Friday, August 28, 2015

Review of Secrets of the Ninja by Sean Michael Wilson, Illustrated by Aikiko Shimojima

In the interest of full disclosure, I received this book from the publisher for review purposes

Title: Secrets of the Ninja: The Shinobi Teachings of Hattori Hanzo
Written by: Sean Michael Wilson
Illustrated by: Aikiko Shimojima
Publisher: Blue Snake Books
Format: Softcover
Page Count: 138
Cover Price: $15.95 (US)

    Human brains seem to be designed for story telling.  We are story telling animals.  Studies have shown that people will remember the same facts better, if they are told them as part of a story.  This book exemplifies idea and gives you historical information about the ninja, not just as part of a book, but a story in comic/manga format, which is the way all ninja information should be passed on right?


    This book is about 100 pages of a manga style story of a ninja teaching two young disciples the methods of ninja.  He teaches his two young apprentices about ninja equipment, ninja deception, and ninja tactics.  They are then given part of an assignment to demonstrate their knowledge of ninja.  After that, the last 40 pages or so are commentary by Antony Cummins documenting, and expanding on the information given in the comic.  Those pages cite where the information comes from.


    I did like the format of showing the information as a story.  I also enjoyed the story itself.  It wasn't just a student/mentor story, there were other characters, and you actually end up feeling for them.  There's even a love story.  That's a lot packed into those 100 pages.  I'm not the largest anime/manga fan, but I definitely appreciate the media.  The art is this book wasn't overly cartoony, nor was it the jagged edged hair type of art.  This was a very good realistic style of manga. 
    The story, which didn't beat you over the head with "your reading educational stuff," was very nicely done.  That maybe because you, the reader, weren't the one learning, you were reading of the student Hisaaki, and learning about actual ninja ideas by proxy through him. 
    I also appreciate the end pages which tell where the information came from, and they're not just making it up.  I did an interview with Antony Cummins a while ago, and was appreciative of his knowledge of ninja, and actual ninja scrolls.


    I'm not sure why its in there, but the Samurai/Ninja instructor character seemed to be unnecessarily cruel in his teaching.  I'm not sure what that was trying to say with that aspect.  Maybe I'm just being sensitive to today's teaching methods.


    If you know someone who's into anime or manga, and likes Naruto or something similar, this could be a great gateway for them.  This is a great, lets take what you think you know, type of book.  I know in Japan, Manga are not viewed as kids materials, and adults are often seen reading them in public, but in the US we still see it as something people grow out of.  So, I think this book is being intended for people younger than me.  Even so, I did enjoy the story, the art, and the historical accuracies of the book.  As such, I'm going to give this book 4 out of 5 Ninja Stars.  I really had a grin on my face while I was reading it, but because of the stigma associated with reading comics, I don't know how many people I could openly recommend this book to.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Shownotes for XXXIII-The Naked Podcast 33 1/3

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Intro Music: Theme from "Enter the Dragon" by Lalo Schifri

  Recorded On: 8/24/2015
  New Recording Equipment!
  New Interviews coming !?!
Interlude Music: Marathon by Rush

Interview: Cory Jensen of Martial Arts Nation Podcast
  Martial Arts Nation Podcast on iTunes
  Wing Chun
  Shotokan Karate
  Feel vs. Technique
  The Drunken Taoist
  Kung Fu Conversations
  Kung Fu Panda
  Sho Kosugi
  Tony Jaa
  Donnie Yen
  Tom Cruise
  The Last Samurai
  Dan Carlin (Hardcore History)
  When Buddhists Attack
  Striking Thoughts
  On the Warrior's Path by Danielle Bolleli
  Ninja Scrolls
  Contact Information
    Martial Arts Nation on facebook
    martialartsnation.pod (instigram)

Interlude Music: Fight the Good Fight by Triumph

This Week in Martial Arts: August 23rd, 1974 Ray Park's Birthday
  Dark Maul in Episode I
  Snake-Eyes in G.I. Joe
  Mortal Kombat: Annihilation
    Robin Shou
    James Remar
  Sleepy Hollow

Contact InformationTwitter Account: @martialthoughts
Atemicast Youtube Channel

Outro Music: Voodoo Chile-Jimi Hendrix / Gayageum ver. by Luna

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Shownotes for Episode XXXII-The Man with the Golden Podcast

