Summary: Disappointment - expected more
Comment: Mr McCarthy has disappointment me in this volume. Perhaps its due to the fact that I have trained in these traditional weapons for many years and under a number of highly knowledgable and wise teachers [Motokatsu Enoue, and more recently under his son Kisho Enoue (Hanshi) as well as a number of others; Mr Okawa (Shihan), Mr Mead (Shihan), Mr Jardine (Shihan) and Mr Masaru Shingai (8 Dan) all of whom are a part of the Yuishinkai & RyuKyu Kobujutsu Association (Yuishinkai & Ryukyu Kobujutsu Hozon Shinko Kai)].
I think that it would be better to use Mr McCarthy's book as a reference and learn form the people who still practice the forms and kata the way it was done 50 or more years ago. Of course there will be changes in the form and details but then again people are larger and our diets have changed significantly over the last 1/2 century.
I was also concerned with some of his photos where his shoulders seem to be raised - this was always a criticism I received from Inoue Gansho and from Shingai San during my training under their guidance. I was told that it was a particularly Western problem and it needed to be 'practiced out'.
I was also concerned with some of his postures when holding a bo especially the jodan uke posture. Of course photos in a book are always a problem as one tends to have to pose for them and this in itself is not a natural state, in any case. I have done this and suggest that it is very difficult to get it right. One needs a number of experts to be editors to ensure that the photos reflect the right moment.
In the sai kata there are distinct differences in moves and interpretation, not to say that they are wrong but that there are many different ways of performing the move/s and the reason for this varies from kata to kata. Some, as in photo 96 are performed differently, and has been done as a soto uke followed by a wrist strike and then a jodan strike. These are alternatives which photos and books cannot explain as they are linear and sequential but which live teaching can.
However, I think that Mr McCarthy's research and efforts are certainly well intentioned and valuable and at no time should a reading of his work be devalued because of some minor errors. I will continue to refer to this book along with others he has written and find then useful to compare. I will use these as a reference to changes and interpretations of kata and applications. Also his historical notes and records are vital for those who do not speak and read Japanese and Chinese.
The quality of the book is fine but the lack of occasional diagrams to show orientations and movement leave some critical gaps especially when compared with previous volumes (Classical Kata of Okinawan Karate for example). I think that too much was put into this book which is a pity because previous book shave been excellent.
Summary: 1st book: Not just a translation! 2nd book: good reference!
Comment: About 1st book:
Taira Shinken is a well know name in Okinawan Kobudo. His "RyuKyu Kobudo Taikan" stands as a reference on Okinawan Kobudo technique not polluted by modern fashion which is almost always the result of plain ignorance and show-business.
Mr. McCarthy issued this english version of the old master work apparently for the benefit of non-japanese practitioners.
However there are some issues:
1 - He boldly replaced all the pictures of sensei Taira Shinken for pictures of himself and one of his pairs.
Some pictures, mainly the in kon-bo katas show some irregular handling of the weapon (with hands too close to each other) and some indefinite stances which can puzzle some inexperienced practicioners.
2 - He didn't respect the original material.
Every kata in Shinken Taira original work has been somewhat changed! Techniques were added, omited or replaced in all katas! An entire sequence is different in Shushi-no-Kon.
Old katas were made as a global repository of knowledge by old masters in a age of practical life-threatening fighting. The knowledge they contain is unique and irreplaceable. Modern fancy-athletic-acrobatic pseudo-kata cannot compare and never will!
These katas can have some school or local variations which should be respected and considered when looking for a "reference" form. Each new generation should try to respect the old forms keeping in mind that there is no way of reliably testing and improving them in life-threatening situations nowadays as they once were.
Works such as "Ryukyu Kobudo Taikan" should not be altered: they are a personal testimony of a great master and document uniquely an entire epoch and a long martial tradition.
I advise everyone interested seriously in Okinawan Kobudo to buy the recently re-issued japanese version of Taira Shinken work featuring the original (yes! They are still usable!) illustrations (along with Mr. McCarthy's "interpretation" if one doesn't read japanese) in order to get the correct knowledge.
About 2nd book:
The 2nd book of the series is a repository of reference historical documents about traditional Karate featuring precious info about old karate masters and the true spirit of Karate. It's mostly text-based with only 10 b/w pictures but has a lot of "juice" in it. It should find a prominent place in the library of the serious karateka.
Summary: Ok but not great
Comment: The photographs are done well but at some points not taken at the right time. Slightly hard to follow. I sugest getting Fumio Demuras's books and learn from them. then get this book to try to learn kata from it. Also a video of the kata would not hurt.
Summary: Karate Weapons
Comment: Ancient Okinawan Martial Arts: Koryu Uchinadi; volume one and volume two, ISBN 0-8048-3147-5, work well separately but best when taken together. I will review volume one here separately from volume two so that one might make a better decision when it comes to purchasing.
This volume deals with Kobudo (or the art of Karate weapons), widely considered an advanced topic in Karate-do. As such I would not recommend it to the novice Karate-ka. But I would definitely recommend it to those who wish to get a better grasp of Karate-do-- especially an Okinawan variety, to those looking to a different perspective on Kata, and to those studying Isshin-ryu Karate-do.
For those looking for a different perspective on Kata this volume is for you since it illustrates techniques solely through Kata. Six weapons Kata are described here which is not bad considering that most book an Karate rarely even describe one Kata. As for those studying Isshin-ryu Karate-do, you'll be interested in this book since it features a text written by O'Sensei Shimabuku's teacher Taira Shinken.
This book contains six Kata, as mentioned: three for the Bo and one for Sai, Tuifa (or Tonfa), and Nunchaku each as well as instructions on how to make a Bo. For those looking for an introduction to weapons this is an excellent book. If what you want is Okinawan Karate-do technique none surpasses The Essence of Okinawan Karate-do by Shoshin Nagamine, ISBN 0-8048-2110-0 which compliments this book. If what you are interested in is more specifically the history of Okinawan Karate-do and Kobudo get volume two along with Patrick McCarthy's Bubishi: the Bible of Karate, ISBN 0-8048-2015-5.
Summary: Ancient but Not Irrelevant
Comment: Ancient Okinawan Martial Arts: Koryu Uchinadi; volume one, ISBN 0-8048-2093-7, and volume two, work well separately but best when taken together. I will review volume two here separately from volume one so that one might make a better decision when it comes to purchasing.
For both the novice and advanced Karate-ka this volume will prove to be an indispensable reference. It contains a brief outline of Karate-do master Kenwa Mabuni's life, details on the influence of Southern Chinese fighting systems (particularly White Crane and Monk Fist styles and their use of Qin Na), and the process which led to the transformation of Karate into a system of Bodo. Of special note in reference to this is the minutes of a meeting featuring Karate-do notables which is reproduced in this volume.
For those practicing Goju-ryu Karate-do take special note of this volume for the text "An Outline of Karate-do" by O'Sensei Chojun Miyagi is contained in full in this volume. Those practicing Kyokushinkai and Isshin-ryu will also find this text of interest. Those in Shotokan-ryu will be surprised to read of the controversy that arose between O'Sensei Funakoshi and controversial Choki Motobu.
If what you want is Okinawan Karate-do technique none surpasses The Essence of Okinawan Karate-do by Shoshin Nagamine, ISBN 0-8048-2110-0 which compliments volume one. If what you are interested in is more specifically the history of Okinawan Karate-do and Kobudo get this book along with Patrick McCarthy's Bubishi: the Bible of Karate, ISBN 0-8048-2015-5.