logo   t

Karate Book Review

Dynamic Karate by Masatoshi Nakayama (Kodansha Int'l. 1966)

In 2009, we find countless Karate books available, both current and even those out of print. There are books on traditional styles, new "eclectic" styles, and styles whose curriculum more closely resembles MMA than Karate. When this is multiplied by four countries-of-origin, (Okinawa, China, Japan, Korea), the possibilities are staggering. It is therefore refreshing to come upon an old classic text, focusing on a classic Karate style, written by a master who studied directly under the style's founder.

Dynamic Karate is a text on Shotokan Karate. It consists of thirteen chapters divided into three Parts: The Fundamental Techniques, Training in Fundamental Techniques, and The Application of Fundamental Techniques. Chapters 5-8, discussing striking and blocking techniques, include theory and practice as part of the text. Additionally, the work includes a Preface, a brief history, an Introduction, Appendices, and a Glossary.

The photos are exceptional, many of which were taken "using a stroboscope with a flash time of 1/10,000 of a second". What this means in layman's language is that every movement of a particular technique is seen broken down so that there is never any confusion between the extremely well-written text and the photographs. Accompanying the photos throughout the book are directional marks, further clarifying the instructions to the reader. The Appendices contain a detailed analysis of Karate movements, which includes Acceleration of the Fist in the Straight Punch, and Electromyograms of a Straight Punch. There are also anatomical charts of the musculature and vulnerable points of the body.


All of the above alone would make this work a highly recommended book. However, this is a case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. As mentioned, the text is well written. "Well written" does not adequately describe just what is written. There are sub-topics for the techniques as General Considerations, Specific Points to Remember, and Common Faults. Many works on Karate in general, Shotokan in particular, illustrate and explain the Forward Stance. When you read an opening sentence that reads, "The stability of a stance depends to a great degree on the area included within its base", and then goes on to explain and elaborate, it just keeps getting better.

Yet another remarkable aspect of this work is the inclusion of techniques not found in other Shotokan texts. The routes of the techniques, along with diagrams that engineers would smile upon are found, as well as training methods for select techniques. Additionally, the proper movements from defensive techniques to a counter are detailed. Proper distancing for all techniques is dealt with as well.

This reviewer is not a Shotokan stylist, so the favorable review is not a reflection of a style bias. Rather, it is the result of carefully studying a remarkable text written by a remarkable sensei, that is not only, in the opinion of this reviewer, the finest Shotokan text available, but one of the best written martial arts instructional texts of any style. This is not to be misunderstood as saying Shotokan is "the" Karate style. It is saying this Shotokan text is "the" Karate text.

Return to Table of Contents