My rating: 5 of 5 stars
How does a punky, pugnacious kid with a prison record become a master martial artist, and live to tell about it? Michael Clarke, Kyoshi 8th dan, Okinawan Goju-ryu, and author, recounts his own journey of how this happened in his new, 256 page paperback, “Redemption: A Street Fighter’s Path to Peace.” It’s an adventurous work readable for young teenagers to veteran karateka. The redemption Clarke attained is echoed in his opening words; “An important life lesson my study of karate has taught me is this: you not only have to walk your own path through life, you have to build the path as you go” (xi). Redemption, for the author, was following bushido, taking life in hand with its defeats and disappointments, and getting back up with new resolve and renewed vigor; seven times down, eight times up (211).
Clarke’s autobiography begins in Dublin, moves to the streets of Manchester then to Strangeways Prison and Hindley Closed Borstal, steps into Mr. Vicker’s dojo, travels off to the Island of Jersey, spends valuable time with Higaonna sensei in Okinawa, and lands back in London. The majority of the narrative covers the journey of approximately 15 formative, fist-full years in the author’s life that have shaped the rest of his days. The story is gritty and gutsy, and sometimes green in its youthful naïveté, as the author moves through his hard-won education. Clarke’s tale is also a defense of how and why he moved away from the Japanese style of karate to the Okinawan Goju-ryo, voicing his criticisms along the way.
As with many autobiographies, the author is the hero of his own story. There’s a mixture of humility and hubris as he rehearses his recollections. But in the end, “Redemption” gives insight, not only into the author’s personal narrative, but the earlier history of karate in the West, and the differences in some of the martial art styles. If you’re looking for an eyewitness reminiscence of what karate looked like in the West during the 1970s and 1980s, as well as a personal journey through martial arts, this is the read for you. And if you’re wondering how the martial arts might be helpful for a troubled younger person, then “Redemption” should be one place to begin.
Thanks to YMAA Publications Center, Inc. for providing, upon my request, the free copy of “Redemption” used for this review. The assessments are mine given without restrictions or requirements (as per Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255).
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