Reading List for Kensankai Monkasei
By: Kyoshi Jason Perry
Karate tradition in Okinawa embraces the concept of Bunbu. The character Bun means literary arts (as opposed to military arts) or academia, and is found in many every day words. The Monbusho is the Japanese ministry of education, Bungaku is the study of literature, bunka is culture. Bu means war or military arts. The concept of Bunbu suggested that the true martial artist must be a master of both (bunbu ryodo). As a Kensankai, we should be learners of the physical aspects of our art and students of the culture, history, language and context from which our art emerges. To truly study and master our art we should be readers and lifelong learners. Here I offer, in no particular order, the beginnings of a recommended reading list to expand our understanding of karate do.
- Karate do: My Way of Life, Gichin Funakoshi. Funakoshi was an Okinawan scholar who was educated in Japan (as opposed to Okinawan). He was instrumental in introducing Okinawan Karate to the mainland and eventually gaining broad acceptance of Karate in Japan during the early 1900s.
- My Journey with the Grand Master, William (Bill) Hayes. Many of you have met Hayes sensei. He is a contemporary of Perry sensei in both karate and in the Marine Corps. In this book he recounts his personal journey as a student of Shimabuku Eizo sensei in Okinawa.
- History of Okinawan Karate: Styles and Masters Volume I, Christopher Clarke. This is a great introductory book that provides a good understanding of the historical context of Okinawan karate and the prominent masters responsible for developing Shorin ryu karate into what it is today. Mr. Clarke includes the karate masters of our lineage of Shorin ryu in this well-researched book.
- Bubishi: The Classic Manual of Combat, Patrick McCarthy. Patrick McCarthy is one of the frontrunners in Okinawa classical martial arts. Bubishi is a translation of the original text with commentary from McCarthy sensei on the history and background of the original documents.
- Karate: My Art, Motobu Choki. During the 1920s and 30s Okinawan karate masters diligently sought to introduce Okinawan Ti to the public education system in Japan. Motobu Choki was one of these pioneers although he was limited by his inability to read or speak Japanese. He was a student of Anko Itosu (who also taught Chibana) and Sokon “Bushi” Matsumura who are in the Kensaikai lineage of Shorinryu.
- Tales of a Western Generation, Matthew Apsokardu. This large volume offers an in depth and personal look into the lives of the first generation of western karateka following World War II. The men and women responsible for bringing karate to the U.S. in the 1950s and 60s are each given their own chapter which are summaries of hundreds of hours of interviews.
- On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society, Dave Grossman. This book is not for the younger reader. It is a frank discussion of the effect of violence on the human mind and body. This is not a karate book in any way but gives the advanced student an understanding of the instincts, aversions and after effects of violence.
- Chanpuru: Reflections and Lessons from the Dojo, Garry Parker. Garry Parker has lived and trained on Okinawa for several years. In Chanpuru (which is an Okinawan dish of mixed vegetables and meat), Parker offers a variety of experiences that embody the Okinawan living and training experience. Having had many similar experiences I recommend the book for its authenticity.
- Left of Bang: How the Marine Corps’ Combat Hunter Program Can Save Your Life, Patrick Van Horne and Jason A. Riley. This book takes the Marine Corps Combat Hunter Program, which is designed to teach our Marines to see and anticipate situations, and applies it to everyday life. Essentially, it is a book that offers techniques on awareness. This is not a karate book but gives practical advice for those who are interested in the life preservation arts, which Marines and Karateka are.
- Japanese for Busy People or Genki. These are Japanese language books that I can recommend. Japanese for Busy People is a series of books that seem to be ubiquitous among casual learners of Japanese although I have never personally used it. Genki was my children’s High School textbook in Tokyo so I am more familiar with it. These books will give you a basic understanding of the Japanese language which in my opinion is critical for a deeper understanding of karate concepts.
- The Japanese Mind: Understanding Contemporary Japanese Culture, Roger Davies. I thought this was a good book especially for someone who has experienced some Japanese culture but may not have understood what they were seeing. After living extensively in Japan and Okinawa for years I still find things in everyday Japanese life that I can trace back to the cultural sensitivies found in this book. One word of caution there are differences between the culture of the mainland Japanese and the culture of the Okinawans but this helps paint a more complete picture of the cultural origins and developments of Okinawan karate.
- Churati wo Tsugu, Nakazato Shugoro (translated by Jason Perry). Before he passed away, Nakazato sensei published a photo essay of his karate life entitled Churati wo Tsugu or Passing the Beautiful Hand. I have translated the few short explanations and found them interesting and informative. I will gladly provide a copy to anyone interested.
- Shin Gi Tai: Karate Training for Body, Mind and Spirit, Michael Clarke. This book approaches several aspects of holistic traditional Okinawan Karate Training. Mr. Clarke looks at the mental (shin) the technical (gi) and the physical (tai) aspects and wraps them into the history and culture of Okinawa.