on 13 April 2008
I really enjoyed this book. Not only is it beautiful to look at, it is a pleasure to read. Clear, concise, eloquent sentence structure and very accessible. So valuable for the kyu grade in that it explains what you should be trying to achieve with your training at each level, but also for the dan grade to ensure that nothing has been overlooked.
It's not a 'how to' book at all really, more something to make you think about what you are doing and why. Its premise is to give you the underlying principles behind the training for each kata. Suggestions for the padwork, partnerwork and conditioning drills required to work on the necessary mindset. And as you progress through each kata, those skills are reinforced and built upon so that, by the time you get to black belt, you have accumulated an instinctive set of reactions to varying situations that will come to the fore when under pressure.
I loved the little snapshots of violence that introduced each kata and, by the end of the book, I wanted to be that student taking his first steps in the dojo.
I shall certainly be approaching my future training with a very different way of thinking.
on 7 April 2008
Four Shades of Black looks like a sumptuous coffee-table book, but the writing packs a real punch and delivers arguments that no traditional martial artist can ignore. The author is certainly well placed to make these arguments - as well as being Chief Instructor of one of the UK's strongest karate clubs, he's an experienced doormen and his students have competed successful in the Octagon (Cage Rage).
Gavin Mulholland certainly knows how to make karate work. What he's done brilliantly in this book is show how and why. Four Shades of Black is engaging, reading like a novel in parts, an instructional book in others, it's amusing, unpretentious and profound. Gavin is honest about where karate may have gone wrong in the past, but ultimately, extremely positive. The book shows clearly how to bring traditional methods to life with realistic training that's still based on the principles and spirit of the kata.
At this point I must admit my bias - Gavin Mulholland is my instructor and I even feature in the book. All I can say is: don't take my word for it, get a copy and decide for yourself. If you're a traditional martial artist, it will be a wonderful addition to your library. The beauty and violence of the martial arts is captured perfectly in the writing, design and photography of Four Shades of Black.
on 7 April 2008
The first thing that strikes you with this book, is that it is not like any other "wot kata's about" books. The photographic imagery fills you with subliminally reinforced messages of the secrets of kata to which the text alludes. Taking you from the first day, and the first test - walking into a strange dojo filled with trepidation, up to becoming an accomplished fighter, fit and ready at shodan to begin towards the next step of "Waking Dragons" in your 30 man kumite.
A smooth transition from shade to shade, and kata to kata, showing the meaning of each kata and why it is has that place in the order. Showing the kihon and training drills that are the basics for that stage of progression, and the sequences with the reasons for order of moves, yet each with the menace of the fighters always in the shadow, never in full view. Mind games, because the mind is where fights are won and lost, before a blow is landed. But look closer at the stunning photography, they haven't even bothered to get the creases out of the gis. Look closer still, they are frayed and repaired. Work clothes. These are without a doubt clothes worn to 'go to work', not your standard costume in which to pose.
There is nothing lightweight about this book. It shows that the 30 man kumite Goran Powell writes so vividly about isn't about a six month training regime. It's about taking on a five year or so apprenticeship, where the tools and skills are ingrained into you, making shodan a natural - though not foregone - conclusion, so that the 30 man test is just the next step. Terrifying, like that first step into the dojo, or seeing that violence on the bus.... no more no less, because the level of fear never changes, only the level of the challenge.
The book itself is stunning in its artistry, and a credit to art director Adrian Nitsch and photographer Richard Pullar. The text, as you would expect from someone so experienced and well versed in the nuts and bolts of Goju Ryu in both the dojo and on the street, and the workings of the mind under pressure is educated, aware, no nonsense and politely direct. Martial fine arts. The perfect companion to Waking Dragons.
Just as you don't need to practice Wado to gain from Iain Abernethy's books, you don't need to practice Goju to have this book make you look at your own styles kata in a completely new light - and start asking questins.
on 3 May 2008
Whether you train in Goju or any other Martial Art , this book underlines the principles and mind set for a student as they progress through their training.
It's layout and classy use of black and white photos enhances the high standard of the information contained in this book.
Although not a "step by step" text book , as many books on Karate are , it gives many insights and ideas for training using bunkai , partner drills and padwork.Which all help to raise the skills of the students as they study the Kata.
I think this book is the best book on the first four Kata contained in the Goju Ryu system.
Here's hoping for another on the rest of the Goju Kata.
on 15 April 2008
I have to say that has to be one of the best books on bunkai out there! Not only is the information superb, it's also the way the book is laid out that is so impressive (think "coffee table" quality).
