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Thread: Book Review--"The Kempo History of James Masayoshi Mitose"

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    scarey's Avatar
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    Default Book Review--"The Kempo History of James Masayoshi Mitose"

    Book Review--"The Kempo History of James Masayoshi Mitose" by Nimr Hassan and William Durbin



    First of all, let me say that I am no true Kenpo/Kempo historian. That being said, over the past few years, I have become more and more interested in the history of our art (no matter which flavor you may study). So, it is with an ‘amatuer historian’s’ eye that I look at this book. No disrespect towards any system or style of kenpo or any practitioner is intended. I am merely posting my personal review and thoughts of this book. This is not a ‘technical’ historical review, but rather what “I” thought of this book as it relates to kenpo/kempo, its history and founders.

    I came across this book in googling for information on James Mitose. The book is titled “The Kempo History of James Masayoshi Mitose”. It is written by Nimr Hassan (aka Terry Lee) with William Durbin. Those familiar with the Mitose trial and its background (and transcript) will recognize the name Terry Lee, now known as Nimr Hassan.

    The first ‘downside’ to this book is a statement by the authors that in order not to disrespect any other martial artists, no other names would be used in conjunction with the work. Well, in my mind, that sort of defeats the History portion of any book, and while some events are well-known enough to figure out the person in question, there are some gaps where you are left wondering “Ok, who was THAT supposed to be?”

    I found much of the early history of Mitose interesting. The author does a decent job of letting you see the historical setting of book, and why certain actions make sense when placed in their historical context. A few times my mind did an “ah-ha!” or “that makes sense” when I read about something placed in proper historical context. The biggest problem (and it’s a whopper) is that again, there is no substantiation of any of the information. There are no direct quotes, not even a “James Mitose told me…” We are told of this history in storybook fashion, as if it were fact, expected to accept it as fact, when there are no references, quotes or historical evidence given to support the suppositions presented.

    The first half of the book is concerned primarily with this type of ‘historical’ information regarding James Mitose. The second half is more dedicated to the explanation of the “Octagon”, with both text and pictorial references. I found the first half of the book interesting, while the second half seemed more to be written to justify or prove the knowledge and point of view of the authors. It seems to be somewhat pointed towards establishing the legitimacy of the authors personal style, and goes into a bit on "Koga Ha Kosho Shorei Ryu".


    This book is essentially self-published, and is available in e-book or printed format. I purchased the e-book, and likely will not purchase the hardcopy. If you’re a huge kenpo/kempo historian, and have to have any book that says “Kenpo” or “Kempo” on your bookshelf, then you may well want to purchase this. If you’re a quasi-historian like I am, you may want to pick up the e-book as an interesting read, but I probably wouldn’t recommend spending the extra money for the hardcopy unless you’re a kenpo/kempo book nut.


    Available at several self-publishing houses, including lulu.com:
    http://www.lulu.com/content/1166997


    Sean

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    Default Re: Book Review--"The Kempo History of James Masayoshi Mitose"

    Thanks for the review Sean. I will say, when I found out that Terry Lee and William Durbin wrote this, I figured it would not be a serious historical account.
    Marcus Doyle
    Shaolin Kempo
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    Default Re: Book Review--"The Kempo History of James Masayoshi Mitose"

    Thanks for the review. I'd have to agree with you. A historical account should be well cited or provide names to confirm or dispute. I haven't read the book or know the author but your review makes me think the author wrote a lazy historical record or a work of fiction.
    "Many years of training is wasted by one night of drinking"-oldslowguy

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    Default Re: Book Review--"The Kempo History of James Masayoshi Mitose"

    Quote Originally Posted by oldslowguy View Post
    Thanks for the review. I'd have to agree with you. A historical account should be well cited or provide names to confirm or dispute. I haven't read the book or know the author but your review makes me think the author wrote a lazy historical record or a work of fiction.
    Probably not a complete work of fiction. Much of what is written has been discussed and debated for a lot of years. However, rather than showing supporting evidence, or at LEAST giving us a direct word of mouth relation of the history, we get the same story we've heard for a long time, with no supporting evidence, tainted I'm sure to support the author's standing and history.

    Most likely, the truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

    Sean

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    Default Re: Book Review--"The Kempo History of James Masayoshi Mitose"

    Has anyone done a scholarly rebut or companion volume? It might be worth a read with that material along side!

    Richard
    Hands on Healer

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    Default Re: Book Review--"The Kempo History of James Masayoshi Mitose"

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Finn View Post
    Has anyone done a scholarly rebut or companion volume? It might be worth a read with that material along side!

    Richard
    That would indeed be VERY interesting. I think the problem in this circumstance is that there is no solid evidence one way or the other, and that the evidence that is available is either word of mouth or hearsay.

    A good (and in-brief) example is that Mitose claims that when he was 4 or 5, his parents sent him to Japan, and this is where he learned his family art of Kempo. His detractors claim that he picked up Karate in Hawaii from various sources. Research has been done into Mitose going to Japan, even as far as examination of passports, immigration records, etc, and nothing concrete has ever been found (at least to my knowledge). Unfortunately, the further in time we progress, the less likely it is that any new evidence may surface, so it is likely points that will never be proven, one way or the other.

    Sean

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    Default Re: Book Review--"The Kempo History of James Masayoshi Mitose"

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Finn View Post
    Has anyone done a scholarly rebut or companion volume? It might be worth a read with that material along side!

    Richard
    I have done some research, so if you go to www.kempoinfo.com, there are some articles that might make for illuminating companion reading, with footnotes to sources in the case of the timeline article.

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