A few days ago I received a phone call from Lee Taylor. Apart from us swapping a few emails, this was the first time we chatted together and it was evident after the first five minutes (the call then went on for almost an hour) that we had a great deal in common with regards to our approach to karate. I mentioned to Lee that I was looking to start conducting some product reviews as part of my website developments and asked whether he would like his new book entitled 'Heian/Pinan Kata & Bunkai: The Fundamentals' to be one of the first. A couple of days later, I received through the post a copy of the book from Lee with a cover note inviting my honest review and opinion. So here goes...
During an initial flick through the pages, which is something I always do when I get my hands on a new book, it became quickly evident that this book is well structured, presented and formatted. Heavily illustrated, the pictures are large, clear and relevant. The cover art certainly catches your attention plus the size, text and fonts give the text a 'manual' feel that can be used in the dojo alongside your training with enough space around the pages to scroll some relevant notes and comments should one see fit to do so.
The short foreword for the book was written by Iain Abernethy, who is of course globally well-known for his work in the 'kata bunkai' field. It becomes clear from the start that Lee has taken great influence from Iain's approach since apart from a small number of alterations to suit his own style of kata, the vast majority of applications demonstrated within the pages are the same as those given in Iain's 'Pinan/Heian Kata: The Complete Fighting System' DVD’s. I know that Lee has trained with Iain in the past, having also been awarded an instructors certificate by him, so I would consider him more than suitably qualified to present his own take on these applications. In my view, he achieves this very well.
The book starts off with a concise introduction that talks about the basis of the Pinan/Heian forms, how they are constructed, sequenced and ordered. Lee also discusses the need to understand 'context' when practicing karate and his views on correct application for civilian self-protection.
The remainder of the book then looks at each of the five Pinan/Heian kata in turn, covering the solo choreography followed by a number of bunkai sequenced to match the kata movements. Intertwined between these are a selection of quotes from past masters that help to support the notion that the comprehensive study of kata has traditionally been the main focal point of karate training. Many of these quotes are by Kenwa Mabuni (the founder of Shito-Ryu karate), who was himself regarded to be a very knowledgeable master with respect to kata analysis and had extensive exposure to the training practices of both the Shuri and Naha lineages.
Click the icon below to read a sample chapter from this book...
In summary, this book is straight to the point, easy to follow, well written without ambiguity and clearly formatted. It provides a selection of practical applications for the Pinan/Heian kata series that combine together with progressive and integrated themes for the prime objective of physical self-protection. Since Lee's views are very similar to those of my own, it was an enjoyable read and I noticed numerous times that my head was uncontrollably nodding in agreement with many of the points discussed
All in all, I would certainly recommend this book to sit on the shelves of all pragmatically minded karate practitioners - preferably well read and dog eared!
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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.