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Paul Herbert 5th Dan
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Karate-dō: My Way of Life is a book mentioned too rarely in the discussion of Shotokan literature. It is comprised of a series of anecdotes which form Gichin Funakoshi's autobiography. Directly and expressively written, it conveys its moral points simply and effectively. Funakoshi-Sensei brings us through his life by showing us significant episodes in his pursuit of The Way.  We see moments wherein he discovers some new aspect of karate-dō, as well as times of triumph and failure as he attempts to live his life in accordance with rules he has passed down to us in the form of the Niju-Kun and the Dojo-Kun. Tales of his teachers are also written down, giving us a rare look at some of the men who trained Funakoshi-Sensei and to whom we owe our martial arts heritage.

 

Importantly, in this autobiography we can get a sense of the overpowering humility and wisdom of the man who brought Okinawan karate to Japan. This book is an important reminder of Funakoshi's view of karate-dō: it is more than kicks and punches, form and kumite – it is a way of life, a way to live in the world and seek spiritual enlightenment. Karate-dō: My Way of Life contains few descriptions of physical techniques, but it does give a description of karate-dō and the pursuit of an enlightened Way of life by the man who gave us modern karate.

 

In today's world of political uncertainty, street crime, and fears of terrorism, it is too easy to focus entirely on physical techniques, self-defense applications, and the physical performance of karate. Funakoshi-Sensei's autobiography reminds us of the true nature of karate as he sees it: it is a Way of life. While self-defense and the physical aspects of karate should never be neglected, to restrict oneself to solely these things is to cut oneself off from karate-dō and become what Funakoshi-Sensei calls a “mere technician.” This point has never been more clearly made than in this book, which is a must for all who wish to study karate-dō as intended - a Way of life.

 

Clyde Meador