The Weaponless Warriors by Richard Kim
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I love this! I've been practicing karate for a few years and know some of the related history, but this book really brings it to life. It's a mix of history and anecdotal stories of those who contributed to karate as we know it today.
Also included are photographs of several of the more recent masters and of students performing various katas (forms). Although it was interesting to look through these, I didn't find the kata photos easy to follow. They weren't numbered or captioned, and without already knowing them, I couldn't figure out what order the moves would be performed in.
I spent considerable time looking for Tatsuo Shimabuku in the geneologies, but I think they linked him in with his brother. He is the founder of Isshinryu Karate, the style that I follow, and his teachers are mentioned in the book and in a couple of cases, Choki Motobu and Miyagi Chojun, have chapters devoted to them. I also saw an Angi Uesu listed. In the binder my sensei gave me there is an Angi Uezu, and I wonder if it is the same person. If so, it's pretty cool, because he was at one point my teacher's teacher. Reading back through the geneologies and following the stories and legends all the way down to names I recognize is one of the things that I enjoyed most. It makes me feel a part of something bigger than myself.
Besides the historical value, though, the stories themselves are fantastic. The ones featuring Bushi Matsumura are larger than life, especially the one about how he earned the title Bushi, but the story about how he tried to determine whether he was a better fighter than his wife was also amusing. So, basically, this isn't just history and facts. There is entertainment value as well.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to people who practice Karate, who enjoy historical stories and legends, or who are interested in martial arts in general. I was happy to receive this book on loan from my sensei and now that I've written my review I will reluctantly return it.
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