Recommended resource list

There are many good martial arts books and DVDs out there that are aimed at helping you improve your technical and background knowledge of Shotokan Karate. They also give you philosophical and historical insights that help to provide a good overall grounding in your martial arts study, that can’t always be covered during our weekly classes. In this list I am going to recommend the best books, DVDs, and resources that cover three main categories—technical reference for our style of Shotokan; the philosophy and history of martial arts; and general interest info on martial arts.

Technical Reference:


Karate Fighting Techniques: The Complete Kumite—Hirokazu Kanazawa

(This book covers all of the set partner work drills from beginner to black belt and beyond in Shotokan Karate—we cover all of this in class.)

Karate: The Complete Kata – Hirokazu Kanazawa

(This book includes 27 Shotokan kata currently practiced in the SKIF system. This book is essential for serious practitioners.)

Shotokan Karate Kata Vol. 1 & Vol. 2—Hirokazu Kanazawa

(These two books cover the 26 official Shotokan Karate Kata. An excellent reference.)

Black Belt Karate: The Intensive Course—Hirokazu Kanazawa

(An excellent book that puts forth a suggested home training plan for the first year of training with back up material to make it possible.)

Best Karate (Vol.1 ~ Vol.11) – Masatoshi Nakayama

(A ground-breaking series of technical books when they first came out, this series of books continue to be extremely insightful to all Shotokan practitioners.)

Dynamic Karate—Masatoshi Nakayama

(This book has an incredible amount of knowledge crammed into one textbook, it should be on the bookshelf of every serious practitioner.)

Karate-Do Kyohan—Gichin Funakoshi

(This is the Master Text by the founder of Shotokan Karate. Shotokan in its original form.)

Lessons with the Master: 279 Shotokan Karate Lessons with Master Hirokazu Kanazawa—Paul Walker

(Yes, this is a bit of shameless promotion of my own book about my time in Japan studying under Master Kanazawa. This book offers a blow-by-blow account of every lesson I attended and what I learned while I was there.)



Mastering Karate—Hirokazu Kanazawa

(A full DVD series that covers basic techniques, beginner and intermediate kata, and all kumite or partner work drills up to black belt. Our system of Karate.)


ONLINE RESOURCES (Our club website—There are many resources available already on our club website. Enjoy browsing through the different articles, videos and curriculum guides.) (Enter searches on Shotokan and just have fun following the different videos. Let me know what you find, it changes all the time!)


Martial Arts History and Philosophy:


The following books are all books that I have personally read and have learned something from.

Some of the books are classics in the literature world such as “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu and the “Tao Te Ching” by Lao Tzu. Other books are tailored towards our style of Shotokan such as the books by Gichin Funakoshi and Jose Fraguas.

Several of the books are focused on martial arts philosophy and etiquette such as “The Zen Way to the Martial Arts” by Taisen Deshimaru, “Spiritual Dimensions of the Martial Arts” by Michael Maliszewski and the books by Dave Lowry.

All in all there is a wealth of interesting and useful information contained within these books and the knowledge you will learn by reading some of them will definitely add to your overall Karate experience. Please enjoy!

The Twenty Guiding Principles of Karate—Gichin Funakoshi

Karate-Do: My Way of Life—Gichin Funakoshi

Shotokan Karate: A Precise History—Harry Cook

Bubishi: The Bible of Karate—Patrick McCarthy

Okinawan Karate—Mark Bishop

The Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do—Shoshin Nagamine

Tales of Okinawa’s Great Masters—Shoshin Nagamine

Karate Masters—Jose Fraguas

Shotokan Masters—Jose Fraguas

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Karate—Randall Hassell/Edmond Otis

The Martial Arts: Origins, Philosophy, Practice—Peter Lewis

Spiritual Dimensions of the Martial Arts—Michael Maliszewski

A Book of Five Rings—Miyamoto Musashi

The Zen Way to the Martial Arts—Taisen Deshimaru

The Art of War—Sun Tzu

Tao Te Ching—Lao Tzu

Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai—Yamamoto Tsunetomo

The Samurai Ethic and Modern Japan—Yukio Mishima

The Warrior Within—John Little

Moving Toward Stillness—Dave Lowry

Traditions—Dave Lowry

Sword and Brush—Dave Lowry


General Interest:


In the list above I have tried to offer some useful reading material that can help you understand the technical aspects of our art as well as some of the historical and philosophical insights that can be gained through the practice of Karate.

In this final section I try to provide a recommended list of some other books and resources that can help you to find some balance in your overall martial arts study and that will hopefully encourage you to also look outside of the art of Shotokan in order to help you understand Shotokan and the martial arts in general.