I was privileged to be able to make a small contribution to the book by way of the foreword (Geoff Thompson wrote the preface) and hence I got to see the draft a few months ago. Brilliant information! The final book truly is something to behold and I can honestly say I don't think I've seen as stylish a martial arts book.
Can't recommend this one highly enough.
on 23 July 2008
Four Shades of Black is a feast for the eyes. Stark black pages with brilliant white text and lush monochrome photography worthy of any coffee table "art" volume aren't exactly what you'd expect to find in an ordinary martial arts book, but then again this tome is no commonplace karate book either. It illuminates the traditional path to becoming a complete fighter in a unique and very exciting way.
British Combat Association Hall of Fame member Gavin Mulholland does a fantastic job of showing how karate was developed as a complete and comprehensive fighting system, with kata (formal exercises) as the map and gradings as the compass to develop real-life fighting skills in a logical progression that builds from kata to kata throughout the curriculum. He ties seemingly disparate kihon (fundamental basics), bunkai (fighting applications), conditioning exercises, padwork, and partner drills together to demonstrate a complete package that helps practitioners ingrain the essential teachings of four Goju Ryu karate kata.
Goju Ryu is an Okinawan empty-hand fighting style that blends both hard and soft techniques. The key to learning this system is understanding its kata, four of which are explained in the book: gekisai dai ichi, gekisai dai ni, saifa, and seiyunchin. Gekisai dai ichi roughly translates as "attack and smash number one." It is generally the first form taught to new practitioners, hence utilizes a straightforward blitzing-style approach. Gekisai dai ni is the second kata of this series, showing more refined, non-linear movements and advanced open-hand techniques. While gekisai is a fairly modern kata, saifa is an ancient form that essentially means "smash and tear." Seiyunchin can be translated as "trapping battle," a grappling/close-quarter fighting form.
Each of these four kata is examined thematically, showing the principle, mindset, and applicable area of combat stressed by the form. Fascinating vignettes at the beginning of these sections give readers a real-life image of their utility as well. This approach breathes life into the text, helping readers visualize all the essential elements in a way that makes it easier to turn-around and practice them on the dojo (training hall) floor.
Although some of the examples used to demonstrate the bunkai are not necessarily the optimum applications for use in a street fight, they do serve to highlight the themes and principles of the kata they represent. Since the goal of the book is not so much deciphering fighting applications from kata, but rather demonstrating the holistic fighting system and logical progression of the art, this is easily forgiven.
Mulholland is an extraordinarily skillful practitioner, a guy with more than 30 years of training under his belt who has honed his fighting prowess working the doors of pubs and clubs throughout the United Kingdom. Readers can truly feel this experience in his writing. The book transcends the training hall bringing modern utility to the ancient art of karate. It is a well-written, unique, and interesting tome that should appeal to most any karateka, but especially Goju Ryu practitioners.
Author of Surviving Armed Assaults and Martial Arts Instruction; co-author of The Way of Kata, The Way to Black Belt, and The Little Black Book of Violence
on 14 April 2008
It's rare to find a publication that treads the fine line between authority and approachability but this book does both very well. Many people have different interpretations of Kata, and the meaning and approach to the teaching, practice and application all vary depending on both the teacher and the practitioner.
Gavin Mulholland, presents this book from a perspective that Kata can be, and indeed is effective. The reader is guided through what are the authors thoughts / musings, applications and experiences and this is a rare to find in any publication.
From my perspective Gavin Mulholland raises the bar with this publication and brings home the fact that Kata are indeed very applicable to real life experiences and situations. In my experience it is a shame the passion and dedication shown in this book seems to be few and far between.
on 7 April 2008
As a karate student, I trained for years to learn traditional kata without ever fully understanding their meaning. Sure, certain movements were fairly obvious and with experience we could guess at the rest, but this is hardly the best way to learn.
This book clears the path, in that it clearly shows instructor and student alike how to USE their kata to build a repertoire of functional techniques. No more guessing or confusion, just a clear route to combat effectiveness. I heartily recommend it, both for Martial Artists and for anyone fascinated by Oriental Arts.
on 15 April 2008
Like the martial arts at there best this book is powerful and elegant.
The photography and artistry of the design add finesse to the powerful message that lies in the text. Every page is packed with insight and a depth of knowledge that can only have come from years of dedicated practice and reflection. I am convinced that any martial artist who reads this book will turn its last page with clearer map, and truer compass to navigate there way through the world of martial arts than that with which they started.
on 8 May 2008
A superb book that explains how to train a complete beginner to a competent fighter using traditional Karate methods; and it's not just for Karate guys either. I'm a Ju Jitsu instructor and I'm already incorporating allot of the thoughts and processes from the book into my own teaching and training.
Great stuff, I can't recommend it enough.