By Sensei Peter Leitch, Shodan
Author: Willy J. Ortiz
Published: Multiprint, Tampere Finland October 1999
Originally from Peru and now living in Finland, Sensei Willy J. Ortiz began his association with Shotokan karate in New York in 1964. Ortiz holds a 6th degree (Rokudan) JKA black belt, and goes on record to state that he has "trained with the best that ever was". With names like Nakayama, Okazaki, Mori, Kaze, Mikami, Kanazawa, Enoeda, Ueki Ohtsuka, and Yamaguchi, his list of former Senseis and instructors reads like a who's who of karate.
Ortiz has made a worthy attempt at compiling and stringing together an impressive series of facts, dates, names, anecdotes and legends, but the book is marred unnecessarily by numerous typos, and grammar mistakes. I suspect many of the errors had to do with the author's translation of the text to English. Other problems, which detract from the otherwise valuable content of the book, include contradictory dates and references, and unnecessary hyphenation of words.
Photographs are plentiful throughout the book, and in spite of the fact that most of them are of poor quality, they are informative and interesting. Keep in mind, many of the photographs were taken in the early part of the last century.
In the first chapter of the book, Mr. Ortiz disputes the widely accepted theory that karate originated in India and even doubts the alleged connection between Shaolin boxing and karate. Ortiz however stops short of offering an alternative version of the origins of karate, stating that the truth will probably never be known.
Of the six chapters comprising the book, four have titles with the name "Funakoshi" included. This is hardly surprising, but what is interesting is how Mr. Ortiz manages to touch on so many other prominent people in karate at the time in order to illuminate Funakoshi's profound importance to the advancement of Shotokan karate.
With deep respect and compassion, the author brings to life the ubiquitous Funakoshi by portraying him as a fallible human being, rather than the legendary master more commonly identified in karate literature. Mr. Ortiz presents numerous examples of Funakoshi's relationship with other karate and martial arts masters of his day, and we see that from the start, karate has been plagued with the divergent opinions and politics of the various styles and schools.
References to Wado Ryu's founder Ohtsuka are plentiful and provide a fascinating angle on the close relationship between Wado Ryu and Shotokan karate. Mr. Ortiz succinctly and fairly highlights the differences between Wado Ryu and Shotokan, and gives an interesting opinion on the strengths and weaknesses of each style.
Mr. Ortiz devotes the last chapter of the book to Sensei Masatoshi Nakayama. Ortiz credits Nakayama with the creation, development and promotion of the JKA. Ortiz also credits Nakayama for karate's transition to that of a sport. This to me was the most interesting part of the book. Here, Mr. Ortiz is able to draw on his long association with Nakayama, and provides the reader with a detailed and factual description of the early days of the JKA and on the exportation of Shotokan karate to the rest of the world.
In spite of its problems, most of which are cosmetic, the book is very much a worthwhile read for the interested Shotokan karateka. Practitioners of other styles will also find much to hold their interest, as the book delves into the origins of the other traditional styles, which either evolved from Funakoshi's original Shotokan or developed in parallel to Shotokan karate.Back for More Great Reading