As always if you have any questions whatsoever about my reading lists or about Karate in general please don’t hesitate to contact me and share your thoughts and opinions.

The Karate Dojo—Peter Urban

The Weaponless Warriors—Richard Kim

The Classical Man—Richard Kim

The Art of Peace—Morihei Ueshiba

Budo Secrets: Teachings of the Martial Arts Masters—John Stevens

Tao of Jeet Kune Do—Bruce Lee

Striking Thoughts—Bruce Lee

The Way to Black Belt—Kane and Wilder

Ultimate Flexibility—Sang H. Kim

Essential Anatomy—Marc Tedeschi

Year of the Chicken—Rob Redmond

Detour on the Path—Brad Jones

The Art of Chi Kung—Wong Kiew Kit

The Art of Shaolin Kung Fu—Wong Kiew Kit

The Complete Book of Zen—Wong Kiew Kit

Karate Weapon of Self-defense Series—Fumio Demura (includes nunchaku, sai, bo, tonfa)


Be sure to check out the multitude of DVDs that are now available both in DVD format and in online format (for example on YouTube).

For DVD productions check out:

Rising Sun Productions—

Yamazato Productions—

Legend Productions—

You Tube— (Do a search on Hirokazu Kanazawa for all of the kata videos you need.)

The importance of basic training

 “Do I have to practice this again? I know how to do it already. Why can’t I learn the next punch and the next kata? Do I still have to do the things that WHITE BELTS do?!?” Have you ever felt agitated with your instructor for having you drill basics when you already “know” them? You’re not alone. “Basics again?” is a common question asked by karate students. In actual fact you could probably handle some of the more advanced techniques but slow down “grasshopper”, your sensei has much logic to the drilling of basics. After all, who doesn’t remember the classic scene in the movie The Karate Kid where Mr. Miyagi has Daniel-san “wax on and wax off” for hours on end to the point of frustration? Daniel-san is made to polish cars and paint fences until he can’t take any more. At this point Mr. Miyagi steps in and ‘enlightens’ Daniel-san as to the value of what the young apprentice has just been practicing. Suddenly Daniel-san understands the value of basic training and fundamentals!

Think about building a house. If we had all four walls already measured out and put together and we rested one wall against the other securing each in place we could make other people think that our house was secure. Until that first strong wind came! Suddenly the house is blown down and nothing is left. What do we do? We leave and move somewhere else and try to rebuild. This whole scenario is much like the Karate student who neglects basics and thinks they know it all. They stay with one club for a while and then they move on to another club.

So what should we have done with our house? First of all it is essential to lay the foundations. Then we build the walls, we add the roof, then we paint it, furnish it, make the outside look good and then live in it. Sometimes we live in our house before any of the inside and outside cosmetics are done!

In the same way our Karate practice must begin with basics. With basics we lay the foundations of our practice. By consistent practice and hard effort we add the roof so that we have a more sturdy structure for our house (our Karate). Then we paint the house and furnish it (we make our Karate look good). Then we make the outside of the house look good (we further polish our Karate and iron out the inevitable kinks).

And finally we live in our house and begin to appreciate its beauty and its value to our lives (now we are able to enjoy and apply our knowledge that we have gained through our training).

Hopefully we live in our house for a long time and we gradually feel more and more “at home” and more and more comfortable with our surroundings (now we are beginning to have a deeper understanding of Karate and its application to our lives). I hope that you live in your house for many years to come, or if you move, I hope that you appreciate the time and effort it takes to build a house. Building your Karate is just the same! It takes a lot of time and a lot of effort to make it strong!

Getting your child to practice at home

 So your child is enrolled in the martial arts, congratulations on taking a positive step for their overall growth and development. However you’ve noticed that karate practice is not as easy as it looks and you want to get your child to practice at home as well as in class. How do you do this without burning both you and your child out?

After all you work hard all day and you are probably paying good money for your child’s martial arts lessons so you naturally want your child to be successful. Here are three simple tips to get your child to practice at home.

1. Create a designated area for practice

Depending on the size of your house or apartment you should do your best to create an open space big enough to practice. There is absolutely no chance for success if there is no space in which to practice. The good news is that a practice area for karate does not have to be big. An area of 10ft by 10ft is plenty and you can even get away with less by being creative with your practice drills.

