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.

Upcoming book – Mike Clarkes Redemption

Mike Clarke Kyoshi has posted about the forthcoming publication of his book Redemption, the story of his mis-spent youth and the redemption he found in the form of karate.

As the book has four chapters, each month leading up to publication in May he will post an excerpt of one of the chapters. The first post is titled When I was a young man, I did young man things….

my take on life back then was pretty basic. I solved my problems with my fists (as well as my head to several soft targets), and because of that found myself on the wrong side of ‘the wall’ just days before my eighteenth birthday.


The book is a complete re-write of his original autobiography, Roaring Silence. I have had the opportunity to read a preview of the manuscript, and there are a lot of important lessons to be learned in Mike Sensei‘s journey from troubled youth to a man very much shaped by his extensive and indepth study of Okinawan karate.

I am looking forward to reading the final work in May.

You can pre-order Redemption by Mike Clarke with free worldwide shipping.

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.

Book Review: The Detachment by Barry Eisler

I posted the following review of Barry Eisler’s latest thriller, The Detachment, on Amazon.com.

Gripping from End to End

The Detachment is the latest of Barry Eisler’s series of thrillers featuring four gritty characters coming together for the first time as a single detachment (hence the outward meaning of the title). Rain, Dox, Treven and the particularly evil Larrison join forces to use their special “skills” to prevent a coup in the US government. When they find out they might unwittingly have become aiding the coup, things get murky.

The four members of the detachment each have their own issues and agendas, and before they can achieve the final goals, they need to survive working with each other.

From start to finish, The Detachment is a gripping tale. Author Barry Eisler brings realistic fight scenes to the story line, based on his own experiences as a martial artist. The spy craft is supposedly equally real-world, given Eisler’s 3 years of experience in a covert role for the CIA. He marries all this together with his interest in politics and sociology to weave a story that is compelling and believable. 

I have read all of Eisler’s previous thrillers and 2 short stories, and now can’t wait for the next instalment.

I also really liked the fact that Eisler is now writing with a contemporary audience in mind – The Detachment was released first as an ebook and audiobook, and will be released later as a printed volume. I somehow think the wait for instalments will be shorter with Eisler likely to release short stories in ebook form more regularly.

Buy The Detachment at Amazon.com (aff.).

Book Review: Hidden Karate by Gonnosuku Hidaki

Like many, I am somewhat sceptical when I see a book advertised as having the “previously untold” secrets of karate that were handed down to an author, but no-one else. The fact that Hidden Karate by Gennosuke Higaki also claims to tell the story of a pact by Okinawan karateka, including Gichin Funakoshi, to hide the true bunkai of kata when introducing karate to Japan also made me somewhat dubious. However, I also admit to being a little intrigued, so went ahead and ordered it anyway.

First impressions always count, and I must say that this book is beautifully presented. Clearly a great amount of effort was put into the exterior look and feel of the book, and it immediately made it to the top of my reading pile. Second impressions also count, and reading the author’s bio was interesing as it was clearly written in a poor version of Janglish – that hybrid of Japanese and English. I must admit to worrying about the overall quality, but my concerns were reduced when I set out on reading the intro – clearly the translator did an excellent job on the actual content of the book. Hidden Karate makes an attempt to provide a set of rules for interpreting the bunkai (analysis) of the application of karate’s kata in a meaningful way. In so doing, the author attempts to provide a cultural context about how and why the real meanings of the movements were hidden, and then lays day 20 or so “rules” by which each movement of a kata can be analysed. He then applies this approach to the 5 Heian (Pinan) kata, and also to the first Naihanchi (Naihanchin Shodan) kata.

To be honest, I quite like the approach taken by the author. With rules along the lines of a primary attack is a punch, kick or strike, and that the effectiveness of a strike is greater if an opponent is immobilised, a good game plan for interpreting kata is provided, whilst continuing to rest on karate’s primary weapons augmented by the locks, holds, strangles, etc.

This is kind of refreshing in an age where many have interpreted karate kata as being primarily responses to very close range, grappling encounters. Although those aspects are clearly catered for, I am a believer that our primary weapons tend to the longer range punch, kick and strike scenarios.

In all, I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to see an approach to kata application that sits somewhere in between the primitive punch and kick only scenarios, and the grappling only scenarios that seem to have some favour today. You may not agree with everything (I don’t), but there is some good food for thought.

Buy Hidden Karate at Amazon.com (aff.)