Chojun a novel by Goran Powell is an engaging well spun tale based on the martial arts master Chojun Miyagi, who lived from 1888 to 1953. Powell weaves fact and fiction together in a believable and highly entertaining story about the renowned Okinawan karate master who founded Goju-Ryu Karate, and the fictional student, Kenichi Ota, who’s point of view shares the adventure in this fictional memoir.
Any martial artist interested in history will be delighted with the way historical fact and literary fiction have skillfully been intertwined in a way that not only reveals much about what we know of Chojun Miyagi, but also imparts wisdom about the way of karate and the original teachings and philosophy of this distinguished martial art. One passage especially rang true with me and my beliefs regarding martial arts and warriorship, “The warrior doesn’t seek death, he simply accepts its possibility – its inevitability even – with firm resolve. Once he has done this, he is free to engage in battle unburdened by fear for his life. In many ways it is an important way to preserve life.”
Written as a memoir, Powell draws the reader in from the very beginning when Ota starts off telling of his parted teacher, Chojun Miyagi, and how he is still beside him each day as he practices karate. He then goes back to their first meeting, years before when Ota was a boy, and continues the tale through out their lives and the impact karate and the Battle of Okinawa during World War II had on them both and their families. The story contains drama, love, loss, sadness and joy, just as does life. Not everything is wrapped up neatly with a tidy bow. Some things happened, that as a reader, I didn’t want to happen. But again, that is how life goes sometimes. Historical events are accurately portrayed, as are some of the real-life figures from the war. Even some of the fictional characters are based on real-life happenings during those years. It makes a thin line between fact and fiction, which enhances the believability of the story and sometimes makes you for get it is a novel and not an actual memoir.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this exceptional book. I recommend it highly to all who enjoy a good historical novel with a martial art theme. If you are a martial artist, especially a karateka, this book is a must read.
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