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What Is Karate? Hardcover – January, 1966
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The book is filled with pictures, a few in color, added just for their beauty. Some pictures are of the author with various people that I guess were famous back then. However, there are plenty of pictures illustrating techniques and forms.
Oyama says that if you can master the 4 forms he gives in the book, you can consider yourself a "first grader" of Karate. Of course, if you get into Karate you will want to join a dojo and use the kata they teach. At the time Oyama was writing, however, there would have been few dojos for westerners. Also, if for some reason you aren't ready to join a dojo or don't have the money, I don't suppose it would hurt you any to practice these on your own.
There is a short section on training. Clearly, Oyama values repetition in training. He says he benchpressing 175 lbs. 300 times a day, and in his other training advice he recommends doing various exercises hundreds of times per day. If you followed his general training recommendations minus the karate-specific stuff, you would certainly be in good physical condition, but this would also be a time-consuming workout.
I don't know if there is something magical about the number 300, but he also says that to master a form will take practicing it at least 300 times.
Unfortunately, he writes many more words about himself than he does in describing the karate techniques, but as they say "a picture says a thousand words".
Of course, the autobiographical sections are interesting too. The author is not shy about showing off his abilities as others have noted. Of course, he is also humble enough to say that when ye was a youth he was not particularly strong and says that anyone who masters Karate can perform similar feats.
With statements like that, it is no wonder that his book made such a hit when it became available at a time when Karate was still relatively unknown in the west. I can imagine dreamy westerners thinking that they too would soon be smashing stones with their bare hands.
I have to admit that I was a bit turned off by the pictures of his bull-fighting. It is one thing to show off by breaking boards and rocks, but picking on innocent dumb animals seems cruel. Those were different times though.
Anyway, his Karate is not all showing off. There are practical sections on self-defense that include picture sequences demonstrating defense against attackers with knife and pistol.
This is definitely a classic that leaves one wanting more.
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