I’ve always been fascinated with martial arts and the many journeys one can find and take along its paths to self-discovery. Among my favorite books are those where the author shares his experience in finding a teacher, becoming accepted as a student, and training in the traditional arts of a culture. Others are those containing insights into the cultural or spiritual aspect of the arts. Garry Parker’s Chanpuru: Reflections and Lessons from the Dojo does both. It is part memoir, part travel guide, and part philosophical look at karate training.
I feel a kinship with Garry Parker. He met his sensei, Takamiyagi Hiroshi, and I met my sifu, Alexander Co, around the same time. What’s more, Takamiyagi traveled from Okinawa to the Philippines to meet Co, since they share practice in Fukien Five Ancestor Fist. Garry has become Takamiyagi’s disciple, responsible for upholding his art in the United States; and I have become Co’s disciple with the same responsibility. And so, what a pleasure it is to publish Garry’s book.
In Chanpuru, Parker takes us along on his Okinawan karate journey. “When I arrived at the Naha Airport for the very first time,” he begins… and then the reader is hooked, wants to know what happens next. Being accepted into a foreign culture and also into a foreign physical cultural like karate is rare for Westerners. As you will read in Parker’s account, the traditional dojo is very unlike the modern “karate school” with mats and air-conditioning and birthday parties and sport competitions. It is about self-development, self-knowledge, and respect. Like Itosu Anko Sensei wrote, “Karate begins and ends with respect.” Not trophies, no colored belts.
Parker shows us there are “no excuses on the path of karate.” Training hard and being respectful are the ways forward. Traditional Okinawan karate is a bride to the past. And this past is quickly fading. It is people like Garry Parker who took the time to earn his way into the traditional karate culture, and who now hold the torch for others to see the way. Chanpuru’s lessons and insights are timeless.
*Excerpted form the book’s Foreword by Mark V. Wiley
Visit Tambuli Media’s Chanpuru Page