Mike Polioudakis

2014 01 28


I did not read a book about martial arts until recently. After about 2010, I began to consult the "Best Karate" series about Shotokan karate to make sure of my kata (stylized practice forms) and to learn new kata. That series is excellent. I got curious, so I read other books about karate and Tai Chi, and books about other martial arts. Mostly the books confirmed what I already knew. Recent years have seen a large-scale re-invention of kata and applications ("bunkai") in karate, and I think most of this new stuff is correct and useful. A few simple books about Tai Chi could be used with a beginning class, but really are not necessary, and might be confusing. I do not recommend trying to first learn any martial art or any sport from a book. Use them only after you have learned a lot from a teacher.

Best Karate” series. You can find it by searching “Best Karate” on the Internet.

Redmond, Bob. 2006. The Kata Book. Available as a free PDF download on the Internet. This book is about Shotokan karate kata but contains an outstanding long introduction that applies to all martial arts. You can get a good idea of what rigorous practice entails. The book refers to Internet sites where you can see kata performed well.

Any book by Dr. Elmar Schmeisser.

The books and material from Ian Abernethy are all useful. Abernethy now has an Internet site. You can get some material from the site for free but some you have to pay for. I have not.

Cook, Harry. 2001. Shotokan Karate: A Precise History. No publisher available.

Dr. Jwing Ming teaches the various Chinese arts, in particular the internal arts of Tai Chi, Hsing I, and Pa Kua, and Chinese grappling styles. All his books have useful introductions.

Bruce Kumar Frantzis practiced karate long before it was popular. He lived in Asia for decades while he learned internal martial arts, including especially Ba Gua (Pakua) and Tai Chi. His “The Power of Internal Martial Arts” is a good introduction and fun to read.

Many Groups, Websites.

In the 1970s, probably there were not more than a dozen good Tai Chi groups in the US. Now there are hundreds of groups. I don't know how good they are. You can see many websites for groups and teachers. I can't guide you about this.

If you search the Web using the names of the Tai Chi moves (for example, "chop with fist" or "fair maiden at shuttles"), you will get dozens of "hits". Most of it is bad. Some are funny, some are actually useful. Most come from some school led by a particular teacher. I have not heard of any of the teachers but that does not mean anything. One good collective group-and-site originates in Bath, England. You can find them by searching "Bath Tai Chi" or similar. Their applications are at least possible. Another interesting site mixes Tai Chi and Japanese Aikido (a Japanese art something like Jiujitsu). It is not a distinct style (yet) but it has a distinctive name for itself: "aikitaiji" or something similar. Many of the Internet "hits" are videos, which I enjoy watching briefly even when they are somewhat odd.

Many websites teach and-or show karate. I cannot comment on them in general. Don’t take these websites to be the last word. Consult a teacher first, then work out the moves and ideas for yourself.