New books for the karate researcher

There are a couple of new books out on the Kindle Store that I am quite excited about, and wanted to provide an update on.

Fresh out today is Tales from the Western Generation: Untold Stories and Firsthand History from Karate’s Golden Age by Matt Aspokardu of Ikigai Way fame. This book looks to be the most comprehensive treatment of the Western masters who have been instrumental in the development of karate as we know it today. Matt is one of the new generation of karateka who are working hard to balance the the traditions and the ongoing development of karate.

The second volume is A Stroll Along Ryukyu Martial Arts History by Andreas Quast. A Stroll Along Ryukyu Martial Arts History is based upon Mr Quast’s previous research and publications, particularly the scholarly Karate 1.0. A Stroll is perhaps written to be more accessible for those not academically inclined, or as a complementary volume for those who wish to have a companion version at hand for quick reference.

With my current schedule of international travels, I have been able to access both books in Kindle format, and have downloaded to my iPad for reading on the go. Both are welcome additions, and I look forward to getting into them.

Congratulations to Messrs Apsokardu and Quast on their publications – both of which are clearly built on the back of thousands of hours of research and writing.

New book on Jo

The jo (four foot staff) is a weapon that I have enjoyed the study of for many years, but have always lamented that the published material available about it centres around either the Shindo Muso Ryu Jojutsu style, or the Aikijo practices in many Aikido schools.

The school of karate I practice is based on an Okinawan/Japanese style which has always practiced the bo (6 foot staff) and sai (iron truncheon).

While living in Japan and training at the hombu dojo between 1991 and 1993 I was fascinated to discover that the jo was one the third wepon originally emphasised by the founder, Kaiso Kori Hisataka (1907–88). Unfortunately the practice of the jo lay dormant in the mainline school and the descendent schools.

In the intervening years I made it my mission to research the jo, a process that ultimately led to the introduction of the kata Ufuchiku no jo to our organisation. Subsequently Kaicho Shunji Watanabe of the Shorinjiryu Kenyukai Watanabe-Ha school (with which we were affiliated for several years) also reintroduced the practice of another kata (alternatively called Shishiryu no Jo or Kudaka no Jo).

In my research I began to realise that the practice of the jo was important among the bushi of the Shuri Court, and can be found in several styles of Udundi (palace hand) and Ti extant today.

With this background I am pleased to see that others have also seen the importance of the jo for karate practitioners, as it is a versatile weapon that has real relevance today. Poles and rods in the 3—4 foot range are common and can be used as makeshift weapons of defence.

The first book that I am aware of to take an indepth look at the Jo from a non-Aikijo persective has been written by Dan Djurdjevic.

Essential Jo promises to be “the most comprehensive text on the subject to date”, and is said to be well-illustrated with over 900 photographs.

I have ordered a copy, and look forward to providing a review soon.

Hard to Find Books Direct from Okinawa

The Kenshikan Dojo of Hokama Tetsuhiro, Sensei (Hanshi, 10th Dan) has long been a great source of information for foreign visitors to Okinawa. Apart from having an incredible museum of karate and kobudo, there are a number of hard-to-get books (and other media) by Hokama Sensei and others available in English and Japanese.

Hokama Sensei has long wanted to make it easier for overseas karateka to obtain these books simply, so he has asked one of his students, Chika Azama san, to setup a way to do this.

Chika-san has commenced a project called Lequio Project. A selection of books (and later other media) will be progressively added.

Lequio Project was established on December 13, 2011 to support HOKAMA, Tetsuhiro Sensei (Okinawa Gojuryu Karate-Do Kobudo Kenshi-Kai) and his dojo. This internet shop is anuthorized by Kenshi-Kai and help Kenshikai with sharing the knowledge on Okinawan traditional karate-do/kbudo and the culture with karatekas abroad through DVDs, books, etc.

Project Lequio will initially be managed through the Lequio Project Facebook page, and later a standalone website. Payment is completed through PayPal, and prompt shipping is done through EMS.

I was the first (test) customer for this, having purchased the new book in English about Kyan Chotoku (review coming soon). The process was very smooth, and the books arrived 2 days after shipment from Japan to my address in Sydney, Australia.

Project Lequio is a good way to obtain some hard to get material direct from Okinawa, and in so doing, support Hokama Sensei in his efforts to allow all people to learn more about Okinawan karate and kobudo.

Shin Gi Tai: New Book By Mike Clarke, Kyoshi

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Shin Gi Tai: Karate Training for Body, Mind and Spirit (aff.) is a new book by Mike Clarke, Kyoshi (guest on Episode 4 of The Applied Karate Show podcast).

Mike Sensei is a classical karateka of the Okinawan Gojuryu line who emphasises the complete development of the individual, looking at aspects beyond the physical skills emphasised in many dojo. In his own Shinseidokan Dojo in Launceston, Tasmania (Australia), Mike Sensei accepts and trains only a small handful of students who focus on traditional karate methods.

Shin Gi Tai follows on from previous books, the latest of which was the excellent work The Art of Hojo Undo: Power Training for Traditional Karate (aft.).

