Book Reviews: The Essential Karate Book and Karate: The Art of the "Empty Hand" Fighting

            As Baby Boomers that plan on embarking on martial arts, research is prudent in making that all too important choice of whether to train or not train.  Since you are reading this blog, we can thank the wonders of the Internet and technology for immediate access, especially those who remember the frequent trips to the library, book mobile and book store. 
            As a martial artist, I recalled how difficult it was to access quality references.  What takes minutes now took days, weeks and sometimes months to meet research demands.  Those of us in the 1960’s and 1970’s can attest, martial arts books were few and far between, difficult to find and hard to access.
            Recently I was asked by Tuttle Publishing ( to read several of their books and write reviews.  The two books were:  The Essential Karate Book by Graeme Lund and Karate: The Art of the “Empty-Hand” Fighting by Hidetaka Nishiyama and Richard Brown.  After years of training and research, I’ve previously had the pleasure of reading these books.  Both are exceptionally published and provide beautiful representations to the art of karate-do.
            Years before the Internet, I cherished these books and found them not only pertinent to today’s teaching but for what they represent in culture and history.  With that said these books are remarkable references.  For those who have taken traditionally based Japanese martial arts, a big part of training requires the student to learn what goes beyond self-defense.  Studies without the right mindset reduces the process to physical exercise.  At Cal Poly when I took Shoriji-Ryu, the instructor then said “karate is a way of life.  If you want to protect yourself, buy a gun.”  Not to dismiss or reduce the aspect of self-defense, Japanese martial arts rich in culture contain a great deal more than blocks, strikes, and yelling in white cotton robes and colored belts.
            The Essential Karate Book.  He had an opportunity to take karate from two different schools:  Goju and Shotokan and wanted to see which fit best with him.  There is also a DVD that I did not review since I’m sure it provided additional information useful to the reader.
Mr. Lund’s book is one of the few books I would consider complete in providing an overall and detailed aspect of traditional Japanese karate.  It’s well outlined with pictures (too many to count), and descriptions of each of the categories that includes techniques and mannerism, and differences between the major styles.  A gentleman who trained many years in Aikido (grappling martial arts) had asked me to explain the differences between the many karate systems in Japan, and I made it simple.  I lent him the copy of the book.
            On Kancho Nishiyama’s book, this is a classic and focuses on Shotokan Karate.  Originally published in 1960, this is one book I searched far during my beginning years in training.  There were only a handful of such books at the time and this was one of them.  When I got the book, I held back reviewing it in fear of damaging the pages, that’s how important this book is.  Yes, it has many pictures (all black and white) that can benefit the karate-ka.  From my perspective, it's a collector’s item, and should be treated so.
            These two books were published by Tuttle Publishing a Member of the Periplus Publishing Group located in North Clarendon, Vermont.  It specializes in Martial Arts, Asian Culture and Literature, Food and Drink, Children, Origami and Crafts, Art Design, Language, History Culture and Business.
          As you can see, it covers a niche market and from what I’ve experienced provides quality products that opens up many wonderful opportunities of learning that can be enjoyed by many and years to come.
            To learn more about the two books (I reviewed) and Tuttle Publishing, please contact


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