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Shotokan's Secret: The Hidden Truth Behind Karate's Fighting Origins [Paperback]

Bruce D. Clayton
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Paperback: 383 pages
  • Publisher: Black Belt Books; Expanded edition (31 May 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0897501888
  • ISBN-13: 978-0897501880
  • Product Dimensions: 22.8 x 16.8 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,356,968 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


This is the first book to dissect the lore and reveal the origins and purpose of the art of shotokan. It describes how karate was invented by the world's only unarmed bodyguards to protect the world's only unarmed king against Americans. In 1853, before the American Civil War, the king of Okinawa was caught in a confrontation between the shogun's implacable samurai and an invading force of U.S. Marines. Trapped between katana and bayonets, the king's unarmed guards faced impossible odds and narrowly avoided a costly bloodbath. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gives real depth of understanding 27 Jun 2006
By Bob
Being only an interested beginner, in karate terms, I have been trying to find books to 'flesh out' the subject - this book is one of the best I have found.

The book is written from a very 'western' perspective - i.e. using reason, logic and especially skepticism - to counteract some of the misleading and inaccurate traditions that have built up over the years. The author fundamentally believes that everything within karate was designed to be practical and efficient. This assumption then leads to what many will believe is a speculative account of the history and invention of modern karate.

I feel that the historical account is very useful in understanding the psychology of many early practitioners of the art. If you keep in mind the contraversial nature of some of the material, then you can enjoy the well researched prose and numerous insightful observations made - particularly concerning cultural differences between east and west.

If you want to gain an understanding of how traditional karate practitioners view their art then this book would be a good starting point. Hopefully, it will encourage more karate students to question the information handed down as gospel by their senseis - particularly as much of it appears to be self-serving.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Be serious to read this !!! 25 Feb 2005
Cracking book but not for the dabbler!! Bruce Claydon has carried out extensive research to write this book. He has clearly spend a very long time (and probably a great deal of money) to try to get inside karate and it's roots.
His writing style allows us to read the book almost as a novel and yet at the same time the reader is aware that this genuinely may be the secrets...not the myth...of the origins of shotokan karate. Highly recommended to anyone who believes that karate is more than just moving up and down the dojo.
Absolute must for your library...but keep an open mind as you read it..Bruce challenges almost everything!!!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
I love books that make you think and include fascinating, new ways of looking at the old. Shotokan's Secret is definitely one of those books! It's also an incredibly well written book that is a true "page turner". I really liked the original edition and this new expanded edition has a lot of new material and is also a must read; even for those who have the original. Whether you agree with the ultimate conclusion of the book or not, what is beyond doubt is that Bruce Clayton presents his case is a very engaging way, the book will really get you thinking about your kata, and reading it will definitely add a new dimension to your understanding of kata, bunkai and the development of karate. One of my favourite martial arts books of recent times!
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
I was reccomended this book by Iain Abernethy (author of Bunkai-Jutsu). His comment to me was "Once I started reading it, I just couldn't put it down till I'd finished it". I read the book this way 4 times!
Unfortunately, the book is about 50 years too late in some respects. The die has been set, and the Shotokan practitioners around the world are pretty much (but not completely...) going to do it the way they always have. There are however, a very few of us, who have a serious interest in uncovering the true origins of so called "modern Karate". For me, this book is not late, but smack on time....it fills in the huge gaps in understanding I have about Karate (despite enormous amounts of reading). Bruces' research, hypothesis and subsequent discussion of the material is exemplory. Like any good piece of research, he provides the salient facts with depth and conviction, yet he does not insist his observations are "the truth". There is no such thing in the case of Okinawan Karate history anyway.
To my mind, this work is probably the most important to have come forward about the subject of Karate (specifically the origins of Shuri-te/Shotokan) since Karate was introduced to mainland Japan. Quite simply, no one has ever done this before. It is ground breaking, and as such will contradict the strongly held beliefs of many Karateka. So if you are dyed in the wool JKA/JKS, then prepare to be rocked to the core. If you have an open mind, it's just going to get stretched!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Book on Shotokan & More! 7 Jan 2007
A radical book yes, but it's not controversial OR contradictory at all IMHO. Easy to read & packed full of information about the true origins & history of Shotokan & budo, not just the normal couple of paragraphs that you get in most books on the subject.

I agree wholeheartedly with all the other "POSITIVE" reviews written here below, as for the negative one about "serious injury", the only serious injury to anyone following the many applications (bunkai) described in here would be to the opponent - and you don't have to change the moves in the kata to fit the bunkai (Oyo Bunkai). See Injury-free Karate by Paul Perry.

If you're a serious student of Shotokan Karate (or any of its derivatives or styles) then you ought to read this one FIRST, it'll save you a lot of money. It really is a breath of fresh air compared to the myriad of humdrum copycat books on karate.

If you're looking for a broader & deeper history of karate (& Martial Arts) in general then also look at "Okinawan Karate" by Mark Bishop.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Insight
The author presents a fascinating theory of the development of Karate, and the reasons behind it's unique design. Read more
Published on 11 Oct 2011 by MiB
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating study
I loved this book. A real page turner. Bruce Clayton's interpretation of when, why and how the devastating techniques of the Heian/pinan kata came into existance have certainly... Read more
Published on 9 Dec 2010 by Daniel Redmond
5.0 out of 5 stars A good book
The book Shotokan's secrets looks interesting and a good read.
I have only glanced at it at the moment but what I have read looks interesting.
Published on 27 Oct 2010
5.0 out of 5 stars Shotokan`s Secrets
I have yet to read the new version of this book. I have trained with the author and we have exchanged many ideas. Bruce is a competent martial artist and and excellent writer. Read more
Published on 16 July 2010 by karateronin
5.0 out of 5 stars A real eye opener into the hidden truth of Karate!
I loved this book from the first page till the last, and found it difficult to put down once i started it. I never read the original edition but pre-ordered this edition. Read more
Published on 8 July 2010 by David J. Hayward
4.0 out of 5 stars Book Description Only
Beginning with a thorough historical analysis of its 19th-century origins, the lore behind the art of Shotokan karate is dissected in this revised handbook. Read more
Published on 19 May 2010 by Terry Tozer
3.0 out of 5 stars A BOOK OF TWO HALVES - 1 GOOD & 1 QUESTIONABLE
The first thing to strike you about this book is the amazing cover. It shows an elderly but regal looking eastern man of high standing flanked by two very stern looking younger... Read more
Published on 4 May 2010 by Andrew O. Brien
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting if not a little confusing
I enjoyed this book however I did find it a little confusing at times. Worth having in you libary though.
Published on 18 Mar 2010 by nintai
IN 3 PARTS. 1st part: covers the theory of the development of "hard style" karate. References are quoted, but the writing is unnecessarily emotional. Read more
Published on 8 May 2008 by Nidan
5.0 out of 5 stars i must read
a very good book and a must read for any shotokan person who is interested in bunki .if you are open minded you could learn alot , i would make it a must read for anyone taking... Read more
Published on 24 Jan 2008 by Mr. Ian Linton
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