Friday, September 05, 2008

Review of “In Search of the Warrior Spirit” by Richard Strozzi-Heckler

Much of my reading these days is influenced by friends and family members who say to me: “You really need to read this book!” Thus, I was led to a book I would not have otherwise been aware of. Richard Strozzi, a former Marine and a black belt instructor in the martial art, aikido, has chronicled his 20-year pilgrimage of helping the US Special Forces to integrate into their training the insights of Eastern thought in general and aikido in particular. He subtitle for the book is: “Teaching Awareness Disciples to the Military.”

I found the book fascinating as Strozzi describes in great detail the pilot project he was asked to conduct for the Green Berets, dubbed “The Trojan Warrior Project.” The concept that Strozzi and his team mates taught initially met with great skepticism all up and down the chain of command, yet twenty years later can be found as an integral part of Special Forces training in all the U.S. branches and among NATO nations.

To give you a flavor of the task that Strozzi described, I will share a brief quotation.

He describes the distrust and animosity that originally existed between the martial arts world and the world of the U.S. military. Strozzi quotes the reaction of one of his aikido colleagues upon learning of the author’s plans to help the military:

“‘How could you pass these sacred teaching to Them?’

Us and Them. Here was a caste system of which I hadn’t been consciously aware. In my mind the soldiers were not them. Teaching the disciplines that have most positively affected me, to a population that seemed most obviously in need of them, was an obvious outgrowth of my work. Obvious to me if not to others. Although I knew I would get a reaction from being part of this project, I thought it would be entirely different from the Us/Them scenario.” (Page 4)

Strozzi goes on to tell the story of how both he and the soldiers his team members were training learned to adjust to one another’s very different views of the world and of what it truly means to be a warrior. The edition of the book that I read brings up almost up to the present day in recording how the concepts and the project have spread beyond the initial limited “Trojan War Project” to now include influencing the training given to the navy Seals, US Marines and other allied special forces.

This is a book that will be a valuable read for anyone interested in exploring what it takes to be a warrior who is fully human and self-aware. You may not agree with all that Strozzi believes and preaches, but you will have a hard time putting the book down.


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