The Way Of Kata by Lawrence A. Kane and Kris Wilder is one of the best books on the essence of traditional martial arts written from decisively western perspective. It’s also one of the best books on principals and strategy of effective self-defense.
Written from Goju karate background it is going way behind limits of the style.
I see three main questions that this book addresses:
First: What are traditional martial arts of Okinawa and China all about?
It’s addressing – without necessary explicit naming – major misconceptions surrounding old martial art traditions. Where it came from? Who are people who developed it? What were their concerns in those studies? What is role of religion and philosophy in it? What is in it now for us? Are we preserving / able to preserve this old knowledge for generation to come?
Those, and other, things addressed in a way that makes sense for our own training regardless of the specific style.
In some cases the discussions are short and my just whet your appetite, but for me it’s a good thing. Diving into it with your own search brings a lot of good. You will, without doubt, find other and conflicting opinions and stories and this will force you to make your own mind. I found that in many – even not all – cases I went to accept the story as it presented by Lawrence Kane and Kris Wilder.
Second: What are effective self-defense strategies as they presented in traditional karate? How effective those strategies in our nowadays world?
Good analyses of strategy vs. tactic in practical self-defense level are well articulated with good illustration on historical (evolution of strategy in traditional karate) and practical (different strategies in different styles of martial arts) levels.
Even if you’re not karate practitioner (as I’m not) you’ll find those analyses of the highest value for your training.
Third: What is kata? Where it came from? Howto understand and how to use it?
Before reading this book (and Hidden Hands by Philip Starr) I had very vague understanding of what is kata about as I didn’t practice it myself (or so I thought).
The Way Of Kata made me to review my underlying assumptions and helped me to get much dipper understanding of Judo kata in its historical perspective.
All-in-all the The Way Of Kata of Lawrence A. Kane and Kris Wilder is a "must read" for any martial artist regardless of his style.