Thursday, 1 December 2011

Kenwa Mabuni books - now translated into English...

Just when I thought it was impossible to get hold of any books written by Kenwa Mabuni, founder of shito ryu, that were translated into English I came across - a self-publishing website. Here I discovered two books written by Mabuni and translated into English by karate sensei - Mario McKenna.

The first is Karate Kempo: The art of self-defense. Mabuni wrote this in 1934. Interestingly this book is about the art of 'goju-ryu kenpo'. It is one of Mabuni's early written works (he was a very prolific writer, writing several books and articles during the 1930s and 1940s, but none were ever translated into English). It is a work about the then fledgling art of karate-do and was intended as a general introduction to the art.

As McKenna says in the blurb: Karate Kenpo provides a rare glimpse of Mabuni's ideas about the history and development of karate-do on Okinawa. It also introduces the fundamentals of his art including warm-up, basic techniques, stances, training equipment and the fundamental kata san chin and the advanced kata seiunchin.

In the book Mabuni outlines the steps for sanchin kata and seiunchin using line drawings. He also covers bunkai for seiunchin. I'm always amazed at how well conserved many kata are. I could only identify one small difference between Mabuni's description of seiunchin and the way I have been taught it today - remarkable!

The second Mabuni book that was available was: The study of Seipai: the secrets of self-defence karate kenpo. In this book Mabuni chose to use photos (mainly of himself) to illustrate the steps of the kata seipai rather than line drawings. Again the bunkai is described and illustrated clearly.

The second half of this book reveals the (then) secret text and diagrams called the Bubishi. Kenwa Mabuni was the first person to publish this text which is now known as the 'karate bible'. In McKenna's translation of Mabuni's book he has left the Bubishi untranslated stating that there are now many English translations of this book available.

Mabuni writes this foreword to the Bubishi section of his book:

"On the recommendation of my friend, I made a copy of a Chinese book on kenpo called Bubishi that my venerated teacher, Anko Itosu, had duplocated himself. I have used the Bubishi in my research and have secretly treasured it, however in this current age of growth and popularity of karate kenpo, I am hesitant to keep this book to myself for even one more day. If this benefits even a little those researchers' passionate about karate, then I will be very pleased. Kenwa Mabuni"

What I particularly like about owning these books is that not only is it like hearing it straight from the horses mouth but I feel like I own a little bit of karate history myself. The book is obviously written in the present tense but it is about the practice of karate in the 1930's in Okinawa and Japan. Thus you get statements like:

"...The founder of our style, Goju-Ryu kenpo, Kanryo higaonna Sensei travelled to China to study Kenpo (mastering Chinese Fujian style Kenpo). Furthermore, my senior Chojun Miyagi travelled to China to conduct study into Kenpo and is presently still there."

and: "Presently on Okinawa young people freely practice in various systems such as Higaonna-ha, Itosu-ha, Maezato-ha, Shimabuku-ha, Ishimine-ha, Azato-ha etc."

Reading books like these very much makes karate history come alive to me, so thank you Sensei McKenna for bringing these translations to us.

I also have to praise the service: all their books are printed and bound after you order them and then shipped out. Both these books could only be shipped to the UK from the US but from initial order to receiving the books took less than a week, so well done Lulu!

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. said...

Thanks for linking these books Sue. I'm giving very serious consideration to selecting seiunchin for my Shodan grading kata presentation (which will include talking about the history of the kata as well as bunkai). I might have to invest in the first one. Just clicked over to the site and the price is really reasonable too.


Charles James said...

Ahhh, more stuff ... awesome Sue, thanks for the source too.

Sue C said...

Marie, Mabuni's book doesn't really say anything about the origins of seienchin kata but to save you some donkey work researching the history of this kata you could read my post about it if you want to - just scroll down the left side bar to where I list all the kata I've studied and you'll find a link to it.

Charles, you're welcome :-)


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