2. Agree on a set practice time each day

In order to successfully follow through on a chosen goal you need to consistently schedule a time to practice or study. If you do this then you give yourself every chance of reaching your goal. When structuring a practice schedule for your child you should set a fixed practice time each day that does not interfere with school homework or dinner plans. Another important point to be careful of is the length of the practice session. You can be sure of burning your child out if you make them practice for one hour each evening. I would recommend a practice session of no more than 20 minutes each day. You can do a lot in 20 minutes and with a well-structured training program, your child’s progress will almost be guaranteed.

3. Reward your child for fulfilling his or her end of the bargain

Positive praise and encouragement goes a long way to creating motivation in your child as they really want to please you. However a few tangible rewards wouldn’t hurt either. These rewards can be as simple as being able to watch their favorite TV show or play their favorite video game to being excused from house chores for the weekend if they complete a full week of self-study sessions. Or if you’re feeling really generous or pleased with them then a prize of a new book or toy can go a long way to motivating your child further. You know your child best and you know what motivates them most. If you can incorporate a rewards system into their training program then the chance of long term success should go up considerably.

With these three simple tips for motivating your child to practice at home, you should now have the basis for creating an effective self-study training program.

Training Tips

 The primary goal of any beginner or intermediate student of karate is usually to attain the coveted black belt. The black belt represents technical excellence, high ethical standards and the ability of a student to endure a strict and rigorous training regimen. To those “in the know,” people with black belts are seen as being more than just average practitioners. They are rightfully seen as being highly disciplined and skillful proponents of the art.

So what are the steps that any beginner can take now to ensure a successful path to black belt? This article lays out the top ten planning and training tips for becoming a black belt. If you read and follow these tips, you will significantly increase your chances of success in getting to the destination of “Black Belt” as a serious karate practitioner.

Tip #1: Define what the black belt means to you personally

There’s an expression that goes “if you don’t know where you’re going, you will probably end up somewhere else…” By defining what the black belt means, you now have specific reasons to become one. You must take full ownership of your chosen goal if you are to achieve it. Your instructor and fellow students will be more than happy to encourage you along the way but the responsibility of reaching your goal lies squarely on your shoulders.

Tip #2: Set a realistic time frame in which to reach your goal

It typically takes three to four years of regular training to attain the level of 1st degree black belt. If you say you are going to do it in one year then you are probably being overly ambitious. Likewise if you set a timetable of eight years to reach the goal, then you are probably not stretching yourself enough. Find out what the minimum time is and what the average time is, and set your goal somewhere in between the two.

Tip #3: Break your overall goal down into smaller content chunks

“A mile is a trial, but an inch is a cinch.” You can’t possibly learn everything that you need in order to become a black belt at once, so it is very important that you break down the overall syllabus and content into smaller bite-sized chunks. Fortunately this has been done for you already, as each belt level has specific required content. Get a copy of the grading syllabus and focus on what you need now instead of what you will need six months down the road.

Tip #4: Understand exactly what content you need to learn

You need to know exactly what is required of you at each level. Again, you should refer to the grading syllabus and any student resources that are available. Take note of what is taught in class and focus primarily on what is needed for your next belt and not just on what is fun. Knowing your required content is like having a detailed roadmap to your destination. If you know where you are going and you also have the directions of how to get there, then you are more likely to arrive at your chosen destination on schedule.

Tip #5: Get to know the black belts in your club and ask them how they were successful

“Hang around with the winners” is excellent advice. A black belt is somebody who has already achieved the goal that you are striving to reach. They obviously know what it takes to get to the destination otherwise they wouldn’t be wearing the black belt. Don’t be afraid to approach the black belts in your club and find out what it was like for them during their journey to black belt. They will more than likely have lots of great advice that will be very helpful and will also be more than happy to share their own personal success stories as well as the challenges they faced on the journey.

Tip #6: Go to class on a regular basis

“90% of success comes from ‘showing up.’” There are no short cuts. Consistent and persistent practice will lead to positive progress and growth. You must make your weekly karate classes a priority and a necessary discipline in your ultimate journey to becoming a black belt. Books and training videos can be great tools, but you cannot learn everything you need from a book or a DVD. You need a qualified instructor who can guide you along the way and who will give you appropriate feedback.

Tip #7: Practice at home

Repetition and practice are keys to success in anything you do, especially in karate. Going to class on a regular basis is essential, but practice at home is also highly recommended if you are to make it to black belt within your desired timeframe. Practicing at home allows you to work on the things that you know you need to practice more and also gives you a chance to digest the content that is given to you each week in class.

Tip #8: Read books on karate and your style and do some research on the Internet

There is nothing wrong with going out and buying a good book on your chosen art or style or buying DVDs that detail different training methods. Research on the Internet is also a good idea. Your instructor should not be your only resource when it comes to your karate. You need to take full responsibility for your success and nowadays there are so many great resources out there that don’t cost much and that offer very valuable tips and advice to improve your training. Take advantage of them as much as possible.

