A Simple Man – My Life with Soke Nagamine – Book Review

Takayoshi Nagamine A Simple Man – My Life with Soke Nagamine

A Simple Man – My Life with Soke Nagamine by Sensei Bill George (Kyoshi, 7th dan) is a great read for anyone interested in the martial arts. [I also posted this review on Amazon.com]

Hanshi Fumio Demura (9th dan in Shito-ryu) was a perfect pick to write the forward to this book. Demura was the stunt double for Pat Moria “Mr. Miyagi” in The Karate Kid movies, and this story follows a similar path as the relationship of Mr. Miyagi and Daniel San. Soke Takayoshi Nagamine and Sensei Bill George are real life embodiments of the caring karate mentor and his loyal student. Their journey together along the karate path illustrates the enduring life-long bond they developed which encompasses so much more than just karate, but rather the holistic ideals of karate-do, the karate way.

“The deeper one gets into Karate training, one learns to use as little force as possible to defend oneself. You not only respect yourself, but all living things.”

-Sensei Takayoshi Nagamine 1975
Sensei Takayoshi Nagamine with Makiwara in Okinawa Before Coming to the USA in 1967
Sensei Takayoshi Nagamine with Makiwara in Okinawa Before Coming to the USA in 1967

All traditional martial artists will enjoy learning about the great effort put forth by both Sensei Nagamine and Sensei George to follow and pass on traditional Okinawan karate-do ideals and training methods. Sensei George describes those training methods and how one year of traditional training in the 1970’s (2 – 3 Hrs. per day, 5-6 days per week) would be roughly equivalent to four or five years of training today (1 – 1-1/2 Hrs. per day, 2-3 days per week). Reading about the dedication and zeal of the training in those early days is quite inspirational and made me want to redouble my own training efforts!

Karateka who specifically practice Matsubayashi Shorin Ryu Karate-do will appreciate the glimpse behind the scenes of how Matsubayashi-ryu was brought to the USA and spread. How O-Sensei Shoshin Nagamine (the founder of Matsubayashi-ryu) sent his son Takayoshi to the US for about a decade to build a strong foundation for Matsubayashi Ryu here in America. Sensei Takayoshi Nagamine took this “Giri” (a duty bound by honor to one’s family) very seriously and honored it to the best of his ability. He was primarily interested in passing down the tradition of quality Okinawan karate-do rather than building a large money making organization.

Sensei Bill George and Soke Takayoshi Nagamine training in the Honbo Dojo in Okinawa, 1984
Sensei Bill George and Soke Takayoshi Nagamine training in the Honbo Dojo in Okinawa, 1984

“My feelings toward the teaching of karate are that I would rather teach 10 students who are truly dedicated and committed to the art of karate, rather than teaching 1000 students, with only resulting in about 100 fair students.”

-Soke Takayoshi Nagamine wrote to Sensei Bill George in a letter, 1979

Sensei George also recounts personal experiences and adventures with Sensei Nagamine that extend beyond their karate training. This paints an intimate portrait of Sensei Takayoshi Nagamine as a man and his life in the US as well as the special bond they shared as mentor and student.

Finally Sensei Bill George relates how after Sensei Nagamine’s passing in 2012 he accepted the final promotion that Sensei Nagamine had bestowed upon him of Kyoshi and would no longer seek or accept additional promotions. After 50 years training in Matsubayashi Ryu he accepted his own duty as “Giri” to continue to pass on the knowledge, training and insight that was given to him by his Sensei. And so he continues to pass on this great legacy.

This book successfully reinforces the legacy of traditional Matsubayashi Ryu that has been given to each of us who practice Matsubayashi Ryu. We should all strive to embrace and carry on the traditional legacy for future generations of karateka.

At just over 100 pages the book is a quick easy read. The overall quality of the printing was good. The cover is nice and heavy with color photos on the outside and inside cover. The inner pages are crisp with the many black and white photos clear and sharp. The only minor production issue I noticed, as a professional graphic artist, was that the typesetting tracking was a bit irregular in some places. Most readers probably wouldn’t even notice that though.

I highly recommend the book, A Simple Man – My Life with Soke Nagamine by Sensei Bill George, for all those interested in the traditional martial arts. And it’s a must have addition to the martial arts library of all Matsubayashi Ryu karateka along with Soke Takayoshi Nagamine’s three volume Matsubayashi Shorin Ryu Karate DVD series which details the history of Matsubayashi Ryu and his father, O-Sensei Shoshin Nagamine.


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-Renshi Mike Scaramozzino

Shoshin Nagamine's book The Essence of Okinawan Karate-do Matsubayashi Ryu

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