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The much anticipated autobiography of John Jarvis has arrived and will find a ready market among karateka of all styles in New Zealand and Australia.

Johns writing style is a cross between the wry humour of a Spike Milligan autobiography, and the introspection of the classic account of a westerners journey in the Japanese martial arts given by C. W. Nicols Moving Zen. We are lead easily through Johns first martial arts training as a private in the NZ Army in the 1950, and later his time in the Canadian Army and a posting in Germany.

With letters of introduction from Arniel, John departed for Japan to start his training in the Kyokushinkaikan under the Korean-born Mas Oyama. Full time karate training was apparently not enough and John also started training in jodo (short staff) and iaido (the art of drawing and cutting with the katana, the Japanese long sword). Johns training in Japan concluded with his grading to sandan and his completion of the gruelling 100 man kumite - only the fifth person to do so.

His return to New Zealand marked the establishment of the Rembuden Institute of Martial Arts and Ways, and as well as overseeing this fledgling organisation and the gradual building up of membership in New Zealand and Australia through demonstrations and competitions.

After some intense training under Higaonna Sensei, John graded to sandan and returned to New Zealand to convert the organisation to Okinawan Goju Ryu, and to prepare the members for Sensei Higaonnas visit, first to New Zealand and then to members in Australia.

Jarvis Senseis autobiography is essential reading for anyone wanting to know more about the history of karate in New Zealand. In addition, his insights into aspects such as maai (combative distance), and his discussion of the distinction between bugei (martial arts) and budo (martial ways) are real gems, serving to remind us what we all lost following his decision some twenty years ago to stop karate teaching.

Philip Seddon
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  • Seller location: Wellington City, Wellington, NZ

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