by Rob Williams
I shouldn’t have worried. If anyone knew people, it was Glenn Morris — psychologist, martial artist, poet, actor, college professor, shaman, kundalini-enlightened meditator, and one-man conclusive refutation of the idea that ‘those who can’t, teach’. Surely he would choose the right person to succeed him as head of the martial-art-cum-psychospiritual-enlightenment-program he himself established, Hoshin.
The position isn’t an easy one. The Soke has to master many pairs of opposites. He’s got to be the deadly fist no-one would want to tangle with, but also the ch’i-filled hands you go to for deep healing. He’s got to know how to ‘live with the shadow to have more light’, as Glenn said, and co-ordinate yin with yang in motion. Then, in his classic volumes on martial arts, which have taken many people to some pretty extraordinary places, Glenn set one more precedent — the ability to write.
But we can relax. In this, his own first book, with more to come, Rob Williams lays out his stall, and he has the right stuff. If you are a fan of Glenn’s books you will be smiling all the way through this one. (In fact the only real problem I had with it was that I’d happily have read one three times as long. ^_^)
Although this is more than a summary of the Hoshinjutsu training, it’s certainly that in spades. It’s at the introductory level, but perhaps even the seasoned will still get some new items of info from the descriptions. Williams was the guy who did all the work to lay out the high dan ranks properly, updated the techniques to work against stuff coming out of other arts, and established the entire Hoshin healing curriculum himself, at Glenn’s request. He’s well worth listening to on any of these subjects, even if he isn’t going into huge detail, because he has the same trick Glenn had of giving just the right tidbit to spark an insight.
All the basic Go Dai-level physical techniques are described, along with their internal components. The healing chapter is comprehensive, obviously close to the author’s heart, with immediately usable info on herbs, hydrotherapy, yoga, acupuncture and a dozen other things — although Williams seems to think our civilisation has lacked imagery-healing for centurie, and could perhaps talk to Susan Carlson about hypnosis sometime! There’s a good outline of the Ch’i Kung too, including some a useful clearing technique for the Ren/Du channels, and several other things that were new to me.
The book also provides a glimpse of Hoshin history and development, and of Williams’ relationship with Glenn. From the by now semi-mythical early stages at Hillsdale college to the last moments of Glenn’s life, Williams kept his eyes, ears and heart open. This art is all about subtlety of feeling. Williams writes clearly on ’empathic communication’, building on what Glenn did and confirming a lot of ‘how it happens’ for those who have been building ch’i in these directions. Working with emotions as resources is the heart of this approach. Psychologically it’s incredibly clever, because Glenn’s Humanistic Psychology savvy puts all of it a cut above the average energy approach. We get some rather advanced applications of this with respect to non-physical emotional communication here.
Williams is also clear: no Ch’i, no inner development, no Hoshin. Some will wonder why in heavens that would need saying. But strangely, even this art is starting to experience the loss of its ‘ura’ or inner, ch’i techniques in some dojos, turning it into another physical-only form. Yes, even though the ‘secrets’ aren’t secret!
Williams stomps that approach into jelly. And I don’t think such an anaemic way will establish itself very deeply with him at the helm of the Hoshin Budo Ryu. You’ll find plenty of shamanic stories about Glenn in this book, but just as many of Williams himself, and some of a very personal nature which must have required courage to write about. Wizards are still human.
Naturally he also combs out the ryu-succession tangles which threatened to obscure the dignity of Glenn’s death, and provides more than enough evidence to back up his case, if you still happen to need that. And you get an affectionate, illuminating portrait of ‘Doc’, with some moving stuff about his spider totem and the time he essayed the role of Boo Radley onstage.
The 5-star rating I’m giving here is not merely for the book, it’s for what stands behind the book, and what is going on in the Ryu. When one considers what Glenn did, it’s almost unreal, especially now we know it’s definitely going to continue. A whole shamanic lineage, with real kundalini enlightenment and deadly martial arts, in many ways built from scratch. And it works. It’s the whole pack of cards: no-sports fighting techniques with built-in tests of courage at each training stage, plus *real* spiritual work with a rich ch’i kung and healing heritage, that really can make actualised, aware, strong, subtle human beings. No secrets, no bull. That kind of thing doesn’t happen every day. There are going to be lots of people wanting to play with this.