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Thread: Book Review: Karate Do: My Way of Life - Gichin Funakoshi

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    Default Book Review: Karate Do: My Way of Life - Gichin Funakoshi

    [Review - Book] Karate Do: My Way of Life - Gichin Funakoshi
    Review by Bob Hubbard
    Title: Karate Do: My Way of Life
    Author: Gichin Funakoshi
    Publisher & Date: Kodansha International; ; (August 1981)
    Type: Paperback
    ISBN: 0870114638
    Price: $9.00

    Was this book useful? Yes
    Would you buy it again? Yes
    Would you buy more books from this author? Yes
    Did you need previous experience? No

    This is the autobiography of one of Karate’s greatest masters. In here you will find no kata or techniques, but instead a wonderful and energizing walk through the life of the father of modern Karate-do. This is a book that will show you the true spirit inherit in Karate-do, and all martial arts. The book is a simple read, without complex jargon to confuse the non-karateka. Where Japanese terms are used, the English translation is right there. This book is full of delightful anecdotes about the master's life, and although they are a good nonfiction story at face value, if one looks deeper, he can find philosophical value in each story. Do not think that because this book is less than 150 pages that it is light reading; on the contrary, it contains very deep philosophies about karate and even life in general.

    Those who are not familiar with the customs of the Japanese, and more specifically the pre-second world war culture may be confused at times by certain mannerisms and ideals that Master Funakoshi has. At one point he recounts a story where he didn’t follow his own rules. Shortly after the end of the war he was walking alone and was attacked by a young man. He used his skills to block the attack and capture his assailant by taking a “firm grasp of his testicles”. He then turned him over to a passing policeman. Master Funakoshi then writes “I, also on the spur of the moment, had done what I constantly tell my young trainees never to do: I had taken the offensive. I did not feel very proud of myself.” We today may not understand why he felt that way, but the answer is there in the books. Master Funakoshi was a gentleman from a different time, the son of a Samurai, who even though not rich or powerful, still followed old traditions.

    This book is full of similar tales. Stories of his own secret training by Masters Azato and Itosu, and his demonstration in front of the Emperor. There is also a wealth of knowledge on what he saw Karate as, and what he saw it as not. There are very few dates in this book by which to follow along. You are often wondering just how long was there between event a and b. In most books, this would be a problem, but here, it is easy to lose yourself in an afternoon or evening of reading. I’ve read this book three times now, and each time through it I find something new about this interesting man, who was a driving force to introducing the world to that Okinawan art known as Karate-do.

    This book was a pleasure to read, and will be read often I expect. A must have for the true student of the arts.


    Bob Hubbard is an administrator of the popular martial arts sites and He is president of SilverStar WebDesigns inc., a web site design and hosting company specializing in affordable solutions for martial artists. A student of all the arts, he is currently studying Modern Arnis. More of Bob's articles can be found at Please contact Bob if you would like him to review your martial arts product.

    Originally Printed August 2003 MartialTalk Magazine
    ©2006 Bob Hubbard - Reprinted On KenpoTalk With Permission
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    Default Re: Book Review: Karate Do: My Way of Life - Gichin Funakoshi

    In my school it's required reading for anyone wanting into the advanced classes! I think it's crucial in order to really understand the roots of Karate to go back to when it went through one of it's greatest changes.
    There's another book that I think is VERY important along these lines as well. I Don't recall it's name right now, loaned it out some time ago (and we all know.......that means I'm not seeing it again unless I buy it again)... but it's about Chojun Miyagi when he brough GoJu Ryu Karate-Do to mainland Japan. Though GoJu hasn't had nearly the global impact that Shotokan has....(though it's Nothing to sneaze at!!)'s amazing to see how profound an effect Miyagi Sensei had on the general conception of what "Okinawan" Karate actually was. ((Funakoshi Sensei, I think, tried to market his Karate-Do as a Japanese martial try to get it to be as accepted as arts like Judo and Kendo; but Miyagi Sensei maintained the "RyuKyu"-ness of the system and not sell out for marketing reasons.))

    GOOD book.
    I also recomend McCarthy's book on the Bubishi!!!!! It's extrememly insightful and very scholarly!!! Impressive in the depth he plunges too in order to uncover possible sources for the deep roots of Okinawan Karate.

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    H.K.E is offline
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    Default Re: Book Review: Karate Do: My Way of Life - Gichin Funakoshi

    I have read it a few times, it is a great read and takes a look at how to live life as a karate-do.

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    Default Re: Book Review: Karate Do: My Way of Life - Gichin Funakoshi

    It was very surprising to me, all those years ago, when I finally figured out that Karaté was not, in fact, a true Japanese art. My first style was Shotokan and it was pretty rough and tumble in those days, at least where I was. I remember the fellow who I trained under, Sensei Randall Hassel. Quite the traditionalist.

    The books by Master Funakoshi ought to be required reading by anyone who is in, virtually, any branch of Karaté, up to and including Kenpo. Lots of good ethical/moral guidance in them.

    Thanks for the review Bob. I guess, now, I'm gonna have to go dig it out and reread it.

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    sifuroy is offline In Memory of our Departed Friend
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    Default Re: Book Review: Karate Do: My Way of Life - Gichin Funakoshi

    I certainly agree with Sigung 86. Dan you are right on. It is a very informative book. I gave my copy to my Shotokan friend after i watched him conduct a test and they knew virtually nothing about the Life of Funikoshi. I had asked some questions about Funikoshi that they could not answer and after the test the instructor said he coould not have answered my questions either. I said you should be able to and he agreed. I told him he should know more about Funikoshi than me an outsider. He needed the book more than I did so I gave it to him. He enjoyed it very much and learned a lot from it.

    I an Most Respectfully,

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    Default Re: Book Review: Karate Do: My Way of Life - Gichin Funakoshi

    Very, Very good book...However, the example that was set was an extreme...I certainly wouldn't be able to leave my family at home while I went to a foreign country to teach Karate, and for over 20 years, at that...

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