Thursday, December 26, 2019

Legend of the Fist

Just came across a fine work by the renown karate historian and philosopher Patrick McCarthy, Legend of the Fist. With help from his wife Yuriko, McCarthy Sensei has painstakingly translated dozens of newspaper and magazine articles from Okinawa and mainland Japan beginning in the late 19th century to modern day. More than thirty years in the making, this collection of essays and interviews not only reveals the true spirit of karatedo, but also the social mores and customs of Okinawan and Japanese culture that served as the impetus in the development of karatedo⁠—karate as a way of life.

The book is full of axioms and advice from the early masters about fighting techniques and decorum when outside the dojo. One interesting account depicts the intense rivalry between Gichin Funakoshi, the founder of Shotokan in Japan, and Okinawan street-fighting expert Choki Motobu. Motobu's views on his aversion to using kicks in a real fight, his pursuit for drinking and having fun, and his time spent with a certain crime lord make Motobu an outlier in the chronicles of karate history.

Translated from Japanese to English, articles include stories about mixed matches featuring exponents of karate and judo, commentary on Western boxing, and a brief discussion of the classical text, Bubishi. The author has written a previous book on the "Bible of Karate."

Patrick McCarthy (Hanshi, 9th dan), a true devotee to the traditional fighting arts, believes that the way of karate transcends the mere physical; that the training and cultivating of mind, body, and spirit form the triumvirate essential to the development of the aspiring karateka. At just over 300 pages, Legend of the Fist is a worthy, concise read, and the author promises a Volume #2 is in the making.

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