JKA Columbia University

Seek Perfection of character, be faithful, endeavour, respect others and refrain from violent behaviour


If you are interested in reading more about Shotokan karate, the following books are a good place to start. This list is by no means comprehensive, but it will help you wade through the large (and often intimidating) stack of martial arts books at most bookstores. You may also try borrowing these books from a friend -- they can be found on many karatekas' bookshelves

Instruction books

Best Karate series
By Masatoshi Nakayama
Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1977-87
Each volume approx. 135 pages

Sensei Nakayama, 9th dan, was Chief Instructor of the JKA from 1955 until his death in 1987. A direct student of Gichin Funakoshi, Sensei Nakayama was one of Shotokan karate's most respected instructors. His Best Karate series contains 11 volumes, each focusing on a particular aspect of karate training. The series is an excellent resource for both beginning and advanced students, featuring demonstrations by many of the JKA's most eminent instructors.

Volume 1 (Comprehensive) provides a basic introduction to karate training. It summarizes kihon (basic techniques), introduces the five Heian kata, and demonstrates several forms of kumite.

Volume 2 (Fundamentals) is a compact primer on kihon. It emphasizes the hips, stances, movement, and basic techniques. For a thorough treatment of specific basic techniques, one should refer to Dynamic Karate (see below).

The next two volumes, Volume 3 (Kumite I) and Volume 4 (Kumite II), focus on jiyu kumite (free sparring). These volumes demonstrate how to combine basic techniques (striking, kicking, blocking, leg sweeps, throws) with the advanced concepts that jiyu kumite demands (such as body shifting and movement, seizing the initiative, continuous techniques, and last-chance techniques).

The remaining volumes are dedicated to kata:

Vol. 5:
Heian 1-5, Tekki 1-3
Vol. 6:
Bassai-dai, Kanku-dai
Vol. 7:
Jitte, Hangetsu, Empi
Vol. 8:
Gankaku, Jion
Vol. 9:
Bassai-sho, Kanku-sho, Chinte
Vol. 10:
Unsu, Sochin, Nijushiho
Vol. 11:
Gojushiho-sho, Gojushiho-dai, Meikyo

Dynamic Karate
By Masatoshi Nakayama
Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1966
308 pages

Dynamic Karate is Sensei Nakayama's classic instruction book on kihon. The book has four components. First, it discusses the concepts underlying kihon, such as stance and posture, generating power from the hips, and balance. It also provides a thorough guide to kihon, breaking down the various punching, striking, kicking, and blocking techniques. Next, it shows applications of basic techniques in kumite, defending against and countering attacks. Finally, it provides exercises to hone basic technique, as well as complementary stretching and strengthening drills.

Karate: The Art of "Empty Hand" Fighting
By Hidetaka Nishiyama and Richard C. Brown
Rutland, Vermont: Charles E. Tuttle Co., 1960
251 pages

Sensei Nishiyama, a former JKA instructor, is a widely respected and popular teacher of the art. While Karate demonstrates the various forms of kumite and one kata (Heian 4), it is primarily about kihon. It also discusses karate's origins, training and calisthenics, and equipment. Finally, it provides examples of karate's many self-defense applications. Karate's demonstrations feature not only Nishiyama but also two equally renowned instructors, Teriyuki Okazaki and Hirokazu Kanazawa.

On karate philosophy

Karate-do: My Way of Life
By Gichin Funakoshi
Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1975
127 pages

Sensei Funakoshi tells the story of his life and the creation of Shotokan karate. Through his anecdotes and ruminations, he reveals how karate shaped his way of living and thinking. Karate, he says, is not about breaking boards, learning to fight, or boosting one's ego. Instead, it is about character, humility, patience, courtesy, enjoyment -- in short, one's spirit. Karate is more than simply a physical discipline; as Funakoshi's example shows, it is a means of spiritual development and a way of life.

Moving Zen: Karate as a Way to Gentleness
By C.W. Nicol
New York: Quill, 1982
151 pages

Moving Zen tells the story of a Westerner who begins his karate training in an enviable fashion: at the JKA's headquarters dojo in Tokyo, under such distinguished instructors as Masatoshi Nakayama and Hirokazu Kanazawa. At the same time, the memoir tells of a young man learning to tame his rage and violent tendencies through karate. As Nicol progresses from white belt to black belt, he discovers that karate encompasses the gentle spirit as well as the savage.