Monday, March 3, 2014

Book review: 'Les Katas Supérieurs du Shotokan-Ryu' by Taiji Kase

I recently posted this review on ...

This is a big book - hardback, nicely produced, and thick at 350 pages. It's an expanded reprint of Sensei Kase's 1982 advanced kata volume.

Although a French publication, it also has much of the content reproduced in English as well (the sections: Characteristics of the Kase-Ha Shotokan-ryu Karate-do (by Pascal Lecourt); About Sensei Kase (by Sachiko Kase); Key points (to keep in mind when doing kata); Advice (for practising kata); Tempo (about timing in kata); Katas (an introduction on kata by Kase); Katas Heian Oyo and Tekki Oyo (introducing Kase's Oyo forms); and The Progression (what to expect after 5, 10, 15, 20, 30 and 40 years of training). Also in English and French are the short (single paragraph) introductions to each kata.

The descriptions of each move in each kata are in French only, with the technique's name in Japanese. These descriptions are very short so, on the one hand, you can probably translate the French with just a rudimentary understanding of the language, but on the other hand, there's not much supplementary information to the photos. For instance, the opening move of Empi: "Déplacer la jambe gauche, genou droit au sol, buste de profil. Gedan-barai / Kamae."

Each kata opens with a very nice full page photo of Kase doing a signature move from the kata, then a title page which includes the kanji for its name and a short introduction. The kata is shown step-by-step (by Kase himself), usually with nine main photos to a page - though many of the moves also have small side views - a nice feature, though they are very small. At the end of each kata there is a 'Détails des mouvements' - showing in a little more detail two or three of the kata's sequences. Next is a diagram of the direction each sequence in the kata takes - not the embusen exactly, but kind of. Each kata then ends with a couple of pages of applications (pretty basic, 'traditional karate' stuff, usually for just two, maybe three techniques) and finally the entire kata across two pages - smaller photos, but for easy reference while practising.

I've already touched on a couple of the book's less favourable aspects - the very brief text descriptions for each move, and the tiny side view photos. I would also say the photos are not super-quality - they're a little soft - but they are clear, with a nice simple background, slightly darker than Kase's karate gi so he stands out. I would only say that the softness means that on some occasions you cannot make out Kase's exact hand position, but overall it's good, and I'm being hyper-critical here. There is very little in the way of transitional positioning shown from move to move.

Although there is not a glossary at the back of the book, there is a section at the beginning ('Nomenclature - attitudes et postures') which explains many of the techniques - first stances, then techniques divided up by kata, each with the Japanese term (eg."ura tsuki") a brief description (in French, eg. "attaque avec l'arrière du poing") and an accompanying photo.

The kata included in this book are as follows: Kanku-dai, Bassai-dai, Empi, Hangetsu, Jion, Jite, Gankaku, Tekki nidan, Kanku-sho, Bassai-sho, Nijushiho, Ji'in, Tekki sandan, Chinte, Sochin, Meikyo, Gojushiho-dai, Gojushiho-sho, Unsu and Wankan. It does not include the Heians, or Tekki shodan. It does include Sensei Kase's own inventions - Heian Oyo and Tekki Oyo - long forms made up of moves from all the Heians and Tekkis. These are probably only of use if you study Kase-Ha Shotokan-Ryu, but they are interesting to see, nonetheless.

As with pretty much every kata book, this is great as a supplement to training with a sensei, but not so good to learn the kata in detail from scratch. It has bigger photos than Kanazawa's recent (2009) kata book (though that has better move-by-move descriptions) and it is a nice opportunity to have all the advanced Shotokan kata under one cover - including Wankan and Jiin, not included in Nakayama's Best Karate series (though Nakayama has more detail on transitional positions).

It's not the Shotokan kata book (for me that is Kanazawa's two volume 'Shotokan Karate International Kata' (1982)), but it is a very nice addition to the library and worth getting to have one of the Shotokan greats - sadly no longer with us - take you through the advanced kata. Kase is well known as being of slightly heavier physique, but he looks fantastic doing Shotokan, and videos of him testify to his speed and power in motion.

No comments:

Post a Comment