Legend of the Fist by Patrick McCarthy

As a young karateka back in the 1980s there were a few books in my early collection that I read from cover-to-cover, again and again. Among these was Classical Kata of Okinawan Karateby Patrick McCarthy, which fascinated me for the capsule histories of many of karate’s historical figures, and for the various teases it provided about the history of Ryukyu karate that McCarthy sensei would expand upon in later publications.

In the early 1990s my karate training took me to Tokyo for a couple of years, and knowing that McCarthy had been resident in Japan for sometime I reached out to him. He invited me to visit him at his home in Kamakura, which I did at my first opportunity, and I was humbled that Patrick sensei welcomed me into his home, introducing me to his family and enthusiastically (to say the least) giving me a glimpse into his research.

I remember clearly that he was most enthusiastic about two projects.

The first was his translation of The Bubishi. At the time we first met, McCarthy sensei had just sold out of the first, self-published, edition, but I was later to receive a signed copy of the the second (also self-published) edition. I’ve bought every edition since, because McCarthy sensei sees this type of publication as a living document, and has expanded it greatly.

The second project has in the last few weeks finally seen the light of day. More than 25 years in the making, the Legend of the Fist is the definitive compilation of classical karate related writing that every karateka needs to have in their reference library.

Some of the articles in volume 1 of Legend of the Fist include:

  • Ochayagoten Celebration
  • Matsumura Sokon’s 1882 Seven Precepts of Bu and 1885 Zaiyunomei writinga
  • Itosu Anko’s 1908 Ten Articles
  • King Magazine on Motobu Choki
  • The 1936 Meeting of the Masters
  • Several articles about the Bubishi
  • An interview with Kinjo Hiroshi
  • And much, much more.

The more than 25 individual chapters each represet significant work in research and translation, and each is backed up by images from McCarthy sensei’s personal collection.

I am astounded that this rich tome is only volume 1, and I know that I will certainly be looking forward to seeing what further gems McCarthy sensei surfaces for the next volume.

McCarthy sensei has done his research the old fashioned way—visiting Japan, Okinawa, China and many other countries; searching through museums, libraries and more; interviewing many famous and lesser known masters; and, deeply immersing himself in the culture and language. His work continues inspire me, and I hope that all readers will support his research and embrace the opportunity to have a rich collection of writing in their reference library.

Buy Legend of the Fist on Amazon.com.

Kick into Richard Poage sensei’s GoFundMe

Richard Poage sensei, together with Noah Legel, is one of the creators of the waza Wednesday, an excellent weekly short video into one aspect of karate practice – bunkai, weapons, etc.

I’ve never met or trained with Richard, but enjoy his contribution to karate analysis. Recently Richard travelled to attend a seminar with Iain Abernethy sensei (interviewed back in Episode 9 of the the podcast). On the way home Richard had a seizure and was diagnosed with a brain tumour. Richard had emergency surgery and is slowly recovering.

Richard has a long road to recovery ahead of him, and Noah has setup a GoFundMe for Richard’s Brain Surgery.

Richard, his family and friends have a lot to deal with in the coming days, weeks and months, and any contribution would go long way to helping them all.

Richard and Noah make an important contribution to the karate community, and hopefully the karate community that benefits can make a contribution in return.

Fundraiser by Noah Legel: Richard Poage’s Brain Surgery

Life-Preserving and Life-Enhancing – new Iain Abernethy podcast

One of my favourite martial artist critical thinkers, Iain Abernethy, has released his latest podcast on the Life-Preserving and Life-Enhancing role of the martial arts…

In my case, I feel any martial art that I am to invest time and effort into must achieve two key things:

It must be both live-preserving and life-enhancing.

One of the personally favoured kotowaza (proverbs) of my former teacher, So Shihan Masayuki Hisataka is katsu jin ken—”the life preserving fist”, which in turn was adapted from the Japanese sword art kotowaza of the same pronunciation, but meaning “the life-preserving sword”.

In turn, this was adapted from an older proverb katsu jin ken, satsu jin tou, meaning “the life preserving sword and the life taking sword” (“ken” and “tou” being alternative words meaning sword.

In my opinion, this duality — the sword’s simultaneous role in protection and destruction — lies at the heart of true martial ways. At its essence any martial art has martial intent and martial intent. Also at their core martial ways have compassion and decency.

Or at least they should.

Listen to Iain’s podcast — he’s on the money.

Partly out of respect to Hisataka sensei and partly because I like the meaning of the proverb, katsu jin ken this has become one of the core kotowaza I adopt in my own dojo.

Commerating the passing of Kori Kudaka (1907-88)

A short post to commemorate the 29th anniversary of the passing of Shinan Kori Kudaka (1907-88), the founder of Kenkokan school of Shorinjiryu Karate.

The style of karate I practice—Shorinjiryu Koshinkai Karatedo—descends from Shinan Kudaka's innovative approach, and like all Shorinjiryu practitioners I pause today to appreciate the life's work of Shinan Kudaka.