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[Review - Book] Karate Do: My Way of Life - Gichin Funakoshi

Review by Bob Hubbard
Title: Karate Do: My Way of Life
Author: Gichin Funakoshi
Publisher & Date: Kodansha International; ; (August 1981)
Type: Paperback
ISBN: 0870114638
Price: $9.00

Was this book useful? Yes
Would you buy it again? Yes
Would you buy more books from this author? Yes
Did you need previous experience? No

This is the autobiography of one of Karate’s greatest masters. In here you will find no kata or techniques, but instead a wonderful and energizing walk through the life of the father of modern Karate-do. This is a book that will show you the true spirit inherit in Karate-do, and all martial arts. The book is a simple read, without complex jargon to confuse the non-karateka. Where Japanese terms are used, the English translation is right there. This book is full of delightful anecdotes about the master's life, and although they are a good nonfiction story at face value, if one looks deeper, he can find philosophical value in each story. Do not think that because this book is less than 150 pages that it is light reading; on the contrary, it contains very deep philosophies about karate and even life in general.

Those who are not familiar with the customs of the Japanese, and more specifically the pre-second world war culture may be confused at times by certain mannerisms and ideals that Master Funakoshi has. At one point he recounts a story where he didn’t follow his own rules. Shortly after the end of the war he was walking alone and was attacked by a young man. He used his skills to block the attack and capture his assailant by taking a “firm grasp of his testicles”. He then turned him over to a passing policeman. Master Funakoshi then writes “I, also on the spur of the moment, had done what I constantly tell my young trainees never to do: I had taken the offensive. I did not feel very proud of myself.” We today may not understand why he felt that way, but the answer is there in the books. Master Funakoshi was a gentleman from a different time, the son of a Samurai, who even though not rich or powerful, still followed old traditions.

This book is full of similar tales. Stories of his own secret training by Masters Azato and Itosu, and his demonstration in front of the Emperor. There is also a wealth of knowledge on what he saw Karate as, and what he saw it as not. There are very few dates in this book by which to follow along. You are often wondering just how long was there between event a and b. In most books, this would be a problem, but here, it is easy to lose yourself in an afternoon or evening of reading. I’ve read this book three times now, and each time through it I find something new about this interesting man, who was a driving force to introducing the world to that Okinawan art known as Karate-do.

This book was a pleasure to read, and will be read often I expect. A must have for the true student of the arts.


Bob Hubbard is an administrator of the popular martial arts sites and He is president of SilverStar WebDesigns inc., a web site design and hosting company specializing in affordable solutions for martial artists. A student of all the arts, he is currently studying Modern Arnis. Bob can be reached at More of Bob's articles can be found at Please contact Bob if you would like him to review your martial arts product.

Originally Printed August 2003 MartialTalk Magazine

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