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Making Sense of Japanese: What the Textbooks Don't Tell You
Making Sense of Japanese: What the Textbooks Don't Tell You
by Jay Rubin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.38

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting book., 19 Jan. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Interesting book. Very good. I doubt there's another with this material, and it's very well written and entertaining. Filler. Filler.


Writing Order Kanji 1st
Writing Order Kanji 1st
Price: £0.00

1.0 out of 5 stars What is the point of this App?, 19 Jan. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Writing Order Kanji 1st (App)
I expected there to be some teaching material in this App, but it appears to simply be a bunch of quizes.
Perhaps this is useful if you already know some kanji.


Essential Kit
Essential Kit
by Linda Leatherbarrow
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Review of Linda's stories., 8 Jun. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Essential Kit (Paperback)
Superb! Very fresh. I've been dying to find and read some of her material for years, after attending some of her writing classes in the 90s. Wonderful writing. Chris


The Great Karate Myth: Unravelling the Mystery of Karate
The Great Karate Myth: Unravelling the Mystery of Karate
by Nathan Johnson
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars It's pretty much the new bubishi., 23 Feb. 2009
It's hard to talk about The Myth without going a little into the nature of the author, Nathan Johnson. So I'll start there.

I've practiced Shotokan on and off for approximately the last seventeen years, three years Goju, three of Tai Chi, one year of Wado, two years Aikido and numerous other bits and pieces of grappling, stick fighting and other things (one year of ballroom dancing :-) ). It's fair to say I had a few questions that needed answering. I had heard a few things about Nathan Johnson so I sought him out. Two hours after I had met Nathan many of my questions had been answered in ways that made sense, physically and intellectually, and Nathan was able to back up all or most of his suppositions with evidence drawn from his apparently exhaustive, and inexhaustible, historical research. Also, rather than trying to pretend he had the answers (as I've experienced before when trying desperately to draw insight out of so-called 'masters') or withholding the answers (again those 'masters' trying to overdo their self-importance) Nathan just wanted to give it all to me straight. It was clear to me that he was simply eager for me to understand, and encouraged me to see whether I could find flaws in his arguments. He wasn't just another one of these `professional martial arts teachers' trying to protect and nurture his own cosy little martial arts empire. Although a lot of the historical material went over my head, I believe he genuinely wanted to communicate, and presumably test his arguments and lines of enquiry by trying them out on me. In practitioners at Nathan's level, that kind of open, generous and respectful attitude is impressive and virtually unknown. it says a lot about the character and integrity of the man.

Anyway, his previous book, 'Barefoot Zen' presented a lot of his thinking at that time but without detailed arguments. The Myth goes far beyond Barefoot insofar as, firstly, the Myth details Nathan's arguments and lines of thinking. His arguments take you through the denizens of 18th, 19th and 20th century China and Okinawa, and lead you through the culture, customs and history of those regions and times. However, secondly, The Myth also includes the fruits of Nathan's research since Barefoot Zen - the relationship between weapons and kata. Now, you need to be open-minded to take on board Nathan's conclusions and remember that the chain of karate/kung fu teachers from ancient china onwards to the present were not and are not Gods, but are fallible, corrupt and egotistical human beings, like everybody else, bound by habit and self-preservation of their livelihoods. Nathan found the results of his own research shocking but had the courage of his convictions to follow them through to their logical conclusions. But I won't spoil it for you by telling you any more. If you want the same tired and insultingly simplistic retelling of karate practice and history that we've all read and embraced a hundred times, then The Great Karate Myth isn't for you. You can happily keep your eyes and mind closed. However, I challenge you also to consider Nathan's arguments, as I have, and see if you can refute his claims. If you can, I know Nathan would be literally delighted to hear from you.

Any history is subject to continual review, reinterpretation, new discoveries and argument, and why should karate history be any different? Bear this in mind while considering that Nathan appears to have literally made it his life's purpose to dig and keep digging, to try to get behind the obfuscation of convenient mythologising. Frustrated and desperate to find the truth, he has bent his will to studying and training (oh yes - high grades in Wing Chun and Goju, he can really do the stuff too!), travelling to meet the masters, walk the same paths and sniff out and sense the true origins and antecedence of what we like to call karate, and what it used to be before it gradually changed into the rather strange thing that it has now become, and that we are all very familiar with.

I admit I find it hard to criticise Nathan, even coming as I do from a decade and a half of fairly mainstream training. See if you feel the same after reading his work (you can read it in two days - easier than spending twenty-five years of penury, researching, testing and debating, as Nathan has). Read The Myth and you can see that Nathan makes his arguments politely and logically, and between the lines you can feel him hoping that someone will contact him, disprove his conclusions and present reasoned alternatives instead, and that if this happened Nathan would happily adopt those as the new canon. I believe that Nathan is trying to uncover the truth. (If his motives were materialistic or status-driven I suspect that by now he would have joined the all too familiar karate jet-set, running a large and profitable organisation. But his gang is only a handful of people, no longer taught by him, and Nathan sustains himself in an normal mundane job, like the rest of us).

So The Myth is a welcome breath of fresh air, a departure from the vast number of tired martial arts books out there following the same well-tramelled, comfortable and lazy, unoriginal, unchallenging formats and discussions (many of them are wasting space on my shelves, more's the pity).

The Myth also tells some great stories and entertains, and there's a dvd which complements Nathan's arguments.

It's a great read, and an important work.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 10, 2009 6:35 AM BST


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