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Here’s a new book on Karate written by Lara Chamberlain. Lara san, is a veteran American instructor of traditional Okinawan Karate-do, who resides in California, USA.

This is a wonderful story about an American Bujin who was not afraid to chase her passion. Heavenly Bridge follows Lara Chamberlain from her home in California to the Ryukyu Archipelago on a quest of self-discovery. Not just another step-by-step instructional book on Karate, but rather an autobiographical journey detailing personal experiences of studying the art at its source of origin and working with various local masters, while navigating the wonderfully pensive culture of Okinawa.

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I asked Lara san how the idea for the book came about? She said, “I originally wanted my teacher, Makishi Sensei, to write such a book. However, every time I asked him, he would always smile and say, Lara san … you write the book!” In considering its content, this was genuinely a labour of love, that ended up being not just about the art, but about “everything”! With more than 300 pages, the author covers the art, its origins, history, philosophy, culture, her own teachers and those pioneers most responsible for perpetuating its legacy. Also, no less than 180 pages of this work are exclusively dedicated to a detailed explanation, taking the reader methodically through each of the 18 Matsubayashi-ryu kata. Complete with sources being cited, ample footnotes, great photos, charts, illustrations and remarkable self-drawn portraits, the author completes her work with an index, terms glossary and references.

Chamberlain studied directly under the late founder and pioneer of Matsubayashi Shorin Ryu, Nagamine Shoshin [RIP]. Additionally, she was also guided in her studies by Nagamine Takayoshi [RIP], the son of the founder, along with her principal instructor, Makishi Yasuharu Sensei, one of only a handful of surviving direct disciples of the founder. “Karate was in my blood even as a kid,” Lara told me. She said, her parents wouldn’t let her join a club as a child, so she started out by making a pair of homemade nunchaku. Her first official training didn’t start until age 18, when she left home for college, and began learning under Gary Tiktin’s organization. The details surrounding her study and subsequent journey are all well presented in Heavenly Bridge.

I reached out to a former IRKRS member, Shirley Tessler, for a comment, as she not only knows and has practiced with the author for a decade, she actually helped proofread Heavenly Bridge. Shirley san told me the unique experiences Lara’s gleaned over her many years of study and training, with myriad senior instructors, along with her continual analyses, has resulted in a remarkably deep understanding of the art. Moreover, a refined capacity to synthesize this knowledge into a more coherent vision, surrounding what we should all want to treasure and preserve, has lead her to ultimately make some life-changing decisions. From this epic journey emerged a new pathway to impart her teachings, she calls it [in Uchinaguchi] “Tiida ryu” [天陽流]; “Immortal (travel by) Light Style.” [Alternatively, the same kanji reads [in Japanese], “Tenyō-ryū;” “Heavenly Sun Style.”]

Lara san explained to me that she’d always been a teacher, even as a kid, and that building her own dojo has been a lifelong dream. “I’ve grown up teaching in a tiny little one car garage for over 20 years,” she said! After more than three decades of dedication and study, with the personal dream of someday constructing a traditional-style dojo, Chamberlain Sensei succeeded in building one of the most beautifully authentic schools anywhere outside of Okinawa. Called the, Tiidakan/天陽館 Honbu dojo, her teachings represent a unique synthesis of all that she learned throughout her career. Tiida-ryū conditions the body, cultivates the mind and nurtures the spirit, while preserving the past, focusing upon the present and exploring the future. An artist of life in every way, and a deeply spiritual person, Lara Sensei is a totally dedicated Karate-ka, an inspirational leader and a wonderful instructor.

Thinking about the timeless lesson represented in the saying, “Kyu Do Mu Gen” [究道無限], Heavenly Bridge has to be seen as the author’s latest expression of this endless learning process. I am confident her work will serve to inspire a generation of likeminded learners, seeking empowerment from the timeless message that Karate, as an art, conveys to all those willing to embrace it.

