Recently, I have become fascinated with this book, Bubishi: The Classic Manual of Combat. For years in the Martial Arts, you heard rumors of the existence of a secret manual that was passed down from the Master to the next master of a style.
Well apparently, there was such a manual called the Bubishi. Bu means “military.” Bi translates as “To prepare.” Shi translates as “Record.” So together it means “The manual of Military Preparation.”
This manual was hand copied from karate master to karate master. There’s strong evidence to suggest that most of the founders of the different styles of the karate had a copy of this text. Sensei Gichin Funakoshi placed sections of the Bubishi in his book Karate-Do Kyohan.
I read Patrick McCarthy’s translation of the Bubishi and found it very enlightening to my understanding of karate and especially of kata. I believe this text needs a closer examination because of its historical significance. Patrick McCarthy version includes not only the original text translated but also, insightful commentary that shows the tremendous amount of research that went into the text.
For me, the 48 figures are of particular interest. The 48 figures appear to be practical self-defense moves, although the exact meaning of each figure needs to be interpreted by the reader. The Bubishi appears to be written as a reminder of techniques for practitioner that already knows karate. I believe that it’s very plausible that our kata came from the practice of these 48 figures in multiple attacker scenarios.