The Shotokan Karate Bible: Beginner to Black Belt


A comprehensive and authoritative guide to Shotokan karate.

Shotokan is the world's most widely practiced style of karate. Every year, thousands of young karate students are taught Shotokan in clubs and schools (dojos) across North America.

The Shotokan Karate Bible is a comprehensive illustrated guide suitable for all students of Shotokan karate, from beginners to those earning a black belt. The author outlines and explains the lessons for all...

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A comprehensive and authoritative guide to Shotokan karate.

Shotokan is the world's most widely practiced style of karate. Every year, thousands of young karate students are taught Shotokan in clubs and schools (dojos) across North America.

The Shotokan Karate Bible is a comprehensive illustrated guide suitable for all students of Shotokan karate, from beginners to those earning a black belt. The author outlines and explains the lessons for all 10 gradings. The book is organized by belt, and a syllabus lists the requirements for achieving each new level. Its pages are packed with more than 400 crisp color photographs detailing techniques and combinations, from beginning white belt, to sequencing (kata) and right up to sparring (kumite).

Each kata sequence is clearly illustrated, step-by-step, on a double-page spread.
The book includes all essential details that the karate student should know:

  • The history of Shotokan karate
  • Basic karate terms
  • The uniform (gi)
  • Dojo etiquette and bowing
  • Sparring safety tips
  • Tips on taking grading exams
  • Training and development.

The Shotokan Karate Bible is a brightly illustrated and clearly written guide that will benefit participants of Shotokan karate and be useful to instructors.

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Editorial Reviews

This guide takes the karate student from beginner (white belt) to advanced (black belt). In an introductory history, readers learn that there are different styles of karate, a Japanese martial art that uses punches, kicks, and blocks. Shotokan's founder was Gichin Funakoshi, called the "Father of Modern Karate" for successfully promoting it in the early twentieth century. Each chapter outlines a grading syllabus, listing the techniques and sparring that the student must master to earn a particular belt, followed by extensive step-by-step photographs illustrating the moves involved. A typical class, the uniform, and etiquette are described. For anyone determined to learn karate, this guide will be helpful, but it cannot take the place of an actual class with an instructor. One example is the kiai, or the martial shout. It is one thing to read a description but quite another to hear how it really sounds. Although the photographs are detailed, the fluidity of movement is lost and just not the same as if demonstrated in person. How long does one hold a block? When does one pull the arm back? A student with a stake in learning karate may be able to retain the meaning of the Japanese words. Others, like this reviewer, might have to constantly refer to the glossary. For those determined to learn with no means for lessons with a teacher/sensei, or to supplement a class, this book of fundamentals is comprehensive and worthy. Reviewer: Jane Van Wiemokly
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781554073221
  • Publisher: Firefly Books, Limited
  • Publication date: 9/14/2007
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 516,086
  • Product dimensions: 7.50 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Ashley P. Martin is a Shotokan black belt, instructor and grading examiner. He is a co-founder of Just Karate Ltd an organization that offers karate instruction in public schools and for private clients.

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Read an Excerpt

Excerpted from Chapter One: Introduction

Karate is a Japanese martial art based on techniques developed in Okinawa and China that focuses on selfdefense using punches, kicks and blocks. Despite this emphasis, other techniques, such as joint locks, throws and leg sweeps, are also included in the system. Karate is one of the few martial arts to contain such a wide range of techniques.

This book is aimed at the student of shotokan karate. There are many styles of karate, for example, goju-ryu, wado-ryu and shito-ryu, but ultimately each style of karate teaches the same principles, just with a different emphasis. A punch is still a punch, a kick is still a kick.

The Shotokan Karate Bible is intended to be a guide for the karate student, from beginner right through to expert, when you would be tested to receive the coveted black belt. Studying from a book is no substitute for a good teacher, but it can complement training with a qualified instructor.

Written in kanji, Japanese pictographs, the word karate is composed of two characters. The first, pronounced kara, means 'empty' and has Zen connotations. The second pictograph, pronounced te, means 'hand,' so karate can be translated as 'empty hand.'

The kara symbol is thought to have its origins in the Buddhist sunyata, the Sanskrit term for the ancient metaphysical concept of emptiness or nothingness. Gichin Funakoshi, the father of modern karate, wrote:

As a mirrors polished surface reflects whatever stands before it and a quiet valley carries even small sounds, so must the student of Karate-Do render their mind empty of selfishness and wickedness in an effort to react appropriately toward anything they might encounter. This is the meaning of the kara or 'empty' of Karate-Do.

Funakoshi is saying that you need to empty your mind in order to take the most appropriate action. He is implying that the appropriate action is the righteous and moral thing to do. However, many take it to mean the correct action to take in order to succeed in a fight. If you clutter your mind, you can't think clearly. Thus, an empty mind is needed to practice good karate.

This, however, is not the original meaning of karate. The original pictograph for kara was quite different. In Japanese, it was a homonym: that's to say, it was pronounced in the same way, but it had a different meaning. It meant Tang, which was a Chinese imperial dynasty at the zenith of Chinese civilization that had a huge cultural influence on its neighbors. Tang was synonymous with China, and the original karate pictographs meant 'Chinese hand.' In Okinawa, the same two pictographs were pronounced tode, and many in Okinawa referred to them simply as te, meaning hand.

This change from the old ideographs for karate to the new occurred at the beginning of the 20th century. Japan was very nationalistic at this time, and for many, the association of the old symbol with China was not acceptable. Some karate schools, particularly in Tokyo, began writing karate with hiragana, Japanese phonetic characters, as a way of avoiding the 'inappropriate' kanji with its Chinese connotation. Others had started writing 'empty hand' using the new symbol for kara. At a meeting of Okinawan karate masters in 1936, the new way of writing karate was officially accepted.

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Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Beginner's Guide
  3. Beginner to Orange Belt
  4. Orange to Red Belt
  5. Red to Yellow Belt
  6. Yellow to Green Belt
  7. Green to Purple Belt
  8. Purple to Purple and White Belt
  9. Purple and White Belt to Brown Belt
  10. Brown to Black Belt


  • Grading Syllabus
  • Shotokan Karate Kata


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