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Book Review:
The Complete Book of Karate

The Complete Book of Karate, by Bruce Tegner, Thor Publishing Co. / second revised edition (1970), Bantam Books (paperback -- 15th printing -- 1973)

In choosing texts to review, I generally have different criteria for the selection. One is that the work has historic significance in the specific art in particular, the martial arts in general. The Complete Book of Karate, in the opinion of this reviewer, falls into this requirement.
For past reviews, other of Tegner’s works have been selected. In those reviews, I stated it has been said that Tegner's books were responsible for more people entering the martial arts than Bruce Lee's movies. This reviewer wholeheartedly agrees with this statement. The reason for this is that in the 1960s, when martial arts exploded to the general public, there were few books available, and few dojos to train in. The books which were available were either very technical, or foolishly nonsensical and unsafe to learn from. Tegner's books offered safe and practical instruction in the arts. His books spoke of the historical background of the arts, debunked the mythology and the mystical which surrounded the arts at the time, spoke, in the case of this particular text, of the difference between karate for self-defense and karate for sport, and a host of other practical elements which no other books contained (e.g., the dangers of hand conditioning, different karate styles, and colored belt rank). This was information that the average person and/or student-to-be not simply sought, but craved. It is for these reasons that this work was chosen for review.

As to the text itself, there are three sections to the 254-page work: Introduction and Pre-Instruction, Self Defense, and Sport Karate. The Introduction and Pre-Instruction section contains the historical, safety, and practical information cited above.


Additionally, advice on practicing alone and with a partner is discussed, as well as exercises, kiai, and a suggested lesson plan. The section on self-defense illustrates the various hand and foot blows, and the practical application of karate in self-defense situations. Photos in both of the hardcover and paperback editions are clear, and the accompanying text is precise and easy to understand. This is the case throughout the book. The third section, Sport Karate, illustrates two man and solo forms, broken down according to belt requirements from White to Black. The kata are taken from the Shukokai.

As with any style of karate, the attraction to the system is personal, based on many factors. One may choose, if this book is used as a teaching text, to follow the illustrated techniques or not. On a larger scale, no book until the time this was published and few since have been as comprehensive in scope as this work. It is for all the above reasons that this now hard-to-find book is recommended reading. As a final note, this book (as well as some others of Tegner's) was reworked. In 1982, Thor released, Karate: "Beginner to Black Belt. This was a complete reworking of the original text. It appears a "softer" approach to karate is taken. Non-Black Belt students are shown demonstrating the lower rank forms, often, at least from the photos, appearing awkward. It is stated that the work is intended for those studying alone. The self-defense section is omitted, and those wishing to learn self-defense are referred Thor Publishing Co. for a list of Tegner’s self-defense texts. "Therefore, this book deals solely with the recreational, fitness, health and sport aspects of karate today". This reviewer does not recommend the "reworked" book.


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