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Paul Herbert 5th Dan
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With a string of highly successful and popular titles to his name, Dr. Clive Layton has secured his role as one of the most important writers of Shotokan Karate. Books like ‘Conversations with Karate Masters’, ‘Karate Master: The Life & Times of Mitsusuke Harada’ and ‘Kanazawa 10th Dan’ to name a few have brought him much attention and popularity and ‘Shotokan Dawn’ is no exception, and is considered as one of his most accomplished pieces.


Shotokan Dawn: A selected, early history of Shotokan Karate in Great Britain (1956-66)’ looks at, as the title would imply, the planting of the seed that brought karate into Great Britain; a nation which would soon become one of the most successful homes of Karate-Do in the World, which created many Internationally respected Martial Artists.


Vol. I’ dealt with Vernon Bell’s connection with France, Henry Plee and certain Japanese instructors such as T. Murakami and looked in-depth at the establishment of BKF – British Karate Federation. ‘Shotokan Dawn Vol. II’ however looks specifically at the more commonly know part of British Karate history, the Kanazawa years.


Vol. I finished stating ‘Kanazawa completely changed the direction of karate in this country. Before his arrival we seemed to be dominated by France and the French way of doing things. From this time on we took our direction from Japan’. With this perfect cliffhanger concluding the first book, it led very nicely into the content of the second volume.


At this point in British Karate, as the concluding quotation above states, there began one of the most important periods with the presence of Hirokazu Kanazawa, then 5th Dan JKA.


Here we gain insight into the arrival of Hirokazu Kanazawa, Taiji Kase, Keinosuke Enoeda and Hiroshi Shirai all 5th Dan JKA. When talking about these Japanese Masters, Terry Wingrove states ‘Kase was the organiser. Kanazawa was the all-round technician. If you wanted the complete teacher, he was the perfect example. Enoeda was strong. Shirai was the brains – a very clever man’. As you read this book, the readers gets an insight into the excitement and enthusiasm they must have felt to have these Master’s teaching in the UK.


Within, as with Volume I, this book uses BKF Records as the ‘Backbone’ while using a number of brilliant other sources of reliable evidence to explore the events from this time. I was personally fascinated to read letters from C.W.Nicol, author of the world famous ‘Moving Zen’, one of the most influential and important books on karate, which did so much to generate interest in karate.


Hirokazu Kanazawa today is one of, if not the most famous Martial Artists teaching today. His authority goes beyond Shotokan, or even karate itself, and is undoubtedly a pioneer. In 1965 however he did not have such a name or reputation, although his victory at the All Japan Championships with a broken hand certainly did much for his status. Through a series of anecdotes from many around from this time, including Bell, Terry Wingrove, Eddie Whitcher, and several others, we are told of the early developments in Karate history in the one years stay of Kanazawa.


Stories throughout the book portray the character of Master Kanazawa, noting the sometimes-difficult living conditions, which he treated as a challenge rather than a hindrance, also touching briefly on the difficulty of being a foreigner in Britain.


One of my favourite quotes from Master Kanazawa was ‘When I came to this country I thought the best food was fish and chips. This I liked very much…young times; always hungry’.


Master Kanazawa has been quoted in his own book ‘Karate-Do My Life’ saying that he always wanted to become the ‘salt of the earth’ and therefore adapting to whichever country he resided in, and there’s nothing more British than a love for fish n’ chips.


It also fascinatingly looks at the approach he had not just as an instructor in the dojo, but a very real Sensei. The book notes that Sensei would tell fables, all with an important meaning and purpose behind them. He told one student in particular that for his 5th dan he had to fight a bear and eat a mouse. The cuisine may not be strictly British, but this made me laugh all the same.


Apart from the wonderfully anecdotal elements of the book, there’s also interesting material provided for example in the form of Master Kanazawa’s expense account records from 26th October 1965 to 12th February 1966 which sheds interesting light on the lifestyle of the Japanese Instructors here in the UK at this time.


Of course you cannot mention Master Kanazawa without mentioning his superb demonstrations of board braking, and this book tells stories and offers beautiful photographs showing such impressive acts.


This book, like the first is littered with essential photography that help give the stories and facts and figures a certain reality. The beautiful black and white photographs show a wide array of events, pivotal to the history of British Karate. Looking at the photographs alone is an exquisite pleasure, but when put into context though Layton’s writing, they give us the readers a humbling impression of how Karate has developed.


This second Volume looks at one of the more documented sections of British Karate, but does not fail to explore un-earthed information and give us a far more informed understanding of these years.


I can quite honestly say that these are two of the best karate books I have ever read. Despite at times being a little too factual, this book is highly successful in sharing the atmosphere from these early years in British Karate, and while these books can be used as a ‘front to back’ reading book, possibly in one sitting as I found, it can also be used as a reference resource which will certainly aid our understanding of Karate today.


There’s a famous saying ‘To understand the new, we must understand the old’, and these books help us here. Today students take it as their god-given right to walk into a dojo and train. These books however talk about the years that made this possible, and for that reason alone, they are essential reading.


To buy this book, please visit www.monabooks.co.uk 


Emma Robins