Mar 3

Book Review: Oldman’s Bubishi by Mark Cook

I’ve just finished one of the most interesting martial arts books that occupies a place on my bookstand – Mark Cook’s Oldman’s Bubishi: An Introduction to Bunkai From Karate’s Kata.

Oldman’s Bubishi is an illustrated look at the Pinan / Heian katas, starring Oldman as the protagonist – a caricature, almost, of the author/illustrator himself – and his unnamed opponent.

While Shuri-ryu, our style of karate, does not formally teach the Pinan katas, many of the movements are similar to the Tai Kyoku exercises standardized by Gichin Funakoshi. The pattern for each is mostly the same, resembling an I or an H drawn out on the floor.

There are a few reasons why I like this book so much.

1. Hilarious Illustrations

It seems almost every other martial arts book out there has pictures showing what a would-be attacker and a would-be defender could be doing in any given scenario. As it well should. It’s much more effective – for me, at least – to see how a self-defense maneuver goes from step A to step B to step C, rather than read descriptive text.

Mr. Cook offers pictures, but they’re his own unique illustrations. First he demonstrates the individual movements of the kata, and then he shows what total to be dozens of applications from the moves in each of the five katas.

I like that Oldman often has sly grin on his face while his opponent lies in agony at his feet.

Oldman's Bubishi sample page2. Oldman Wants to Avoid Confrontation

Though it’s not called out anywhere, Oldman is seen a number of times in each illustration with his hands up, as if he’s saying he doesn’t want to fight.

He’s smart for several reasons. First, Oldman realizes the importance of nonverbal communication. We don’t need a bubble quote to see that Oldman wants to avoid the confrontation. Second, I suspect Oldman knows witnesses are present, even though we only see Oldman and the bully. By putting his hands up, witnesses can see that Oldman was not initiating the fight.

Most martial arts books only focus on the technique itself, and not what led up to the technique. This book is a bit different, as it shows that Oldman is trying to get out before things get bad. (Spoiler alert: things always get bad in this book, and Oldman always wins.) Even if it’s not explicitly mentioned, I love that this aspect of the dilemma is included.

3. Mark Cook is a Nice Guy

Unlike the majority of authors in my library, I met Mark for the first time in September at an Iain Abernethy seminar in Kansas City earlier this year. I remember getting something out of my bag the first night of the weekend when he introduced himself to me. While we didn’t get to work together that weekend, he was very friendly and I hope we get to practice with each other at a future seminar.

Oldman’s Bubishi is available for $24.50 if you live in the U.S., or $36.41 for anyone outside the States.

Adam Bockler

Sensei Adam Bockler is a 2nd-degree black belt in karate and the owner of Metamora Martial Arts. He's been in the martial arts since 2003, and has received instruction in tai chi chuan, Hsing-i chuan, judo, tae kwon do and XMA. Sensei Bockler was inducted into the 2014 USA Martial Arts Hall of Fame as Karate Black Belt of the Year. He is the communications manager for Float Mobile Learning.

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