EPISODE XXXII-The Man with the Golden Podcast

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Intro:  Theme from "Enter the Dragon" by Lalo Schifr
  Recorded On: July 13th,  2015
  Twitter Shout-Outs:
  Facebook Like
  Review on iTunes: Bill (with Teeth)
Interlude Music: No More Mr. Nice Guy by Megadeth
Interview: Sensei Ando of Fight For A Happy Life
    Bruce Lee
    Steven Segal
    Above the Law
    Master Aikido by Saotome
    Book of Five Rings
    Tao Te Ching
    The Warrior Athlete by Dan Newman
    Enter the Dragon
    V for Vendetta
    Ong Bok
  Contact Information
Interlude Music: The Wizard by Rainbow

This Week in Martial Arts: Dan Inosanto
    American Kempo
    Jeet Kun Do
    Diana Lee Inosanto
    Brandon Lee
    Denzel Washington
    Forest Witiker
    Anderson Silva
    The Green Hornet
    Game of Death
    Big Trouble in Little China
    Red Belt
Contact Information
Twitter Acount: @martialthoughts
Atemicast Youtube Channel

Outro Music: Voodoo Chile-Jimi Hendrix / Gayageum ver. by Luna

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Review of Black Belt Fitness for Life by Grandmaster Tae Sun Kang

Review of Black Belt Fitness for Life by Grandmaster Tae Sun Kang

In the interests of full disclosure, I was given a copy of this book for review purposes.

Title: Black Belt Fitness for Life: A 7-Week Plan to Achieve Lifelong Wellness
Written by : Grandmaster Tae Sun Kang
Publisher: Tuttle Publishing

Format: Softcover
Page Count: 160
Cover Price: $12.95

    I've been studying aikido for over 15 years now, which means...I'm old.  I cannot rely on my youth to keep me in shape.  And as much as I love aikido, and it can be a vigorous exercise, it is not known for its athleticism.  So, I've decided to start looking for some advice on how to get back in shape and more importantly how to stay in shape.  Since I'm a martial artist, I figure the best way to get into shape would be to follow a martial arts fitness routine.  I'm not the type of person whose schedule allows for them to go to the gym for Taebo classes regularly, so I was looking for something I could do at home when ever some spare time (yeah right) rears its head.  That's how I found this book.  Grandmaster Tae Sun Kang has a simple plan that's not designed to just get you in shape, but to keep you in shape, which is always the hardest part of the battle.


    The book's introductory chapters give some background on the author, and then it delves into his philosophy of martial arts and how it can positively affect you physically.  He then starts to go through his life-change plan, which includes stretches, exercises, and eating plans/ideas/philosophies.  I don't know what to call his food intake ideas, but it is considered part of his overall life-changing plan.  Because its martial arts based, each week is a "belt."  So the first week's change in movements and eating styles is "white" belt level.  And because its the extreme basic level, there isn't much too it.  The next level, yellow belt, is designed to push you a little farther on your path.  Each week adds small changes that build on the weeks before it.  Just as your knowledge in martial arts builds on each belt you've achieved.  After 7-weeks you're at the black belt level, where you have your exercise and eating routine in place, and because it took 7-weeks to get there, you've adapted your life to be able to do it.  The author also gives advice on how to change up the exercises if you start getting bored of them.  


    One of the things that I really liked about this book is the "belt" system of weeks.  Just as belts are used in martial arts to be a goal, it can work the same way in life changing habits.  Everyone's goal is to be a black belt right?  I also really appreciate the idea that not everyone is ready to jump into a lifestyle change, but if you change somethings gradually it will become part of your lifestyle.  One point to make is that none of the movements in this plan are exotic or contortionistic stretches that you've never seen before.  They are all exercises and movements that you've probably done at one point in your life.  Even if you can't do a push-up you know what one is, and the book shows ways to modify the movements/exercises if you don't have the ability to do the full movement/exercise yet.  For example, do an inclined push-up if you aren't able to do a full push-up yet.  It still is the process of the change that's important.


    The one problem with this book, is that it is a book.  If you are able to motivate yourself to get off the couch and do the stretches and exercises, then this book is awesome.  If you are a person that requires external motivation, which could be other people in the dojo, or an instructor than no book will really work for you.  So make sure you know yourself, or at least want to change yourself, before you get this book.  
    Another thing that's a little weird about this book is the testimonials scattered throughout the book.  I think they're supposed to be motivation points, but I'm not sure.  It just seemed a little odd to me.


