My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Class after class instructors direct you to punch this way, kick that way, stand like this, and block over here. Sometimes there are explanations on the physical dynamics and how energy is developed and delivered; but those explanations, in my experience, are rare. The lack of guidance on body mechanics in much of martial arts teaching can be remedied by the new 240 paperback "Karate Science: Dynamic Movement" produced by Dr. J.D. Swanson, Associate professor in the Department of Biology and Biomedical Sciences at Salve Regina University, Newport, RI, and fifth dan with the International Shotokan Karate Federation. This fine manual has in mind both the newest and the more seasoned karateka, and is helpfully enhanced by the artful illustrations of Sam Nigro.
In a nutshell "Karate Science" is the application of Swanson's scientific background in physiology and kinesiology to the four martial arts fundamentals of "posture, structural alignment, body mechanics, and practical functionality" (12). The author covers hitting surfaces, stances, thrusting, kicking, striking, blocking and breaking balance. He also spends considerable time explaining how joints and muscles work, maintaining balance, and ways to hit with force and power. Finally, he ties his subject down with instruction on the hip vibration, using body shift and rotation to generate power, breathing and how to manipulate reaction force.
The material in the book is fairly scientific in giving the whys and wherefores, but it is simple enough that is doesn't lose the non-technical reader. Since the author is trained in Shotokan, the nomenclature of techniques derives from that tradition, but there is enough information that those from a different martial art stream will still be able to comfortably track with the author. The margin space in the book is plentiful enough that a reader can make notes on the pages for later recall and reference. The one item that would strengthen the book is if there were more directional illustrations showing the precise technique being described.
All told, "Karate Science" is a manageable read for anyone who has taken up one of the martial arts. If the reader will take pen-in-hand, mark it and scratch out notes on the page edges, they will have a valuable, usable resource that they can profitably return to for years to come. The cash spent on obtaining a copy will be easily repaid in the help gained. I highly recommend this volume!
Thanks to YMAA for providing, upon my request, the free copy of “Karate Science” 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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