan like Satoru Kitaoka living the way of a martial artist instead of putting all the emphasis on winning.
Kitaoka said in a previous interview, “For me, MMA and being a fighter is a way of life, an option that an individual made on how he want’s to live his life. So for a fighter, it doesn’t matter where we fight, it’s a lifestyle that we choose, so I really can’t describe my answer for this question any better.”
I’ve talked to about a dozen Japanese fighters since diving into this sport and they all, for the most part, have this philosophy about their martial arts careers. I simply didn’t piece it together until Ash Warren explained it in his book.
I read a lot and look for ways to learn more and improve my life. This section alone changed how I think. I often find myself emotional and let it get the best of me. The Way of Salt prompted me to take a step back and remove emotion from the situation. While this will take time to master, like all things, I’m already seeing the benefits!
Conclusion: Must Read
There is so much more in this book that I learned, but I won’t spoil that for you. All in all, the book is fantastic. Aside from a couple type-o’s, the book is a masterpiece. It has just enough sumo to keep the sumo fan interested but doesn’t overdo it and really takes a creative way to teach the reader about both the sport of sumo and the culture of sumo.
I would highly recommend The Way of Salt by Ash Warren to just about anyone who has an interest in sumo, Japanese culture, or even improving their mental state.