[Review - Book] Karate Do: My Way of Life - Gichin Funakoshi
Review by Bob Hubbard
Title: Karate Do: My Way of Life
Author: Gichin Funakoshi
Publisher & Date: Kodansha International; ; (August 1981)
Was this book useful? Yes
Would you buy it again? Yes
Would you buy more books from this author? Yes
Did you need previous experience? No
This is the autobiography of one of Karate’s greatest masters.
In here you will find no kata or techniques, but instead a wonderful
and energizing walk through the life of the father of modern Karate-do.
This is a book that will show you the true spirit inherit in Karate-do,
and all martial arts. The book is a simple read, without complex jargon
to confuse the non-karateka. Where Japanese terms are used, the English
translation is right there. This book is full of delightful anecdotes
about the master's life, and although they are a good nonfiction story
at face value, if one looks deeper, he can find philosophical value
in each story. Do not think that because this book is less than 150
pages that it is light reading; on the contrary, it contains very deep
philosophies about karate and even life in general.
Those who are not familiar with the customs of the Japanese, and more
specifically the pre-second world war culture may be confused at times
by certain mannerisms and ideals that Master Funakoshi has. At one point
he recounts a story where he didn’t follow his own rules. Shortly
after the end of the war he was walking alone and was attacked by a
young man. He used his skills to block the attack and capture his assailant
by taking a “firm grasp of his testicles”. He then turned
him over to a passing policeman. Master Funakoshi then writes “I,
also on the spur of the moment, had done what I constantly tell my young
trainees never to do: I had taken the offensive. I did not feel very
proud of myself.” We today may not understand why he felt that
way, but the answer is there in the books. Master Funakoshi was a gentleman
from a different time, the son of a Samurai, who even though not rich
or powerful, still followed old traditions.
This book is full of similar tales. Stories of his own secret training
by Masters Azato and Itosu, and his demonstration in front of the Emperor.
There is also a wealth of knowledge on what he saw Karate as, and what
he saw it as not. There are very few dates in this book by which to
follow along. You are often wondering just how long was there between
event a and b. In most books, this would be a problem, but here, it
is easy to lose yourself in an afternoon or evening of reading. I’ve
read this book three times now, and each time through it I find something
new about this interesting man, who was a driving force to introducing
the world to that Okinawan art known as Karate-do.
This book was a pleasure to read, and will be read often I expect.
A must have for the true student of the arts.
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Originally Printed August 2003 MartialTalk Magazine