   This book is really well organized, very readable, and indeed, even makes you want to try out the stretches and exercises.  It really does motivate you to at least try out what the author is saying.  He's very logical in his presentation, and I would love to be in a room with him, as his writings make him seem like an awesome coach who encourages, and creates a non-competitive atmosphere when people are working with him.  Overall I'm going to give this book 4 out of 5 ninja stars.  The movements are generally martial arts movements, which is why I think most people reading this would want to give it a chance, and they are presented is a very good way where you can tell what is supposed to be done.  The motivation factor, and progressive nature of the exercises make this an easy path to follow, and more importantly and easy path to stay on.  That's the most important factor of a fitness/eating plan is not the number of people that start it, but how many are still doing it a year from now.  Again because of the martial arts nature, I think people interested in martial arts would be more willing to continue on this particular path.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The pains and joys of learning a new martial art.

Chendokan Aikido
    I've been studying Japanese martial arts since 1995.  However, I recently moved to Nashville and decided a change in location could mean a change in martial arts for me as well.  There is a local school of Chendokan Aikido, and I still practice there a couple times a month, but I specifically wanted to go back to the beginning and study something where I didn't know the language or ideas presented.  So I started looking for a new martial art to study.  I looked around at a couple of local schools, some karate, kung-fu and others.  Then I listened to a podcast where Steve Perry (the writer not the guy from Journey) was talking about Pencak Silat, and he described the way it looked as Aikido combined with Wing Chun.  I was hooked with the idea.  Here was an art that was completely foreign in its language and culture, but should still have some familiarity right?  I looked around, and there happens to be a school not far away from me.  So I started studying PCK Pencak Silat.


    I've been practicing, and teaching martial arts long enough that I've forgotten what its like to start at the beginning.  I forgot how standing in an unfamiliar position uses small muscles that you're not used to using, and how they hurt the next day.  I'm decently familiar with Japanese language and how it's structure works, especially within the context of Aikido and martial arts in general.  I forgot how daunting and overwhelming learning all the language components can be.   Pencak Silat is from Indonesia, and I have no experience with that language or culture.  Because Aikido doesn't really use kata, or forms, I was specifically looking for a martial art that had forms.  Silat does have forms, and learning them is a completely new, and again, awkward experience.


PCK Silat
 I'm not complaining or whining, all those same things that are the pains of learning a martial art, are also the joys of learning a martial art.  After a little while, the newness of learning a martial art wears off, and all you're left with is the more difficult parts.  That's where you have to find your joys.  Find joy in learning a new culture and language.  Find joy in that awkward, uncomfortable position slowly feeling more natural.  Find joy in the ability to push past the learning curve and find pleasure in incremental learning of new skills.  All of those are the real joys of learning a new martial art. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Top 10 Fictional Martial Arts!

    Martial arts, in its weird, mystical way, has been a part of fiction probably since there was fiction, and there seems to be only a couple of different ways that martial arts are used: 1. Martial arts explains why a character can do certain deeds, 2. A new martial arts is created that uses fictional martial weapons, or non-human forms , 3. The "Ultimate" martial art where nothing else can defeat it, or 4, As a parody making fun of martial arts, or martial arts movies.  My list includes variations on all four.  They are of my personal favorites, with explanations as to why.  Enjoy.

10. Rex Kwon Do (Napoleon Dynamite)

    What can you say about techniques that were perfected after 2 seasons in the octagon?  Rex Kwon Do appears in the movie Napoleon Dynamite, when Napoleon goes with his friend Kip to try out Rex's dojo where you are able to learn "the strength of a grizzly, the reflexes of a puma, and the wisdom of a bear."  Rex is brilliantly played by one of those weird character actors that doesn't get used enough Dietrich Bader.  I didn't like the move as a whole, but those dojo scenes had me laughing.

9. Venusian Aikido/Venusian Karate (Dr. Who, 3rd Doctor)

    I know I'll probably get my geek card revoked, but I've never been a Doctor Who fan.  That being said, I like the daring of saying there is a martial art done by beings with completely different shapes than humans.  How the good Doctor managed to translate that to a human form is beyond me.  Also, It apparently switches terms between aikido and karate.  Because they're so similar right?