Having enjoyed the pleasure of spending time with the late Nagamine Shoshin, during the translation of his book [沖縄の空手道角力名人伝/Okinawa no Karate-do Sumo Meijin Den] and with his son, Takayoshi Sensei which resulted in producing the article [“Tall Trees”] on his behalf, I am satisfied they both would be so very proud of this wonderful contribution, which reflects so favourably upon their legacy.

During this time, with so much focus upon disciplines that highlight gladiatorial-like fighting, who’s the toughest, what’s the “best” style, and winning at all cost, here’s a beautiful work that reaches deeply into a personal journey of discovery and leaves us with a timeless message of passion, respect, loyalty and love. I’ve always been interested in how the forces of nature help shape one’s destiny and the older I get the more fascinated I become with this phenomenon. The work which lies before you, Heavenly Bridge, does, in my opinion, example just such a journey. With a deep respect for tradition, Heavenly Bridge pays a beautiful homage to the legacy of this important cultural heritage and all those who have come before her.

I hope you all might like and share this message with other likeminded friends who respect and support traditional Karate.

– Patrick McCarthy, Hanshi

Heavenly Bridge is an outstanding example of embodied knowledge, derived from the diaries and notes of a student, now teacher, Ms. Chamberlain, deep in a personal journey of discovery and understanding.  From these notes and her deeply personal, emotional and heartfelt experiences of her teachers, creating a work of knowledge that passes knowledge from master to novice.

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The knowledge in terms of the learning and teaching of Karate bridges the years and different styles of Karate, never critical and always creative. There are chapters that detail technique and kata, and students and teachers can take these details and augment their own method or styles. It makes one realise that within any community there are many different families but community recognises these differences and promotes collaboration; this book brings people together; it is a convergence.

I am not a student of Tiida Ryu but I recognise the value of the technical sections concerning Kihon & Kata, and in my humble opinion these sections are precise, lucid and full of embodied knowledge and an excellent work to convey knowledge from teacher to student. 

The early chapters are a personal history, history of teachers, history of community and history of karate. Determination, without ego, is central in describing a thirst for knowledge and learning. The relationship between student and teacher, loyalty and positive development. At the heart is individual integrity, harmony with nature and harmony of community.

The reader (novice, student or teacher) is connected to past teachers through Ms Chamberlain’s deeply personal journey of understanding – connecting those who went before to those who are yet to come. 

Through generosity of exchange one can achieve collaboration, co-operation, connection and networking which are critical to understanding.  The first key emotion for me was “May your heart be as one”. When we of the Karate community are divided by historical views and dogma, Chamberlain sensei has shown us the way to harmony. One has to open their heart and be open minded. This leads me to the second key emotion for me and that is “life is a treasure”.

I recommend this book for it’s beauty of karate, humanity through karate and heart within karate.

– A. W.

The first part of this book narrates the personal quest of the author to shape her own karate from the US to Okinawa… and back. It includes insights on the Okinawan culture and also talks about the masters who are part of her own lineage, directly or indirectly. If you are into traditional karate as “a cultural experience”, you will find this part of the book absolutely inspirational. I especially liked the way she describes her disciple-master relationship with her mentor, Makishi Yasuharu, who acted like a catalyst for the author to discover herself through karate along the years, instead of focusing in blind conformity to stylistic cosmetics. I was also profoundly stimulated by the underlying philosophy of Tiida-ryu, which the author explains by using semantically-rich Uchinaguchi terms —and I compel you to read it by yourself, so no spoilers this time. In short, the narrative, cultural and historical sections of this book are a total blast!

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The second part of the book is more technical. It introduces kihon and kata, and then gets into countless details regarding the Shorin-ryu katas, all taken from the author’s personal notes. This was the first part of the the book I began reading, but quickly realized it is more useful (to me at least) as a reference. I therefore decided to read about a particular kata only when I had just practiced it or when I was about to practice it. I’ve done so with the five Pinan katas, Naihanchi Shodan and Passai. Once again, no spoilers, but rest assured it’s very enriching going through these notes while analyzing a given kata, even if Shorin-ryu isn’t your style —I actually practice Shito-ryu. I especially appreciate the descriptions about rhythm, movement and about how the body must “feel”. Curiously, I was a bit disoriented at first because of the lack of diagrams and pictures (they are scarce), but now I’m appreciating better how these notes are forcing me to “think” more deeply about my kata, thus expanding my understanding of them. 

