Shotokan Research Society International

Shotokan Research Society International


Reviews of Books and Videos

Opinons by the Editor, James R. Melton

In the last couple of months I have had the pleasure of finding and enjoying a new book and a new video. The video will be of interest to those who study history and kobudo, as they relate to Funakoshi’s art.

Taira Shinken made collecting and preserving the Okinawan weapons’ traditions at a time when interest in them was waning, and the old masters were dying. In addtion to learning them, he also made an effort to pass these along, so that the arts of kobudo would remain a living tradition. Taira Shinken was a student of G. Funakoshi, and teacher of kobudo for many well known Okinawan instructors.

Given this background, the title of the video, Taira Shinken, Father of Ryukyu Kobudo, is quite accurate. Without him, and those he taught, kobudo could well have become a lost art.

The video starts with a historical lecture, which will be of interest to those who want to know more about how Taira Shinken managed to save and pass along many of the Ryukyu weapons traditions which were in danger of being lost.

This video has as its centerpiece about fifteen minutes of films of Taira Shiken himself performing a variety of weapons kata: bo, sai, tonfa, primarily. The picture quality at times is not the best, but in my opinion, the historical value easily outweighs that consideration. The films are interesting not only from the viewpoint of seeing a historical figure in action, but of finding out what particular version of the kata Taira Shinken did toward the end of his life. The films were apparently done for his students who lived at a distance to use as a reference. In my dojo, we have already added his version of Chatanyara No Sai to our repertoire.

My only quibble with the video is that the kata performed by Taira Shinken are not named for us. So if you know the kata yourself, you may recognize several of them, but if you don’t already know the kata you are somewhat in the dark.

This video is available from Kansha Productions via Dragon Times & Tsunami Video.