Among Warriors: A Woman Martial Artist in Tibet By Pamela Logan

    The author's precise descriptions on the places she has been to & the people she interacted with made me feel like I've traveled with her! I have also learned a lot of insights on life, thanks to her book. I do hope to hear or read how her family & friends have reacted to her adventures in Tibet! :) Pamela Logan This is travel writing at its best. Among Warriors: A Woman Martial Artist in Tibet by Pamela Logan is pure joy for the traveler, for the journeyer within us. Inspiring, insightful, and exhilarating Pamela took me on a road that few have traveled in Tibet. Weaved into the vast desolate and beautiful landscape of Tibet is Pamela's personal quest as a martial artist for the famed warriors called the Khams.

    I haven't read too many travel books - simply because the few that I have read seem either awfully too self-centered or a personal guide book. Among Warriors is neither - it is a personal journey, true, but nowhere does Pamela come across as self-centered, nor does she lace her words with long, painful descriptions that detract from the story. If I need to know how Tibet is, I need not read a travel book,Lonely Planet, the Internet, and Rough Guides would do - but if I need to feel Tibet, move through its people, and engage with its splendor, then I need a travel book, and Among Warriors fills that need. Anyone who is a traveler, please don't think twice - just read this book. If I have to gripe, it is about the ending - a bit too long drawn out for me, and it is only in the last few pages that Pamela forgets to weave the story, and instead becomes a travel guide. But that is small crime indeed for one of the best travel books I have ever read. Pamela Logan Overall I thought it was a very goo book for karateka and other martial artists. The scholar of Tibet inside of me often rebelled at the Orientalist nature of the assumptions the author continuously made throughout the book (such as Tibet being synonymous with Buddhism). But as a travelog of a martial artist and her trials and lessons learned as a martial artist and as a person through her travels I found it insightful. Pamela Logan This was not the best-written book, but it is an interesting depiction of the author's travels by bicycle and foot in Tibet and China. I especially enjoyed how her Shotokan martial arts experiences are woven throughout. Pamela Logan At first, this tale of a martial artist traveling through Tibet really engaged me, but sadly it soon became as arduous to read as her bike trek through grueling mountains and the infamous beaurocracy of Chinese officials turned out to be.

    I couldn't finish it. Pamela Logan

    In the fortress that is Tibet no place is more remote than the province of Kham and no people more elusive than the Khampa, the fierce horsemen who for twenty-five years waged a relentless guerrilla war against the Chinese occupation. In Among Warriors, a different kind of warrior sets out to find the Khampa: Pamela Logan, an American with a Ph.D. in aerospace science, and a third-degree black belt in karate. Logan cycles, hitchhikes, and treks across the windswept plateaus and icy mountain passes of eastern Tibet. She drinks tea with monks and herdsmen, dodges Chinese police, and watches in awe as religious pilgrims inch their way toward Lhasa by prostrating themselves at every body length. Writing with vast sensory power and sympathy, Logan produces a gem that will captivate those interested in Buddhism, the martial arts, and one of the world's last inaccessible regions.
    [Logan] writes of getting to Lhasa with all the wistfulness of Chekhov's three sisters dreaming of Moscow.--New York Times Book Review Among Warriors: A Woman Martial Artist in Tibet

    I enjoyed this book, though it was largely poorly written. It is obvious that Logan is a scientist and not an author, because she consistently used awkward constructions in her writing. That being said, it was still an engaging and interesting read. Pamela Logan **PROBABLE SPOILERS, IF YOU THINK THIS IS SOMETHING YOU MIGHT READ SOMEDAY**

    Last book of the year! Not great, but good enough; and knocks off one that's been on my TBR list a long time…

    …although perhaps a little too long? You know how you buy a book sometimes that's square in your wheelhouse, but then you don't get around to reading it for a few years…and then when you do, it's just kind of no longer relevant? Well, unfortunately that's what happened here; and so much of below is probably more on me than Ms. Logan. But I've just read so many other and - IMO - better books on traveling in Tibet since I first bought this, that Logan's admittedly impressive journey failed to really contribute anything new to the conversation. And while the whole American martial artist looking to find the warrior spirit in Tibet thing sounded great in concept - solidly hitting two of my much-younger-self passions - it just didn't work quite as well in practice.

    I mean yes, Logan is a highly accomplished martial artist - Shotokan 5th degree black belt - but this experience doesn't really tie in as neatly as she'd like to her overall trip, other than allowing her to frequently describe her ridiculously hard karate training in California (although trust me, it is ridiculously hard), or frequently practice her katas in front of some very confused Tibetans.*

    And as to the among warriors part - that's frankly a tad misleading, in that her search for the fabled warriors of Kham is ultimately more aspirational than factual, since despite looking really hard, she never ends up among warriors at all; and so the book might more accurately (if less marketably) by called In Search of Warriors.

    (Plus, the obvious elephant in the room is the fact that the indestructible Dervla Murphy by now totally owns the crazy woman on a bicycle among Tibetans mantle through her delightful trilogy Full Tilt, TIbetan Foothold, and The Waiting Land, and so much of this road has already been traveled before - figuratively if not literally - with far greater literary style and humor.)

