This is the first public look at a project I have been working on for a long time. I’m excited to share it with you, and I hope you’ll join me as this book draws closer to completion over the next few months. Read on to find out what the project is and what I have in store for readers who help me spread the word!
What is “Tales From the Western Generation”?
Long time readers of this blog will know that I’ve collected a number of interviews over the years with impactful instructors of various martial arts. My goal has always been to highlight individuals who have distinguished themselves through skill, effort, contribution to the arts. I wanted to showcase men and women worthy of emulation and whom future generations may need to know more about as they pursue martial arts in their own time.
If you’re a martial arts enthusiast, you’ve probably thought to yourself how wonderful it would be to have more a complete record of the life and times of the masters who have gone before us. In the karate world, we would all summarily have benefited from a treatise by Matsumura Sokon, or Kyan Chotoku, or Gokenki the tea merchant. To have their thoughts and beliefs down on paper…what a difference that could make! I realized one day while digging around in old texts that history was going on all around me and it was fading away, unrecorded.
It can be difficult to see history as it’s being made, but we live in a time where Karate outside of Okinawa is a very new development. Some of the first individuals who traveled to Okinawa and Japan, studied with the great masters, and brought it back are still with us or just recently passed. There is a rare and finite window for us to record the thoughts and experiences of these great men and women who studied directly with masters like Soken Hohan, Shimabukuro Zenryo, and Shimabukuro Tatsuo. We can learn from their trials and difficulties as they attempted to meld Eastern and Western cultures in order to start schools and organizations of their own.
That is the goal of “Tales From the Western Generation”. To gain a small sense of what it was like and what was learned from the masters, so that we can quell myths, understand philosophies, and grow from the efforts of the past.
Over 30 Interviews with Karate Pioneers
Many people don’t realize just how young karate is outside of Okinawa. With taekwondo and karate schools in every corner strip mall in America it would be easy to assume that these arts have been growing in the West for 100 years or more. It’s astounding to think that in 1940 there wasn’t a single known karate program in the entire country. In the 1950s the word “karate” was barely known and the art could only be found on a handful of military bases and small schools. The earliest American pioneers of karate are barely removed from us, most passing away just before the turn of the century. However, the first true generation that spent significant time in the East, opening doors and getting to know the great eastern masters in earnest, are the ones who share their stories in this book.
“Tales From the Western Generation” grants us access into the stories of over 30 men and women who have dedicated their lives to the study and propagation of karate. They span most of the major styles (Goju Ryu, Isshin Ryu, Shotokan, Matsumura Seito, etc.) and span a wide variety of backgrounds. They overcame difficulties of war, racial prejudice, extreme poverty, and more, and as a result have acquired reputations worthy of preservation.
Intertwining Worlds – Illuminating Our Place in Karate’s Grand Story
We live in a compartmentalized world, especially when it comes to martial arts. Karate styles expend a lot of energy explaining why they are superior, more realistic, and more legitimate than other karate styles. Feuding karateka may be surprised to learn that karate practitioners of the past worked carefully and quietly together to enhance one another’s life protection capabilities. It made sense – the goal of karate was not to win trophies or beat other karateka in duels, but to protect villages and families from grave danger.
The earliest Westerner karateka in Okinawa saw this martial sharing first-hand, and were exposed to a variety of instructors themselves. Of course, as karate gained worldwide growth and prestige it also suffered from greed, jealousy, pride, and pettiness. Hence the eventual posturing and fracturing, leading us to where we are today.
The history and interview content featured in this book can help us understand what karate used to look like, what happened to it as it spread across the globe, and what pitfalls we need to be aware of as we cultivate karate’s growth.
Many of the interview guests provide insights into teachers from multiple styles, and even discuss how they crossed paths with other interview guests. The result is an intertwined experienced, demonstrating that the karate world was not so big, once-upon-a-time.
Ask the Experts, Win a Free Copy, and More!
There are a lot of interesting events planned as we get closer and closer to publication. I’ll be rewarding loyal readers with giveaways, free copies of the book, and access to unique information. To stay updated, sign up for the mailing list below. This is a private mailing group and will only send out occasional messages about “Tales From the Western Generation”.
That’s all for now, but stay tuned. I intend to tell you a lot more about this project and hopefully gain your support in helping spread the word. I think this book could be a serious tool for education, both in terms of understanding history and helping guide us into the future.
