Five Years One Kata:
Putting Kata Back Into The Heart
By Bill Burger
Martial Arts Publishing Ltd
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
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
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.