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Karate: Beneath the Surface

This book was recommended by my oldest student, who, while new to Goju Ryu, has trained

in the past. He commended this book as one he re-reads every few years, and every time takes away something new. Now that I’ve read this work, I understand his passion.

In Karate: Beneath the Surface, Roy Kenneth Kamen explores the spiritual side of kata, specifically the kata of Goju Ryu. The author believes “that the body position, standing with a straight spine, proper hand positions (Mudra), proper vocalizations (Mantra), synchronized breathing, pattern of movement (Mandala), intense emotional expression and correct spiritual awareness stimulates portions of our brain to produce or suppress neurotransmitters such as dopamine, oxytocin, etc, that create ecstatic, religious-like experiences.”

Kamen suggests an interpretation of Goju, different from the classic definition of Chojun Miyagi. Kamen proposes that ‘Go’ can be interpreted as everything you see, feel and touch, techniques and movements, including breathing, basically all of the external elements of a kata. Ju is the internal elements that you cannot see, such as the practitioner’s emotion, attention, focus, Chi, mindset, and fighting strategies.

The author suggests specific emotional constructs for each of the classical Goju kata. By approaching specific kata with its correct emotional intent, the kata can bring us to a moment Budhists call ‘Samadhi’, an awakening, a touching of heaven, where one becomes a conduit for spiritual forces.

There are definitely layers to this book, where the reader will pick up more and different meanings with subsequent readings.


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