“Bubishi: The Classic Manual Of Combat” Book Review

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Referred to as the “bible of karate” or “Karate’s most sacred treasure” by those in the know, the Bubishi was a secret text passed from master to student in China and eventually in Japan for hundreds of years. Thanks to Tuttle Publishing and their latest book, “Bubishi: The Classic Manual Of Combat”, that knowledge can continued to be passed down for new generations, and for the first time in English thanks to the meticulous research of Patrick McCarthy.

The Bubishi is a series of texts on philosophy, strategy, medicine, and technique as they relate to the world of the martial arts. McCarthy, who is also the Director for the International Ryukyu Karate Research Society and a man married to his combat sport of choice, devoted over a decade to researching and studying this classic manual to create a definitive edition for English-speaking audiences.

A 9th Dan in Karate, McCarthy’s translation of the tome that is the Bubishi is a story unto itself. Finding a home for the book was a journey unto itself, and now in 2016, this modern version represents the updates and additional information that McCarthy has uncovered since the first version of this came out in 1990.

The Bubishi is a trip to the past, a history lesson on the foundations and roots of Asian martial arts, that goes into detail about tactics, philosophy, herbal and medicinal remedies, and a lesson on the past of Karate. Through illustrations as well as the text, McCarthy gives a new life to these old words, and brings contemporary relevance to these teachings. To ensure that readers can catch on and understand what the book is about, the author fills us in on the history of Asian martial arts, the background behind the creation of the original Bubishi and its changes since then, and how this Chinese text traveled from China to Japan to affect Karate.

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Once you get into the meat of book itself after nearly 200 pages of backstory, you will learn about meridians, Chinese herbal remedies and medicines, vital point strikes, and much more classical techniques still taught in many traditional martial arts.

For fans of this site who are strictly MMA, this is not the book for you in any way whatsoever, unless you have a deep interest in TMA or a background in them, or are just a history lover of fighting. If you are, or a practitioner of Karate or other Asian martial arts, you will like it for the same reasons I did. Not so much as a manual with practical applications, but for the historical content that interested me much more. Seeing the evolution of martial arts and understanding how they moved from one part of the world to another is fascinating, moreso than learning a pressure point strike.

For the research that went into building this from beyond the Bubishi and turning it into a museum of historical knowledge, that feat alone is worth investing your time in reading this. In our age of internet, we get lost in the speed and ease of obtaining information. Centuries ago, learning something like the Bubishi was not easy. It was a coveted piece of data that one had to really seek out, and that is what grabbed me the most about McCarthy’s book more than anything else. It is a throwback not just in the techniques, but in the fact-finding mission that he went on, and how McCarthy is guaranteeing that future generations will have this accessible, more than any generation has had in the past.

“Bubishi: The Classic Manual Of Combat” is a completely fascinating book to check out for the historical content if you are a history lover of Asian martial arts. It is a must-own if you are neck deep in your Karate, Kung Fu, or Taekwondo education, and you will give you a deeper appreciation of the roots of where whatever martial art you do know came from.



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