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Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture
Karate Science: Dynamic Movement

My Review:

Karate has acquired a whole host of myths and misunderstandings over the decades. We have historical myths; such as the idea karate was the art of the Okinawan resistance used to fight the invading Samurai overlords. We have philosophical myths; such as the alleged links to Zen Buddhism. We have practical myths; such as the idea that kata is a mock fight against eight imaginary opponents who are also trained in karate. And we have technical myths relating to things like the role of stances, hip movement, kime, power generation, etc. It is that last set of myths that this book focuses on. By washing the “mythological mud” off karate, we return karate to its most functional and most pristine state.

This book does a great job of using biology and biomechanics to explain, in an easy to follow way, why karate motions are as they are, and what can be done to improve individual performance of them. There’s no confusing pseudoscience here. No attempt to misuse scientific terms to hide lack of knowledge or justify impractical practises. What we have is solid science made very accessible through good wring and good illustrations. While the author is a highly-qualified academic, you don’t need to be in order to understand what is presented.

Reading this book will improve your understanding of karate movements and principles of movement; which will in turn help to improve your teaching as well as the function and even the aesthetics of your karate. This is a great book that should be read by all karate instructors and experienced students.

Iain Abernethy, 6th Dan Karate

Book Blurb:

Dynamics, motion, and sensation are karate's connective tissue--and they are the heart of this book. As a lifelong student of martial arts, J. D. Swanson, PhD, had searched through piles of books on form and function. Stand here, they said. Step there. But where movement was concerned, not one of them went deep enough. No one discussed dynamics--the actual feeling of the moves. Martial instruction, both in print and in person, tends to focus on stances and finishing positions. But dynamics, motion, sensation . . . they are karate's connective tissue--and they are the heart of this book. Karate Science: Dynamic Movement will help you understand the mechanics of the human body. Swanson describes these principles in incredible detail, drawing on examples from several styles of karate, as well as aikido, taekwondo, and judo. Whatever your martial background, applying this knowledge will make your techniques better, stronger, and faster. - Understand the major types of techniques, including their outward appearances and internal feelings.- Master the core principles behind these feelings.- Learn the biomechanics and dynamics of core movement. Karate Science: Dynamic Movementis filled with examples, anecdotes, and beautiful illustrations. Although Shotokan karate is the author's frame of reference, the principles of human mechanics translate to all martial styles. This book features - Clear and insightful explanations of dynamic movement.- Over 100 illustrations.- Profound but accessible analysis of the kihon, or fundamentals of Shotokan karate. "Karate Science: Dynamic Movement is rooted in the teachings of the masters," Swanson says. "This book nucleates that knowledge, clarifying and distilling the key principles behind movement dynamics. This is the next evolution of karate books


An informative guide for those looking to enhance their karate training. Swanson's debut is a scientific guide to the stances, movements, and techniques of karate. Swanson, a professor of biology and biomechanics at Salve Regina University, uses his scientific training to help teachers and students better understand the tenets of karate. The many illustrations (ably provided by Nigro) show everything from proper alignment of a striking surface (say, a fist or a foot) to how one's body should move from the beginning to the end of a thrust. The first part of the book focuses on technique, with sections on stances, thrusting, kicking, striking, and blocking. The guide does more than demonstrate how positions should look; Swanson takes the time to explain how each should feel and which muscle groups should be engaged throughout the process. The second part explains the science behind how our joints and muscles work as well as how the body keeps its balance. This section also includes a brief primer on "the application of kinesiological principles to karate," which outlines ways to get more force into moves by increasing mass and, crucially, speed. The last section deals with the notion of "internal movement," essentially a system of muscle retraction and counter moves that aid in perfecting efficient and powerful techniques. While many students mistakenly think of this process as simply hip wiggling, Swanson shows that the process is more focused on intra-abdominal pressure, and he explains how the proper tensioning and contracting of certain muscles are key to quick and powerful movements. Swanson's writing is clear and informative, and his pure love of the art shines through. This book is not for karate neophytes, and the terms used will be confusing to unfamiliar readers. But for teachers and students who want to not only perfect techniques, but also understand the biology behind them, the book will be an invaluable aid.--Indie Editors "Kirkus Reviews, 15 January 2017 "

About the Author

J. D. Swanson holds a PhD in integrative biosciences and a fifth-degree black belt from the International Shotokan Karate Federation. He is an official ISKF instructor, examiner, and judge, having studied under both Okazaki and Yaguchi sensei. Swanson began his martial studies in 1980 in his native New Zealand. He moved to the United States in 1998. He is a professor in the Department of Biology and Biomedical Sciences at Salve Regina University and the head instructor of the Shotokan karate clubs at Brown and Salve Regina Universities. J. D. Swanson resides in Portsmouth, Rhode Island.

Amazon.co.uk: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01N35ERLP

Amazon.com: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N35ERLP

Amazon.de: https://www.amazon.de/dp/B01N35ERLP

Marc's picture

Thanks for the review. Sounds interesting. Is now on my karate books wishlist.

A proper understanding of body mechanics and anatomy is important especially when teaching people who have aching knees/back/hips or reduced joint flexibility as many poeple over 40 might experience, as well as injuries that limit peoples range of joint movement.

A healthy and strapping young person may hit or kick quite hard even with a less effective technique that in the long term will hurt their own joints. Still, we want to teach them ergonomic techniques, so they can enjoy their training for an entire life without pain in the knee joints.

When we teach people with mobility problems (aka older people), we sometimes have to adjust for them the way a technique is to be performed. The approach should be to first understand the principle or application of the technique in question and then find a replacement or adjusted technique that that person can perform which yields the same or a similar result.

It would not make sense to force a mawashi geri on somebody whose hip joint prevents that action. But maybe that person can achieve the same result with a mikazuki geri. It's a kick, it travels from the outside inwards, and it is much easier on the hip joint. - Just an example.

All the best,