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Falsare's picture
What is your opinion on the book Shotokan's Secret by Bruce D Clayton


I recently finished the book Shotokan's Secret by the author Bruce D Clayton and I am wondering what your opinions are about this book? 

It starts out with a few quite interesting chapters about the history of and the depictions of the old masters of karate. But personally, I have a difficult time buying the arguments that the author presents in the later parts of this book. That the Shuri line of Karate would have developed a highly more efficient and deadlier art than the Naha line basically due to what he is calling the Shuri Crucible. The Shuri crucible is basically that the Shuri bodyguards (Matsumura, Anko Itosu etc.) were very dependent on a highly effective and deadly art in order to defend the Shuri castle and to protect the king against the Satsuma overlords and armed western visitors.

The author uses this argument to explain why the Shuri line lacks ground fighting, chokes, vital point strikes ("instead hard style karate rely on one punch knockdown"), no night fighting, defend against several opponents (bunkai of Shuri line katas) and so on, because all these would not be suitable if you defend someone else which is the purpose of a bodyguard. In contrast to what he means that Goju ryu (Naha-te) contains, which makes it less deadly and effective. The conclusion is that the purpose of Shuri-te is not self defence, it is defence of someone else (!?).  Another absurd example is his statement that the bunkai of Tekki Shodan is a "bodyguard bunkai", you use an attacker as a human shield in order to defend someone behind you...

Yes, I can go on and list examples of what I think are ridiculous arguments here, but I will stop here though since these are essential points from the book.   

What are your thoughts about the book and do you think that there is any truth behind his arguments?  The book seems to have received high ratings in Amazon and other sites, which is surprising to me since it is a pity if people buy this book and regards the statements in it as facts. 

I can add that I am a Shotokan practitioner myself but have a difficult time to view one style deadlier and superior than another. 

Best regards


shotokanman70's picture

I read this book a long time ago. I have forgotten a lot of the details but I remember a pictire of a youngster holding an enemy with one arm (the kage zuki in tekki) while defending someone behind him. Silly. The book has a few historical references filled with a mountain of speculation.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

I really enjoyed that book. It’s very well written and I found it a fun read. I do think he is probably onto something with regards to how martial skill would be desirable “bonus skill” for those employed by a king devoid of meaningful power; and hence why acquiring such skill was deemed desirably among the upper classes which, despite the false “peasant resistance” hypothesis common in karate circles, most of the past masters were part. However, I think the book runs way too far with that idea and the notion that certain kata are bodyguarding drills is not one I feel has merit; especially when much of the history we do have is counter to that. That said, I still really enjoyed it.

All the best,