Tip #9: Find a training partner who shares the same goal and push each other to the next level.  There is nothing more motivating than a bit of friendly competition. Try to find someone in your club who is at a similar level and ability and team up with them through your common goal of becoming black belts. Together you will be able to push each other through the tough times, celebrate with each other on each successful step forward, and keep each other focused on the end result of your efforts.

Tip #10: Never give up on becoming a black belt

Karate success can be summed up in three words… “Begin and Continue.” If you are vigorously implementing the previous nine tips then tip #10 should be a no-brainer. However when the inevitable doubts as to whether or not you will be successful in reaching your goal rear their ugly heads, just remind yourself of one immutable truth. Giving up on your goal guarantees failure. Persistence, on the other hand, will lead you to your desired result. If you are steadfast in the value of reaching your goal then giving up will never be a viable option.

So these are the top ten tips for becoming a black belt. If you follow this advice and train hard then it is inevitable that you will attain the coveted black belt. There are no hidden secrets or special training methods just clear goals, consistent practice and hard work. And one more thing – enjoy your journey on your way to success and the black belt, because if it’s not fun and enjoyable to you, then none of the rest of this advice will fall into place.

Testing Tips

OK, so you’ve stuck with your karate training for a couple of months already. You enjoy learning all of the punches, kicks and blocks, you’ve learned your first form and you also know some basic partner work drills. It’s time to try for your next belt and for some reason it feels like a wave of fear has suddenly come over you that is threatening your future in the martial arts. You know you have to take a belt test (also called promotion test or grading) to get the next belt and you want to be successful but suddenly your previous fear of public speaking seems insignificant compared to the prospect of demonstrating your karate prowess in front of your instructor and fellow club members. Can you do it? Will you pass? How do you get past your fears and take the first step to success and progress up the belt ladder?

If this sounds like something you’ve been through before or something that you are experiencing now then keep reading.

The fear of taking a karate test is a real one but don’t make the mistake of blowing the test out of proportion. Remember this is just a test and whether you pass or fail, it does not have to be the beginning or end of your karate practice. Let me give you some simple tips for dealing with the pressure and anxiety of your first belt test.

Tip #1: Put things into perspective

If you look at your progression from white to black belt in karate as a journey, then your individual belt tests are simply checkpoints or layovers. These checkpoints give you a chance to see how far you’ve come, how far you still have to go and to allow yourself the chance to enjoy the fact that you’ve got this far. It’s really that simple. Don’t make your belt test more than it is. Nobody will ask you how you did on your yellow belt test once you are a black belt!

Tip #2: Find out what you will be tested on

This is crucial. You must know what you will be tested on. This again is like the old analogy of ‘if you don’t know where you’re going then how will you know how to get there?’ Knowing what the required content is for the next belt is like buying a map and planning your route from one destination to the next.

Tip #3: Start preparing for your test in advance

This should go without saying, but many people leave everything to the last minute when it comes to testing. Give yourself the best chance possible by writing your test date on your calendar, finding out the requirements of the test (see #2) and then practicing the things that you need to practice.

Tip #4: Get a good night’s sleep before your test and do something relaxing the day of your test

Again, this is a no-brainer and is the same advice given to any student studying for any test. Karate is no different. So get a good night’s sleep and then read a book, go for a walk, listen to some music, meditate. Do whatever it is that calms you down and helps you to focus your mind. If you know in advance that you will have to work all day or do something else that might be stressful on the day of your test then plan for that in advance and set aside 10 minutes after you finish work to sit quietly and regroup before you go home and put on your karate uniform. Even 10 minutes of calm is better than nothing when it comes to preparation.

Tip #5: Don’t take yourself too seriously

You are taking your yellow belt test (or your orange or your green…, or your black belt.) Whatever belt you are taking, I’m sure it means a lot to you and you want to pass. If you didn’t want to pass your belt then you would have no business taking the test in the first place. What’s more, your instructor usually will have recommended that you are ready for testing. This means that if you do your best and do what you do in class as usual with the extra intensity that comes with adrenaline, then you will more than likely pass your test. Don’t create any more unnecessary obstacles for yourself. You fulfilled the minimum time requirement, you know the material to be tested, you have prepared in advance, you got a good night’s sleep, and your instructor thinks you have the ability to pass. So don’t take yourself too seriously. Get your uniform on, tie your soon-to-be-old belt and get to your karate school!

Good luck on your belt test. Believe it and you will achieve it!