To conclude, I strongly recommend Heavenly Bridge to any lover of traditional karate. It is actually one of the best karate-related books I’ve ever read. It has it all, from philosophical, cultural and historical pages, to extremely detailed technical content which you can repeatedly refer to at will. Carefully crafted, this book is a must for any serious karateka out there. So, thank you for it, Sensei… and congratulations for having accomplished such a difficult task. You have absolutely excelled on it!

– I. M.

Today on the beach I finished an interesting book I have been reading during my vacation here in Sardinia. 

I started to read while onboard the airplane on the way here and have to tell you that this is an outstanding book of karate history and the roots of Shorin-ryu karate written by Sensei Lara Chamberlain. She trained directly under a few of the grandmasters of the style in Okinawa and received an unusual and deep contact with the master to understand all the secrets and details of her karate. 

I has taught karate 50 years and have been training in martial arts for 57 years, mostly in Japan and Okinawa during my 53 travels there, but I learned very much from this excellent book. 

I can warmly recommend this book for all karate-ka, especially those with an interest in Shorin-ryu karate and Yamanni-ryu kobudo.

– L. H.

I just finished your book and want to congratulate you on an outstanding contribution to the literature on karate and to the understanding of Okinawan culture and Matsubayashi-ryu. In addition to a lot of new information and your thoughts on your own journey, the artwork is simply outstanding. You should be very proud.

– C. C.

Truly excellent work from Sensei Lara Chamberlain that I have not been able to put down since I received it. Highly recommended, not just by me but by my wife, a native of Okinawa, impressed by the level of cultural knowledge and artistic talent presented in this work. Congratulations and Thanks to Sensei Lara!

– P. Sensei

Heavenly Bridge is the ultimate book on Matsubayashi-ryu and the only book any student will ever need. Perhaps, it is the only book ever needed on any Okinawa style.  It is “The Book”.

– F. C. 

Your heart jumped out from the writing  of this remarkable book.  The presentation is artistic – just so beautiful.  Thank you for extending my knowledge.  You’ve a rewarding journey ahead. All should enjoy your journey and learn by following or just reading.

– C. G.

Over the last 35 years, the author has trained with many senior karate teachers – welcoming their critical feedback, recording that feedback faithfully, and taking the time to analyze repeatedly the insights that they have given her. Her understanding has matured over the years, gradually deepening and refining her capacity to take the knowledge that she gained first-hand and synthesize it into a distinctive, coherent vision of what we should all want to treasure and preserve of traditional Okinawan karate. Heavenly Bridge is the latest expression of her ongoing process.

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The aim of Tiida-ryu and its founder, author Lara chamberlain, is to offer a meaningful way to connect the lives and practices of our karate elders with a new generation of practitioners looking for inspiration and direction in a very different world.

The author has devoted her life to showing how karate promotes the development of the whole person, not just technical mastery. Her honesty about her path and her resolve to help others along their paths has produced a narrative that will interest all karate practitioners.

– S. G. T.

This book, by Sensei Lara Chamberlain is pure gold. I absolutely recommend it! 

Ichariba Choude 

– C. P.

I am enjoying your book more than I can say.  It is fantastic, revealing, and ground breaking.  I would heartily recommend it to any serious budoka, especially to anyone who has spent a lifetime with one master/style.  Thank you for sharing this with us.

– S. H.

Talk about going the extra mile. I have been giving copies of this book as gifts, and the positive feedback has been fantastic. Thank you for this great labour of love and sharing with us

– C. P.

The  technical movement descriptions are amazing and completely useful. Many thanks. I hope it becomes a bestseller!

