The Reluctant Ninja

How A Middle-Aged Princess Became A Warrior Queen

Non-Fiction - Memoir
328 Pages
Reviewed on 03/28/2022
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Author Biography

In 2003 I embarked on an incredible journey in an ancient Japanese martial art called Ninpo Tai Jutsu, the Art of the Ninja, although I didn't go willingly. I had to be dragged onto the mat kicking and screaming, and not in a good way. Instead of talking a few classes, learning a few self-defense techniques (which I desperately needed), and move on with my life, since I knew I was going to hate it.
I didn’t hate it. I fell in love with the art, I fell in love with the training, and I really fell in love with the strength, confidence, and empowerment I gained from training. Ten years later, at the age of 57, I became my teacher’s first female black belt. In twenty years of teaching, my teacher never had a female achieve such a high rank.
I never went looking for the art of Ninpo. The art came looking for me, and it took three long years for my acupuncturist to convince me to take a few classes with him to help me heal from the devastating effects of PTSD after a traumatic experience. The rest, as they say, is history.
My story is one of triumph over tragedy, which also includes a sense of humor, playfulness, and personal empowerment. I believe that there is an incredible amount of strength and power in all of us just waiting to be discovered. It is my sincere hope that this book can help you find yours.

    Book Review

Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite

The Reluctant Ninja: How A Middle-Aged Princess Became A Warrior Queen is a work of non-fiction in the memoir and inspirational writing subgenres. It is intended for the general adult reading audience and was penned by author Cheryl L Ilov. In this explorative and motivational work taken from her real life, the author explores the transition of personality when, in her mid to late forties, Cheryl experienced traumatic events leading to severe PTSD and mental health issues. After the art of Japanese martial arts is suggested to her as a healthy outlet and coping mechanism, her life begins to change for the better again.

This truly empowering book explains the many benefits of martial arts practices, as well as gives readers the chance to tune in with author Cheryl L Ilov and share her raw account of the lasting and damaging effects which PTSD can have on your life. No matter where you started from, this is a work that proves how anyone can make those incredible shifts in capability, confidence, and emotional resolve, and this particular work really sells the ninja lifestyle too. Another feature of the work that I really enjoyed was its general tone, which balances the elements of the technical, personal, and emotional perfectly. It is a book that highlights the power of the human spirit whilst also being a really motivational how-to guide. Overall, The Reluctant Ninja is a unique and engaging memoir that will certainly enthrall its readers whilst also tugging their heartstrings. A recommended read.

Sefina Hawke

The Reluctant Ninja: How A Middle-Aged Princess Became a Warrior Queen by Cheryl L Ilov is a memoir that would appeal most to middle-aged women. At the age of 47, the art of Ninpo Tai Jutsu went looking for Cheryl and once she embraced it, she gained the strength and self-assurance that she had never dreamed of possessing in her own life. The art helped transform Cheryl from a woman who was living her life in the terrifying grip of PTSD-related terror to a woman capable of taking down a person twice her size with her makeup and fingernails untarnished. Are you ready to follow Cheryl on her journey and learn how you too can find such strength in your life?

The Reluctant Ninja is a very well-written book with an attention-grabbing title. It was the title of the book that first drew my attention; however, it was Cheryl L Ilov’s story that kept me turning page after page, wanting to see how her life would change. I liked how the author did not just focus on her journey, but also on the art of Ninpo Tai Jutsu and the culture that surrounds it. I particularly liked learning about Kamidana. Overall, I greatly enjoyed reading this book and it has inspired me to look into taking a martial art to help my own life in terms of my physical and mental well-being.

Jamie Michele

The Reluctant Ninja: How A Middle-Aged Princess Became A Warrior Queen by Cheryl L Ilov is an inspirational memoir that takes a reader on the author's journey of healing. Ilov begins with a look at her life before she made her martial arts mark through a local dojo, and how it all changed following an assault by a trusted medical practitioner. As Ilov's loved ones not only fail to support her but flat-out refuse to even listen to her, she finally decides to take a martial arts class. The strength she finds as she grows and advances in the sport is transformative in her body, mind, and emotional soul.

I can imagine that the courage it took for Cheryl L Ilov to write about her journey in The Reluctant Ninja was huge. Most survivors of assault choose to remain in the shadows and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that at all. Healing is deeply private and personal. When individuals like Ilov speak their truth, the better the chances are that someone who needs the story will find it. Ilov writes in an authentic, conversational style, like a friend talking to us over a cup of coffee. The prose is clean and easily understandable, and the storyline is linear so a reader can follow it easily. I love that Ilov went from ballet to martial arts and the response it elicited. Overall, the book is an inspiring read that survivors who also like martial arts will identify with.

Foluso Falaye

Betrayed by a predator hidden in plain sight as a medical practitioner, Cheryl found herself battling PTSD and alone with nobody to talk to and share her traumatic experience with. Fortunately, Cheryl's acupuncturist convinces her to take some martial arts lessons after trying several times to get her to enroll in a class. Thus began her journey to becoming a formidable ninja warrior with a deceptive, feminine charm. Reluctant at first, she surprised herself with her consistency and strength as she showed up every day to face frightening opponents and daunting techniques alike. In The Reluctant Ninja, Cheryl L Ilov shares the story of how a decision to learn martial arts helped her to recover from the despair and trauma of abuse. When faced with challenges, you can either fight back or give up. Cheryl chose the latter, and this is her remarkably inspiring story.

The Reluctant Ninja gives readers a vivid picture of what being a martial artist means and expresses that it is about "self-awareness, introspection, and pushing beyond your limitations." Cheryl's jovial tone makes her book such a delight to read. I felt like I was chatting with a friend with many interesting stories to share—one who is also a retired warrior with a lot of battles won. With great introspection and an exceptional eye for detail, Cheryl L Ilov shows us what rising through the ranks of martial arts with a tough sensei entails. Her story felt surreal, like an epic martial arts movie with several exciting, spine-chilling, and unpredictable moments. I would be one of the first to see the movie if the story ever gets adapted into one.