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Book Review

Five Years One Kata:

Putting Kata Back Into The Heart Of Karate

By Bill Burger

Martial Arts Publishing Ltd
336 pages

Review by Joe Swift

I first heard of Mr. Bill Burger back in the mid-1990s, when I ran across his article entitled "The Bunkai Myth" on the internet. In the years since then, I have come to know him via e-mail, material and video exchanges, as well as hands-on experience through one of his old training partners and a mutual friend of ours who like myself was also living in Japan. I was very excited to learn that he was writing a book, and even more excited when it finally came to fruition.

The old stories of karate training in Okinawa often revolve around a student spending a number of years, usually three, learning his first kata. Of course, modern teachers very seldom take this approach for fear that it will drive potential students away, but nonetheless, the stories persist.

The question, however, remains: why would a teacher have a student spend so much time on one kata, the basic movements of which can often be learned in a matter of a few hours?

To answer this question, the author of this book embarked on a journey into the depths of his chosen kata, Gojushiho (a.k.a. Useishi).

Bill Burger spent 5 years delving into Gojushiho, and his study was not easy. Rather than taking the version he learned in Shotokan as the gospel truth, he went out of his way to perform a technical comparative study of all versions of the kata he could come across either in print or video form.

The end result was the fabulous publication entitled "Five Years One Kata," which not only takes the reader on the journey that Mr. Burger himself took, but also gives hints and methods for readers to take their own journey of equal proportions.

If readers are looking for a book that provide ideas on how to apply Gojushiho for self-defense situations, they will not be disappointed. But they will soon come to realize that this book is so much more than the average "bunkai book" on the market today. It will take them even deeper into the wonderful art of karate-do.

All in all, this book is not only well written but is also pleasently well organized. I recommend this book without reservation to the serious practitioner.


About The Reviewer:

Joe Swift, native of New York State (USA), has lived in Japan since 1994. He works as a translator/interpreter, and previously served as an assistant instructor at the Mushinkan Okinawa Karate Kobudo Dojo in Kanazawa. Swift now resides in Tokyo and will be opening a a branch of the Mushinkan Dojo (Okinawa Shoreiryu) in that city. A well know karate historian and researcher, Swift has published articles in the Dragon Times and other leading martial arts journals and on a variety of martial arts sites around the world. He is a Contributing Editor for FightingArts.com.


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