Swanson’s debut is a scientific guide to the stances, movements, and techniques of karate.
Swanson, a professor of biology and biomechanics at Salve Regina University, uses his scientific training to help teachers and students better understand the tenets of karate. The many illustrations (ably provided by Nigro) show everything from proper alignment of a striking surface (say, a fist or a foot) to how one’s body should move from the beginning to the end of a thrust. The first part of the book focuses on technique, with sections on stances, thrusting, kicking, striking, and blocking. The guide does more than demonstrate how positions should look; Swanson takes the time to explain how each should feel and which muscle groups should be engaged throughout the process. The second part explains the science behind how our joints and muscles work as well as how the body keeps its balance. This section also includes a brief primer on “the application of kinesiological principles to karate,” which outlines ways to get more force into moves by increasing mass and, crucially, speed. The last section deals with the notion of “internal movement,” essentially a system of muscle retraction and countermoves that aid in perfecting efficient and powerful techniques. While many students mistakenly think of this process as simply hip wiggling, Swanson shows that the process is more focused on intra-abdominal pressure, and he explains how the proper tensioning and contracting of certain muscles are key to quick and powerful movements. Swanson’s writing is clear and informative, and his pure love of the art shines through. This book is not for karate neophytes, and the terms used will be confusing to unfamiliar readers. But for teachers and students who want to not only perfect techniques, but also understand the biology behind them, the book will be an invaluable aid.