– F. T.

This is a very interesting and informative book. It is basically divided into 3 large parts.

First of all, the author tells us about her Karate journey as well as the different people who shaped “her” Karate to get to her own ryu-ha: Tiida-ryu. She tells us, among other things, about her meetings and workouts, especially with Nagamine Shoshon O’Sensei, the founder of Matsubayashi Ryu.

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In the second part, the cultural and historical side is highlighted. Some aspects of Okinawa culture are explained here as well as historical notions about Karate. This part will end with the biography of some Masters.

Finally, the last large part of the book is devoted to kihon and kata. The author deals with the concepts that govern her Ryu-ha. It sets out the key points to execute the kata. She ends with the 18 kata of Matsubayashi Ryu by describing them one by one. We might regret the absence of images matching the text, but the written explanations are clear and are a good complement to her teaching videos on Youtube. In addition, descriptions can be based on the photos of O’Sensei’s book, The Essence of Karatedo.

In conclusion, it is a very good book to have in your library, whether you are Matsubayashi Ryu or not.

– A. P.

I just finished reading Heavenly Bridge by Sensei Lara Chamberlain, and I can’t remember when I have read a more unique and fascinating book about the martial arts. Heavenly Bridge is a Master Class of how to be a student of Budo. 

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Sensei Chamberlain shares her personal journey as she, as a young martial artist, traveled to the home of Karate, Okinawa, and trained with the masters of Matsubayashi-Ryū Karate-Do. She details how she navigated the culture and the martial arts of Okinawa, becoming more than just a student, becoming family. 

She shows why, as martial artists, we should journal the details of our classes, because doing so allows our Sensei to be with us forever. The second half of Heavenly Bridge are those voluminous notes of the kihon and kata, detailing state of mind, breath, turns and transitions as well as philosophy and techniques. 

All this allows her to develop a new style, the namesake of this book, Tiida-ryu. Heavenly Bridge describes elegantly the connection between students and teacher.

– K. H.

Para todos mis amigos queridos, este libro es de una gran artista marcial, Lara Chamberlain, una Maestra de Karate que tuvo la bondad de dedicarme su libro con un mensaje de sabiduría, es un libro que de seguro me revelará mucha inspiración a pesar de que yo no práctico este estilo de Arte Marcial , pero como una vez le dije a ella, todo el que haya practicado cualquier arte marcial con la dedicación y el respeto que merece, sabe apreciar la sabiduría que hay en cualquier literatura marcial, la sabiduría es universal y yo lo agradezco

– M. G.

Livre très intéressant et instructif. Il se décompose essentiellement en 3 grandes parties. 

Tout d’abord, [l’auteur] nous parle de son parcours en Karate ainsi les différentes personnes qui ont façonné “son” Karate pour arriver à sa propre ryu-ha : Tiida Ryu. Elle nous parle, entre autre, de ses rencontres et entraînements notamment avec Nagamine Shoshin O’Sensei le Fondateur du Matsubayashi Ryu.

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Dans une seconde partie, le côté culturel et historique est mis en avant. Des aspects de la culture d’Okinawa y sont expliqués ainsi que des notions historiques sur le Karate. Cette partie ce terminera par la biographie de certains Maîtres. 

Enfin, la dernière grande partie de l’ouvrage est consacrée au kihon et kata. Ll’auteur] traite des concepts qui régissent sa Ryu-ha. Elle énonce les points clés afin d’exécuter les katas. Elle terminera par les 18 katas Matsubayashi Ryu en les décrivant un à un. Nous pourrions peut être regretter l’absence d’images correspondantes au texte mais les explications écrites sont claires et sont un bon compléments aux vidéos pédagogiques de Sensei sur Youtube. De plus, les descriptions peuvent s’appuyer sur les photos du livre de [Nagamine Shōshin], The Essence of Karatedo. 

En conclusion, un très bon ouvrage à avoir dans sa bibliothèque que l’on soit Matsubayashi Ryu ou non.

– C. R.