Mario McKenna has announced the completion of one of his long-time projects, a translation of Nakasone Genwa’s 1938 “Karate-do Taikan” (An Overview of Karate-do). This is an encyclopedic book featuring kata and commentary by a who’s who of early 20th century karate adepts: Shinpan Shiroma, Chomo Hanashiro, Mabuni Kenwa, Ohtsuka Hironori and Taira Shinken. Getting to actually read the book and see the content in context is very exciting news; if you’ve read some of Patrick McCarthy or Nagamine Shoshin’s books, diagrams and pictures from “Taikan” are sprinkled liberally throughout. Most non-Japanese speakers have never seen a large amount of the diverse and fascinating material that Nakasone and his contemporaries published. The gap that this has left in the informational record is truly saddening, since myth, hearsay and plain omission have filled the large holes. The literary realm of karate extends far beyond Funakoshi’s books, or the wave of propaganda and marketing that engulfed Japanese karate.
My hat is off to Mr. McKenna for investing the time and effort to translate these books and place them within the reach of the modern student. And to clairify, access to such works is important in that it allows us to look into the past and see what karate was not, as opposed to providing more fuel for the frivolent claims about the “traditionality” of a group or practice that seem to be preoccupying much of the karate world right now.
I recently purchased Mr. McKenna’s translation of Mabuni Kenwa’s “Kobo Jizai Goshin Jutsu Karate Kenpo” as an e-book (a review will be posted here soon) and I am very impressed with his work. The translation of one of Mabuni’s books is in itself a valuable service, and the cost is extremely reasonable- a combination that is, unfortunately, often hard to find.