The Essence of Okinawan Karate-do by Shoshin Nagamine, published in 1998 by Tuttle Publishing, is a kind reminder of what this once-mysterious Okinawan martial art is all about, and how it has mutated into what it has become today.
The book has two forwards, one by Junji Nishime and the other by Jugo Toma. The former was a member of the House of Representatives at the time and the later President of the Okinawa Physical Culture Association between 1924 – 1969.
The book starts off, like many others, with the history of karate, tracing its lineage back to the Okinawan art of te. It also gives a brief insight into the popularization of the art in mainland Japan, and how kumite and tournaments have corrupted the essence of the art.
“As a result of the tournament system, many are urged to employ not just hard but savage training in order to defeat opponents…They seem to regard cruelty as strictness, and are under the illusion that they are engaged in hard training, although they are only satiating their savageness.”
He further illustrates with an example of a karateka dying on July 18, 1970 in Tokyo as a result of shigoshi (savage training). This, as he writes, is “a complete negation of the pursuit of the genuine spirit of karate-do.”
Shoshin Nagamine also writes about his life and the exploits of his masters throughout his martial arts journey, following the format Gichin Funakoshi used in Karate-do: My Way of Life, and include Chojin Kuba, Chokotu Kyan, Ankichi Arakiki, Kodatsu Iha and the legendary Choki Motobu.
Motobu deserves special mention because karate-do changed him from a rough fighting man to a refined master of the art.
The book also goes further by giving instruction on the 11 basic katas of the style.
The Essence of Okinawan Karate (Shorin-ryu) is a much needed insight into the true spirit of the art as intended by the Okinawans. As a student of Kyokushin, I have focused too much energy of kumite and not enough study of the katas. This book has changed my perspective into karate and I recommend it as study material for other students of karate.
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