Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Book Review- The Little Bubishi: A History of Karate for Children

It's been awhile but I think I have a few interesting posts coming up this week. First is my review of a children's karate book. This is a rare book topic, at least in the U.S., and Little Bubishi does a pretty good job of entertaining and teaching.

There is really nothing like this book on the market for children. The only books that I found are Karate for Kids (Martial Arts for Kids) and Karate (Illustrated History of Martial Arts).  I have not read them but from quickly glancing at them they seem too skew to an older demographic.

The editorial review on Amazon.com says that The Little Bubishi "is essential reading for all young karate enthusiasts." I wouldn't say it is essential but it does provide a wealth of moral stories similar to Aesop's Fables that should appeal to children, and they did to me as well. You could almost compare the stories to Norse or Roman versions of the creation of their peoples which morph into actual ancient history. The chapters on the Twenty Precepts of Karate-Do, Karate Terminology and Dojo Etiquette/Rules are well written for children and many adult practitioners could benefit from should reviewing these as well.

This was a little difficult for me to review. It is a children's book and I am not used to reviewing them, much less reading them anymore. So I enlisted help from the target audience, a youth karate-ka. We'll hear from him later.

The folktales that start the book are descriptive and let the imagination run wild. The morals focus on good vs. evil, and using karate with restraint, and never for offense or petty issues. The author continues this theme throughout the book and reinforces them in the final chapters on defense and dojo etiquette.

The stories also begin telling the basic history of karate. This is done concisely - the chapters are very short. The author thankfully does not get bogged down in the different traditions, styles, politics, etc. that you find in many "adult" martial arts literature.

The precepts of karate at the end of the book are a great summary of moral, martial and personal values that are prevalent in all societies but tailored for Karate and based on Japanese culture. Reading these along with proper reinforcement by the karate instructor, and parents, should help any child instill these values in his or her life.

Though this is a children's book, there are a few small things I want to comment on that caught my attention. The writing style caught me off-guard and may affect the book's success with children. It felt like the fairy tales were translated into English by a non-native speaker. So the flow of the stories, and some chapters, were choppy. Perhaps the author intended it this way for it to feels more "authentic". I could be wrong but to me and the aforementioned youth, that was not the affect.

This may be nitpicking but I could not stand the font of the chapter titles. They were painful to read. I suppose you could give your child a pat on the back for successfully reading the titles on the first try. But it was very distracting to me.

Children love pictures. Unfortunately, there aren't many in this book and compared to the cover artwork, they are very anime - think of the kids from Pokémon.

Now for the youth review. Being a typical kid, he kept it short and sweet. In fact he gave me bullet points. So here are his thoughts:


  • Lots of useful information
  • the stories
  • Some stories are freaky
Didn't Like
  • Some really short chapters

I couldn't coerce more out of him so this is what we get...

Except for a few issues not related to the content, I do recommend this as a gift to your beginner karate-ka. Read it with him and discuss the stories, reinforce the morals and let their imagination run free. Just don't let them fight a typhoon or hurricane. A rain storm created from a garden hose will work just fine.

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