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Secrets of Karate Kata, Vol 1: The Tekki Series,|
by Elmar T. Schmeisser, PhD
Published by: Damashi Publications
800 First Capitol Drive, Suite 310,
St. Charles, Missouri 63301 USA
ISBN 0-911921-36-1 (v.1:pbk.)
Solid Reading Material
Don't Leave Home without it!
Dr. Schmeisser's Bunkai: Secrets of Karate Kata book is 123 pages long and except for the coverpage, is printed in black and white with very few typos (missed by the proof reader) and has supporting photos to explain the kata in a step-by-step fashion taking the reader from the beginning to the end of each kata with a detailed explaination of what's going on at each step of the kata. Enough white space has been put in around the photos to avoid the cramped, budget look which makes this easier to read and is subsequently good for the eyes. The photos used are also large and clear enough so that you don't have to second guess what the people in the photos are trying to show you. A big plus point. I also prefer actual photos to line drawings as used in some other books. Drawings don't cut it for me as I always end up grouching about how the artist could have drawn this or that better and distracts me from the text. What it lacks in graphic design, fancy colour fillers and glossy paper it makes up 100% in content. A quality that separates the men from the boys. Books that turn me off in an instant are those that have hundreds of "ego" photos, usually taken with personalities or celebrities that have no other value than to say, "Look at me". Ugh!
One interest point is that in addition to the actual kata bunkai the author also explains the breathing pattern and ties in salient aspects commonly found in other martial disciplines (aikido, jujitsu, judo, etc.). He cross references a particular technique found or interpreted in one kata from the commonly praticed arts into one big fighting method and shows how the boundaries between the different disciplines are actually very blurred when it comes down to the crunch of a fight. Again, the varied disciplines and training the author has invested shines through in this type of innovative research.
In case you haven't heard of Dr. Schmeisser, then you can find out more about him at his website (http://ejconsult.tripod.com/karate/shinkyu1.html). Dr. Schmeisser is a 6th Dan Shotokan Renshi (Master Teacher) of the International Society of Okinawan/Japanese Karatedo (http://www.isok.org) and certified as a Master Instructor by the American Teacher's Association of the Martial Arts (A.T.A.M.A.). [links edited by ES on 1 NOV 2010]
And onto the book proper. The front cover has a graphic depicting a Japanese garden with a well and a bamboo fountain in a monotone, in an almost dream-like grey or tan colouring. I guess this was the publisher's subtle way of telling the reader that indeed, this book is a valuable resource of sorts and for the time and effort required to dig that well would be the same for the author to research and present the information in the book. Subtle? Perhaps a little bit too much but it works and if I noticed it, I hope that you can spend a little thought on the choice of graphic for the cover. Will it catch your attention too or will it send you into dreamland in a state of Zen?
I actually delved head-first into the book, flipping through the pages sinfully like a kid in an ice-cream store picking out the chocolate chips from a bowl of rocky road. This is no time for manners but time to get greedy! The author primes the reader with a concise introduction, briefly explaining the modern and historical background of the Tekki kata series, the book's purpose and how to get the most out of the information presented. The author goes on to explain the different levels of kata analysis (bunkai) and explains his paradigm for this study and presentation. In all, I found his train of thought to be logical and compelling. After all, since there is no rightful owner who can legally (or otherwise) claim that the Tekki must be done this or that way, it is then subject to different interpretation. I picked though the pages and loved the juicy techniques the author presents that cause mortal damage to any would be assailant. Here Dr.Schmeisser does not hold back and tells it like it is. A punch is sometimes a punch and sometimes something else. He tells you the something else. And more. Much more than your typical karate class can or ever will (unless your teacher has a copy of this book too).
Without spoiling your fun and excitement in reading this text, the book has been carefully presented with clear photographs featuring the author and his assistants coupled with direct explainations of the defensive and counter-attack techniques and a concurrent photograph series of the solo performance of the kata to enable the (informed) reader the stages of each sequence of combination. You can see an except provided by the author in Vol. 1 Issue 2 of this Journal taken from this excellent text as a preview of sorts to whet your appetite. There is not much I can say other than this is one of the few karate texts really worth getting as it gives you the information which few other karate "how-to" books can. This book does what it claims to do and more. It comes from an author that you know has put in time and effort to dig out this well of information and has presented the deadly information with a calm, Zen-like precision. Drink from the well but don't fall into it!
Overall, I would give this book:
Don't Leave Home Without It
And this was an easy decision as I base it purely on the content of the book and not the decorative trappings. In (email) conversation with the author, I pointed out that he had omitted some key applications, and he replied that this book is primarily targeted for advanded black belts who have little or no training in the other arts or had much exposure to the methods of kata analysis or bunkai applications. This I agree. It is a great primer to get started on serious kata applications study and this is one of the few texts I will strongly recommend. Buy it, read it, study it as it will give your personal training a big boost. Even if you are not well versed in kata applications this book is one of those milestones that you come across once in a very long time. Best training and happy reading.
Vince Choo, 4th Dan, Bsc