Being relatively active on my website, blog and social media means that I'm fortunate to have the opportunity to network with fellow martial artists from all over the globe. I always enjoy corresponding with like-minded karate practitioners and of course, I am always grateful for their kind support.
One such karate practitioner is Garry Lever From the Shinsokai (Goju Ryu). We first made contact a couple of years ago and although we haven't yet met in the flesh (something we're working to resolve very soon), we've always maintained regular emails and messages. Garry was instrumental in helping me plan the itinerary for our Okinawa sightseeing trip when we were in Naha last year and shared with me in confidence some amazing locations of historical significance that I would have never have even known about otherwise!
A few weeks ago I received a unexpected package through the post from Garry. I opened it up to find a complementary pre-release copy of his new book, 'The Essence of Goju Ryu Vol II', which as with the first volume of the series, he has co-authored with his teacher Richard Barrett Sensei.
At the top of the very first page was a kind note signed by Garry along with the hand written kanji for Goju Tondo (hard/soft, inhale/exhale, expand/contract), which he considers to be the keys to power generation in his style. This was a thoughtful addition to a book that from within seconds of opening, I was eagerly scanning to see what sort of content graced the pages. I massively enjoyed reading Vol I, so I was very much looking forward to putting aside some quiet time (more of a rarity nowadays) to get stuck into this new instalment. Despite being from different styles and lineages, our views and opinions about karate are often very similar so I was expecting plenty of uncontrolled head nodding (in agreement).
Garry is what I would call a 'genuine' karate practitioner and one of a rare breed. It is clear from the depth of his work that he is an very competent martial artist. But more important than this, it is his depth of understanding, his unrelenting passion for sharing the beauty of his art and the way in which he successfully integrates the concepts of karate to help enrich his life and the life of others around him that impresses me the most. I don't need to meet the man in person to know this, since it oozes from every word he writes. Of course, my complements also naturally extend to Richard Barrett Sensei, since I've always believed that the character of the student reflect the quality of the teacher.
Here's a video of Garry striking the makiwara, which naturally complements the FREE sample chapter he has kindly provided to readers of this blog...
OK...so what did I think of the book? Well, it was exactly what I expected - a great read!
Let me continue...
Firstly, I think that Richard and Garry do a great job in bridging the gap between traditional practice and modern day application. This is something I really like and always look out for. Their words proudly express the evolution of karate and justify with sound reasoning why traditional training just as relevant it today as it ever was.
As you would expect, the book follows on from Vol I and focusses on Tachi Waza (stances and posture), Uke Waza (blocking/receiving techniques) and Atemi Waza (striking techniques). It also shares numerous hojo undo exercises with a variety of traditional equipment to help supplement the development of these three areas and provide a more comprehensive understanding of kata.
There are plenty of pictures that help illustrate many of the drills described. Some of these date back to the 1980's at the Jundokan and others are more recent, which were taken especially for the publication in Barrett Sensei's private dojo, which is located in a cave (would you believe) at the rear of his home - an amazing backdrop for sharing such authentic karate.
Without listing the complete content, the book includes chapters on defensive principles, body hardening, 'blunt' and 'sharp' striking tools, breathing, body and foot movement, unbalancing, breaking rhythm plus some miscellaneous thoughts on kata practice. The open-minded approach to some of the supplementary exercises is impressive to say the least and I've already taken some of their suggestions for use in my own training.
What impresses me most about this book is that Richard and Garry manage to very eloquently emphasise to readers what I believe to be a critical aspect of karate practice and something I always try to express in my own work. That is for everything to connect together functionally like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. The three components of kata, bunkai ohyo and hojo undo should never be considered as separate entities and trained in isolation, but should instead collaborate dynamically to form a fully integrated 'principle-based' approach to the art. Each component should feed off the others so that everything is geared towards the same goals. This, is my opinion, is the most important message shared within the pages of this book and for that reason, I think it makes a valuable contribution to the global karate fraternity.
So, to sum up...if you have any interest in exploring below the surface of traditional karate and the way in which it may be practiced in a more holistic manner, then you NEED to own a copy of this book! Furthermore, if you haven't yet checked out Vol 1, then you should also grab this too while you're at it! Although Vol 2 sits very well on its own, reading both will certainly provide a more complete picture of Richard and Garry's inspiring approach.
Purchase Richard & Garry's book below...
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Chris Denwood has been studying martial arts since childhood and specialises in the practical application of karate's traditional principles for civilian self-defence, personal development, life integration and discovery.