Shotokan Karate – Unravelling the Kata book Review

BACKGROUND

Shotokan Karate – Unravelling the Kata – by Ashley Croft, Paperback

Although the focus of this karate book review site is quality karate books, now and then we’ll be taking a look at books that perhaps may not be as highly regarded.   Shotokan Karate – Unravelling the Kata unfortunately falls into that category, coming up short on many counts.

Shotokan Karate Unravelling the Kata

The author is British karate black belt Ashley Croft, a student of Rick Clark of Ao Denko Jutsu.

CONTENT LIST

Unravelling the Kata is split into 12 Chapters.

CHAPTERS 1 – 3

The opening 33 pages of this book detail the history, origins and main players in the development of early karate.  There’s no doubt that this is a detailed account is very much in-depth, however when the very first page of the introduction erroneously states that Shigeru Egami was “Nakayama’s successor at the JKA”, one is left wondering just how much faith can be placed on the accuracy of the following pages.

CHAPTER 4 – Vital Points

Stretching to 11 pages long it’s quite surprising to find so much detail on vital points in a Shotokan publication. This is more than Funakoshi himself penned in his own works.  The explanation for this is probably more to do with the author’s own sensei than Shotokan. As Youtube will reveal Rick Clark is experienced in pressure point analysis.  Nevertheless, the Chapter is an interesting read.

CHAPTERS 5-12 Kata

The five Heian katas and the Shotokan basic kata Kihon are explored in these chapters with the aid of many photographs. Each individual move of the kata is broken down with the aid of a photograph, the Japanese terminology and a few words of explanation. A partner is then introduced and a series of photographs detail an application for each move.

The photographs are nice and clear, and full colour throughout. The first problem with the photo’s is that they all look terribly staged. Although this might sound a little strange for a set of pre-arranged moves, there is no intent shown in the photo’s;  the combatants look phased and lack focus, as if the photographer took a few minutes too long to get set up for the shot.

More seriously the techniques shown are lacking quite badly. In the kata walkthroughs the stances look awkward and off balance, both hand and foot positioning lack accuracy. The errors shown here would normally be picked up and corrected at an early stage in the Shotokan grading syllabus. The following three photographs are representative of these issues.

heian nidan balance bunkai

The first image is from the first move of Heian Nidan, and the second from Heian Yondan. As can be seen, hand and foot positioning is incorrect in the first image, and the second photo shows poor posture. The third image is an example of a bunkai photo.

The actual Bunkai shown is standard kata application, and does not really allude to the “unravelling” mentioned in the books title. For the beginner it may serve as a useful starting point for partner work.

Conclusions

It’s unfortunate that  “Shotokan Karate – Unravelling the Kata” lacks a little credibility as a serious Shotokan publication due to the lack of technical finesse revealed in some of the photographs.  However if you can overlook these shortcomings, the photographs are nice and clear and there are plenty of them., there is some good information to be had in the early chapters, and the bunkai sections will provide many hours of dojo training for anyone keen to delve into the fascinating subject of Shotokan Karate bunkai.

So it’s a bit of a mixed bag for this particular book, not one for sharpening up your kata technique, but plenty of content for dojo training.

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