Let’s agree on one thing right away – Christmas is way too over-commercialized. I don’t watch a ton of TV, but every time I turn it on from October through December I am subjected to generic versions of Santa giving away cars, toys, jewelry…you name it. If I have to see one more teary eyed engagement ring commercial (Ohh my god! Yes! This proposal is so surprising and spontaneous!) I’m going to cut my TV in half with a single clean katana stroke.
Despite our persistent cultural momentum of ruining things that are nice, the actual spirit of gift-giving remains pure. Showing thoughtfulness and insight in a gift remains just as valuable as monetary cost, despite marketing efforts to prick our egos into believing otherwise.
It’s with that spirit in mind that I would like to present some martial arts gift ideas for this holiday season. Books on Bruce lee and famous quotes from Chinese philosophers are too easy and obvious. I want to go a little deeper and provide some unique options that the martial artist in your life may have never considered (or even heard of). These gifts come from a variety of resources and websites that I have worked with both presently and in the past.
Enjoy, and happy holidays to you and yours!
Cool Martial Art Book Gifts
|_||Okinawa No Bushi No Te– Ronald Lindsey||_||This book represents decades of study and research by Ronald Lindsey Sensei, a senior practitioner of Matsumura Seito Karatedo. In addition to deeper historical studies on karate, Lindsey Sensei provides unique insight into the world of White Crane and how it relates to karate. He also explores theories on fighting strategy and tactics gleaned from the teachers of karate before the intregration of sport and school system alterations.|
|Tai Chi Chin Na– Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming||For individuals looking for step-by-step technique advice, this book by noted expert Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming is for you. Tai Chi Chin Na takes aspects of the popular and restorative art of Tai Chi and explores some of the grappling and off-balancing nuances of it. If you’re interested in the grappling aspects of softer Chinese arts – here you go.|
|Research of Martial Arts– Jonathan Bluestein||This book is rich with information. I haven’t personally made it all the way through yet. I include it on this list though because I think it is a good all-around gift for someone who isn’t a style-specific practitioner. There are plenty of short “wisdom tidbits” as well as deep research to keep most martial artists happy.|
|The Art of the Japanese Sword– Kapp / Yoshihara||I wanted to include this book because it is beautiful in its own right. This is definitely a coffee table book, filled with beautiful images and skillful layout that will impress anyone leafing through it. Besides the aesthetics, it has deep and valuable information on the construction and appreciation of the Japanese Katana.|
Cool Martial Art DVD Gifts
|_||Meridian Qigong– Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming||_||I’m really happy to include this item on the list because it is healing in nature. We spend a lot of time on destruction in the martial arts but we sometimes neglect how to repair others and ourselves. This DVD includes a routine of yoga stretches, qigong movements, and acupressure technique to create a daily restorative and healing practice. The best part is most of is done sitting or lying down!|
|Facing Violence– Rory Miller||Rory Miller is my go-to thought leader for modern violence and the law. I consider his books and DVDs complimentary to one another, although I really like hearing him speak and explain things in his videos. He has a way of outlining complex theories on violence in a retainable way, which is key for potentially high stress situations.|
Cool Gear and Mementos
|_||Hanko Signature Seals||_||I’m tempted to get one of these for myself. These are personalized Hanko stamp seals that can be used on certificates, letters, promotion certifications, etc.|
|Stocking Stuffers||This is a catch-all if you need a bunch of little martial arts items to give to kids on your classes or as giveaways at a party. Neat little trinkets!|
|Spiral Kubotan||A fantastic and cost-effective gift. This is a small self defense implement that packs a mean punch. Avoid getting on airplanes with it, but otherwise have it on your keys where you go.|
|Dit Da Jow||If you or someone you know has an interest in body toughening as part of martial arts training, Dit Da Jow has to become a staple of that training. Good Jow can not only speed recovery from impacts and injuries, it can also help ease problems like arhtritis. Plum Dragon Herbs is where I go for my Jow, but more importantly I know a few people who are way smarter than me that use Plum Dragon too. Check out the links to the left for their special buy 2 get 1 one free offer.|
I hope these ideas have helped in your Christmas shopping. If you have any great gift ideas that might help other readers, be sure to include them in the comments below!