Karate Stupid is a 198 page book written by Scott Langley about his view/account of training in Japan among the top brass of the (Shotokan?) JKS Karate world. Published in 2014, it’s main focus is his two year stint on the instructors course in 2000, where only four non Japanese had completed it before him. The course is a brutal two year test of physical and mental endurance designed to break you down and build you up as a honed perfected karateka. Those who complete it are treated with a sense of quiet awe and respect.
The book is filled out with a bit of Japanese East meets West culture clashing and and a glimpse at how foreigners are viewed by some Japanese there- from Scotts view point.
Karate Stupid is an easy read and I finished it in just over a long afternoon. Despite its sporadic lulls in the story, it was one book I couldn’t stop reading. Scott’s highs and lows and openness as to his feelings, add weight that this is a legitimate raw account of what happens when you go to the source of your chosen art. The main draw is the treatment during the instructors course itself, where Scott is frequently beaten and used as a servant by the upper echelons. This could be viewed as two ways; unnecessarily brutal or as a way to produce tough but humble instructors. After all, if it was easy, then everyone would be doing it!
However, by doing it, Scott faced a serious effect on his mental health through participating in the course and also suffered a lot of the same social problems as discussed in Robert Twiggers book. (About the Tokyo Riot Police course, called Angry White Pyjamas – click here to read that review).
Negatives? It could have used a bit more pictures, more detail in its writing by exploring more of the ‘why am I doing this?’ angle. Also, Scott frequently refers to his training partner and ‘brother’ on the course but it doesn’t mention if he had to go through the same treatment that was dished out to Scott. These are very minor points in a great book.
We are informed that he has since been expelled from this style after forwarding the book to the Sensei’s for the approval. They’ve rejected it and claim its full of lies and misrepresentations. I do not know whose side is more accurate but I can say that it is a great read about two of my favourite subjects – martial arts and travelling the East. Hats off to Scott for all the mountains he’s climbed.
This review is based on the Kindle download addition.
Hombu Dojo Karate – Scotts Karate club website
OSS – Our shotokan studies – I discussion between OSS members as to the book
Facebook – Scott Langlys Facebook page
The Shotokan Way – An interview with Scott Langly