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Paul Herbert 5th Dan
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Here we have one of the greatest Martial Arts authors – Clive Layton – author of so many brilliant titles writing a biography about one of the longest practicing Karateka in the world, and one of very few still teaching to have trained under Master Gichin Funakoshi. This gentleman of course is Mitsusuke Harada.  With two such experienced men in their fields, how could this ever go wrong?

 

In this excellent book ‘Karate Master – The Life and Times of Mitsusuke Harada’, Dr Clive Layton, author of excellent titles such as ‘Unmasking the Martial Artist’, ‘Training with Funakoshi’ and ‘Shotokan Dawn’ explores the life and experiences of a gentleman who has studied karate through some of the most profound times of its existence and is still studying today.

 

Interestingly enough, this book first published in 1997 contains the preface by the author dated back to 1993. This immediately caught my attention and it got me really thinking about the time, commitment and devotion it must have taken on the author’s part to thoughtfully put this book together in a way that fully reflects the personality and true events of this Master’s life. The author himself admits ‘I had been entrusted to write a man’s life story. The impression I gave might well be how he was to be remembered for all time. Each sentence had to be faithful’. This I feel is a beautiful moment of sincerity, which deeply reflects the weight he must have felt upon his shoulders and the justice he truly wanted to give Master Harada.

 

Mitsusuke Harada…Is one of very few today who was once able to train under the likes of Gichin Funakoshi, Shigeru Egami, Yoshitaka Funakoshi to name a few, training partner of the World renown Tsutomu Ohshima. Today, after some six decades of study he continues to practice and teach, continuing the methods and practices of his seniors and peers, whilst developing his own profound understanding of Karate-Do.

 

One of the most wonderful aspects of this biography for me are the personal touches that Harada Sensei himself provides to the book through discussions with the author. He does not play along with the fairytale that so many have re-written in order to glorify the Masters of old, so much so that they become less human and more saint like. He tells it how it is, which truly brings the book to life and gives you a more vivid and realistic insight into what karate was really like during his youth with many of the seniors. 

 

At one point in the book, Harada recalls a story about when Funakoshi asked a group of students, who had taken him out for a meal and gotten a little tipsy off Sake, how many times a week they have sex. Is it me or is this a far cry from the present day image so many of us hold of Master Funakoshi? We have made him a saint, who could never do any wrong. The truth is that Funakoshi was a human being, a man who wasn’t touched by the hand of god and this book beautifully makes Funakoshi a human being.

 

This book follows Harada through the major phases of his life. It looks extensively into his experiences training and being around Master Funakoshi, training at the Shotokan, his time spent with all of the above names and his approach to Karate-Do. I feel a real sense of humour and compassion from Harada in his quotations, which are generously littered throughout. This is wonderfully supported by some of the best archive photographs in the world which include Harada training, around his seniors, his travels teaching, all providing beautiful texture to the story of this inspirational man’s life.

 

Reading this book is like flicking through the UK’s Heat magazine or the US’s National Enquirer. It’s contains and discusses the who’s who of the Karate world from past and present time, giving you a real and explicit look into the experiences of this gentleman, but obviously without the gossip.

 

From the part of Master Harada, he is a real inspiration and a great reference post to the past for those of us who desperately want to develop the future.

 

From the part of Dr. Layton, this is a masterpiece of writing, which precisely conveys his expertise and brilliant writing skill. Of course we must remember that Mr. Layton is in no way a novice to Karate. He himself, former student of Kanazawa Sensei, is a senior and very experienced karateka and I truly feel this was a match made in Karate heaven.

 

This book is precise, factual, inspiring, funny and enthralling. Coming back to the preface, Layton states ‘To let his (Harada) story go untold would be tantamount to a crime’ and I couldn’t agree more and with the same sentiment in mind I think I’ll be ballsy enough to say that not reading this book is of equal offence.

 

Please purchase this book, I promise you’ll enjoy.

 

Shaun Banfield