    Interestingly, Logan's two initial threads - the historic Japanese warrior spirit and very-recent-past Tibetan warrior reality - come closest when she finally (i.e., very belatedly) accepts the reality that any surviving Khampa true warriors are no longer in Tibet at all, but probably peacefully resettled in the western Nepal regions of Mustang and Dolpo, (from which they continued to wage guerilla war against the invading Chinese well into the 1960s, when they were finally abandoned by Nepal, India and the U.S. in a rather sleazy attempt to make nice with Chairman Mai). This late-in-the-story glimpse of enlightenment is in large part due to the influence of Peter Matthiessen's classic Snow Leopard. While making her own way to Dolpo (where Leopard is set), Logan at last focuses more on the zen part of zen warrior when she quotes Matthiessen's koanic comment on his own ultimate failure to find his elusive feline:

    Butter tea and wind pictures, the Crystal Mountain, and blue sheep dancing on the snow - it's quite enough.

    Have you seen the snow leopard?

    No! Isn't that wonderful?

    So...solid three stars for this book itself, (and the fact that Logan could totally kick my ass as both a fighter and trekker). But then an additional star for the rest of the story. Because following the initial 1991** trip described in this book, Logan returned to Tibet several/multiple (? - really hard to pin down) times to help save the culture and artifacts of Eastern Tibetan monasteries (the subject of her second book, Tibetan Rescue) as well as start the Kham Aid Foundation, a nonprofit assisting the people of eastern Tibet with their needs for education, health care, cultural preservation, and economic opportunity, (subject of her 2020 book, Compassion Mandala: The Odyssey of an American Charity in Contemporary Tibet; you can just learn more here - And so despite my long-held respect for the Tibetan people and the hard-hitting Khampa guerillas who fought to the end, as far as I'm concerned the true warrior of this particular story is Logan herself.


    * To the best of my knowledge, Tibet has no indigenous martial art per se, other than some gungfu that may have drifted west over time; but certainly there is no Tibetan equivalent of China's Shaolin monks - and so I can only imagine the befuddlement of those Tibetan villagers as they watched the crazy blonde foreigner flail around in the early morning cold :)

    ** This book was published in 1996, so I assumed it was written around that time - until I ran across a footnote stating that one of the lamas she encountered died in 1992...and so I went to the internet to find out when she actually took her adventure - and IT TOOK FOREVER to finally find a single mention of her trip being in 1991. Also, I have NO idea how long her overall journey - Tibet, Pakistan, Nepal - ultimately took. So authors, people -
    Pamela Logan I really enjoyed this travelogue. The author is strong and independent, traveling throughout western China and Nepal with really only her physical, emotional and intellectual strength to move her on over the months. I love that she is honest about the sometimes ridiculous nature of travel. And, unlike all the other travelogues I have read lately, she is traveling for herself, not in search of love to complete her as a person. Pamela Logan Overall an enjoyable read describing Pam's travels through primarily China and Tibet. I'd wished she had spent as much time describing her trip through NW China, Pakistan and Nepal as she had with the first 3/4 of her trip. The last 30 pages of the book seemed very rushed as if they were trying to keep the book to a number of pages. I enjoyed the description of her few visits to Kham, descriptions of the people she met, places she visited and challenges with traveling to Lhasa

    The integration of her martial arts background with the travels was a bit awkward. To me these martial arts 'out takes' would suddenly appear as part of the dialog and detract from the narrative. If they had been left out all together they really wouldn't have made much of a difference to the story with only one exception. Perhaps I was expecting a bit more from someone who has spent 13 years studying an art integrating what she was experiencing to the martial arts life. Instead there were descriptions of training and kata interspersed sporadically through the book. Was martial arts really a part of her life? I think so, but it sure doesn't come out that way in the story.

    It wasn't until the end of the book that she began to evaluate her trip, understand what she was experiencing and what it meant to her. This was the same portion of the story that began moving at light speed. I felt that Pam really missed an opportunity to write about what the trip really meant to her; how did her experiences and the people she had met changed her? What did she take away from the trip? How did the trip influence her martial arts and life? These questions are either answered with a rapid shallowness, or left unaddressed all together. One would have expected after a 13 month trip a lot more insight into these things. Pamela Logan This book opens as a travelogue of a single woman, a martial artist, as she treks into Tibet in search of the mysterious and somewhat regal warriors, the Khampas. Her story is interspersed with recollections of her school's martial arts disciplines, including the 'special trainings'. These special trainings carry very deep meaning for her.

    One has to admire the author's bravery as well as her endurance as she endeavors to find her way to forbidden cities in Tibet. Her quest for the Khampas ultimately fails, as does her quest to reach Mustang. This is not a spiritual quest like 'Snow Leopard', and is not a story about martial arts. At the end it becomes more of a recitation of the places she has attained and the people she has traveled with. Pamela Logan


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