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Oldman's Bubishi

An Introduction to Bunkai from Karate's Kata

By Mark A. Cook

Reviewd by Christopher Caile

Now Available in the FightingArts Estore

I love this book. It is totally different from other books on kata or their applications -- this one specializing in the five pinan kata (heian in Japan, or pyong in Korean arts).  The book is written by Mark A. Cook, a Chung Do Kwan stylist (a Korean art similar to Taekwondo) and professional illustrator. If you are a Japanese, Okinawan karate practitioner or Korean stylist this book should interest you.

The Oldman's Bubishi has only three pages text -- a forward, acknowledgements and introductions. This book is visual rather than being filled with written theory, explanations or discussion.  Instead the book is laid out visually by Cook -- kata and their applications depicted through his cartoon, amusing and graphic drawings. But don't take this lightly. Not only are the kata simply shown, but their applications are wonderfully illustrated, both with humor and clarity. For me this is genius -- without words. Everything becomes obvious. Moreover, the book is not dependent on the language of the reader. Everyone can equally understand it. You may not agree with all Cook's applications, but surely you will find many that make you think about the applications you thought you knew. Many others you will agree with. And if you have never been a kata applications guy (or girl), or thought those you had been shown as applications were bogus at best, this book will open your eyes and give you a new appreciation of not only kata's street practicality, but also its complexity and versatility. You will gain new respect for pinan kata (heian or pyong) and no longer think of them as perhaps only a dysfunctional historical legacy passed on from the past.

In many ways this book is the complete opposite of most books on karate and kata. So often I find that the written part of these texts are detailed theoretically, but the applications are sparse, only punch and kick oriented, and what is eventually shown not street applicable. Too often I am left with a "huh, that won't work" comment to myself. 

But here Mark Cook lays it all out so simply. First he illustrates each kata, step by step. Then he illustrates each move in the same kata but against an attacking opponent. The techniques involve punching, blocking and kicking, but much more, including body control, take downs and jujutsu-like techniques. Seeing this you will probably say to yourself, "Oh, that's what that move is for. Now I understand it."

The title of the book is perfect. Cook, is in the prime of his life, yet depicts himself as "Oldman," a self-deprecating appraisal. But, at the same time the book is serious. Also profound. "Bubishi" is the name of a once secret and hand copied book passed on between many of the early masters of Okinawan karate. Like this the "Oldman Bubishi is similarly illustrated. It also shows self-defense kata applications as well as vital points.

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About The Reviewer:

Christopher Caile is the founder and Editor of

To find more articles of interest, search on one of these keywords:

kata, forms, pinan, heian, pyong, korean forms, karate forms, kata applications, self-defense

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