The following text from the back cover of Shin Gi Tai provides an excellent overview of what the author is emphasising in the book:

Prepare to have your beliefs challenged about what karate really is.

Within these pages, you will discover traditional karate; along the way, perhaps many of your own beliefs about karate will be confronted. You might have a body capable of mastering karate’s physical techniques, but do you have a mind with a level of awareness that is able to grasp the true spirit of karate?

For adults only. Regardless of how many people you can defeat in combat, the deeper aim of karate has always been to conquer your own ego, and by doing so, you increase the likelihood of avoiding conflict. When you can control your ego, you have a chance to establish peace in your life: this is the tradition of budo karate.

Shin Gi Tai has a literal translation: mind–technique–body. A karate-ka’s mind (shin) must be developed ahead of his technique (gi) if he is to discover a sense of balance within his body (tai). While the mental and physical aspects of karate are daunting and causes many to stop training, if you can just endure the early years, say–the say – the first decade–then there is opportunity for real and lasting benefits.

Budo is a concept more often discussed than put into practice, and yet, as part of traditional karate training, it has the capacity to dramatically change lives for the better, but only if you are prepared to move past the obvious and strive to understand the philosophy and the morality of budo.

Your life is yours, your karate is yours, accept ownership of both and reap countless rewards.

The concept of Shin Gi Tai is a personal favourite of mine, as I believe that what separates karate (and other classical forms of budo) from pure sport-oriented fighting systems is the emphasis on developing a strong general knowledge and knowledge of the theories and principles of the art, and an open-ness towards introspection and self-discovery.

Shin Gi Tai: Karate Training for Body, Mind and Spirit (aff.) is available now from Amazon and other sources in paperback. I am not sure if it will be released as an eBook, although there is a Kindle Edition of The Art of Hojo Undo (aff.), so I am hopefully we will see this soon.

Book Review: How To Win a Fight by Lawrence Kane and Kris Wilder

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Prolific martial authors Lawrence Kane & Kris Wilder (guest on Episode 3 of The Applied Karate Show podcast) have done it again, with a brand new book targeted to young people (actually young men) helping them to win in physical conflict.

How to Win a Fight: A Guide to Avoiding and Surviving Violence (aff.) is purposely written and illustrated with a tone and layout that the authors hope will get the message through to a large audience who needs to hear that fighting and violence is hardly romantic, is generally not “fair”, and rarely resolves the issue.

To get their message across, Kane and Wilder teamed up with veteran DC Comics artist/illustrator Matt Haley. The comic-book style imagery engages the mind and tells the story clearly and succinctly. With the popularity of comics in recent story telling (see TV shows like The Big Bang TheoryHeroes, and even NCIS for examples), I applaud this approach, and really enjoyed the parallel approach with the detailed written descriptions.

I like it that How to Win a Fight takes a pragmatic view of violence, detailing how most seemingly random violence is unnecessary and is for the most part avoidable. The authors describe the pre-incident indicators that lead up to violence, and describe how to recognise these and (critically) avoid them!

The book continues into detail into escape and evasion techniques, then describes the mental and physical techniques that are vital if the encounter is unavoidable. Unusual for a self-defence book, the authors then describe what to do after a fight, including aspects of first aid and the need for first aid training, dealing with the police and possible legal problems and the post-traumatic stress aspects.

How To Win A Fight is a terrific book that tells a sobering and realistic story of violence, and is one that all karate and martial arts enthusiasts who study the defensive aspects of the tradition should own. It’ll be on the reading list for my students at the Kengokan Dojo in Sydney, Australia. The message is important, and I love how Kane and Wilder have worked hard to get the message through to the group of people that most needs it.

Messrs Wilder and Kane teach Goju Karate at West Seattle Karate, and are the hosts of the always excellent Martial Secrets podcast.

Buy How to Win a Fight: A Guide to Avoiding and Surviving Violence (aff.) on Amazon.com now. On sale from 4 October 2011.

How To Win A Fight


Prolific martial authors Lawrence Kane and Kris Wilder (guest on Episode 3 of The Applied Karate Show podcast) are set to release a new book in October called How To Win A Fight (aff.).

Lawrence and Kris have released the following video promo for the upcoming book.

I’ll update when the book is released, as it follows on from a number of excellent publications from these outstanding karateka.

Kris and Lawrence host the Martial Secrets podcast, which I highly recommend.

 

Translation of An Overview of Karatedo by Mario McKenna

Mario McKenna Sensei (interviewed in Episode 12 of The Applied Karate Show) has released the first English language translation of Genwa Nakasone’s An Overview of Karatedo. Regarded as one of the most comprehensive texts on karate published during the golden age of karate, the Japanese version of this book has long been a primary research tool for many historians and authors examining the history of Okinawan / Japanese karate.

Available in hardcover, softcover and ebook formats, An Overview of Karatedo, is a valuable resource for all karateka interested in learning more about the origins of our art.

Visit Mario McKenna’s page on Lulu.com for information on ordering An Overview of Karatedo or other translations by Mario.