8. Gun Kata (Equilibrium)

    Equilibrium is a pretty good movie despite its Christian Bale-ness.  In this movie, his wooden acting is actually appropriate because it takes place in an emotionless dystopia where he plays a "Cleric" whose job it is to keep people in line with the program, and taking their emotion-blocking pills.  The martial art of Gun Kata is supposed to be based moving to the area of least probability of being shot while engaged in close quarters gun fights.  Its an interesting idea, and it looks cool, but it is ultimately impractical.  However, I do love a good dystopia...and it ends with a sword fight, so there you go.

7. Klurkor (DC Comics)

    Never heard of this one?  Well you're not alone.  In the 70's/80's (notice the roller skates), in an attempt to make Lois Lane a little less reliant on Superman, she learned the Kryptonian Karate system of Klurkor.  Where and when did she learn this, You might ask.  Why of course in the year she spend in the shrunken city of Kandor.  Only in comics would that make sense.  I've never seen any reference that Kal-El actually knows this art, so maybe Lois can teach him some moves.

6. Freman Kempo

    I love Dune, and there is a lot of physical hand-to-hand combat intermixed with all the political intrigue, and Weirding Way.  I found a reference online (you know how that goes), that says there was a martial art called Fremen (the desert guys with the blue eyes) Kempo.  I don't recall it being called that, but they obviously had a specific learnable system of combat with their Crysknives.  Besides where else can you learn to walk without rhythm?

5. Mok'Bara

    Klingons!  Enough said!  Actually that's not enough, The Klingons may have the most explored Sci-Fi martial art of them all.  Mok'Bara is an overarching martial art that includes both armed and unarmed components.  The armed portion covers the use of typical Klingon weapons like the bat'leth, while surprisingly, the unarmed portion is more like taijiquan, in that its about balance and calm.  There's been a couple scenes of Worf teaching a class aboard the Enterprise-D in what look like some futuristic gi clothes.  There's even a book, which I have to sadly/proudly admit I own, that goes over a bat'leth kata, that supposed to be based on a Chinese Staff kata.

4. The 7 Lightsaber Forms (Star Wars)

    Que the Star Wars theme music!  There may be no more iconic martial weapon to science fiction than the lightsaber.  I tell how old people are by which Star Wars movie they saw in the theater, so you're either Empire-aged, or Jedi-aged.  If you're a young whippersnapper, you're Phantom-aged.  I, like many martial artist my age, were really excited to see what the Jedi in their prime looked like in the prequel movies, cause let's face it, so far in the original trilogy we'd only seen an old man, a cyborg, and a not-quite-trained Jedi.  With the Prequel trilogy we got to see them, and their lightsaber skills on display.  If you really get into the geek-dom of it, there are seven "schools" or forms of lightsaber use.  Most Jedi lean towards one form of the other, but you can see parts of it in all of them.

3. Taroon-Ifla (Star Trek)

    Okay, back to Star Trek.  If you read some of  the non-cannon fiction, Spock's Vulcan Neck Pinch is part of an overall Vulcan martial art.  I included this one as number 3 because, honestly, touching someone in the right way to make them fall unconscious is the goal of many martial arts.  It is a peaceful, non-damaging way to end a conflict.  O-Sensei would be proud.

2.  Sumito

    Okay, I'm biased for this one.  This is from the Matador series of books by Steve Perry (read my review).  Sumito is a fictional martial art that is unintentionally based on Pencak Silat.  Since I've stared studying Silat, I've come to appreciate the way Steve Perry writes about this art even more.  I included it this high on the list because it seems an imminently practical art, which cannot be said for most on this list.  There is nothing super-human, or even alien about this one.  It just describes the way to move and to use techniques to manipulate a person to do what you want them to do.

1. Ameri Do Te

    Best of All, Worst of None.  Bat'leth are Bullshit!

If I left out any of your favorites, let me know in the comments, and I can re-edit the post to include "honorable mentions"

Thursday, June 25, 2015

5 out of 5 Ninja Stars for Steve Perry's The Matador Series

    First off, if you got the wrong impression, this is NOT Steve Perry the 80's band guy, this is Steve Perry the very good science fiction writer.  I first heard of this series just a couple weeks ago through an interview with Steve Perry on Karate Café Podcast.  Steve is a martial artist.  He's studied a couple different arts in his past, though for a while now, he's been studying Pencak Silat Sera.
  The Matador series of books is a series of science fiction/space opera type books that starts with the book, The Man Who Never Missed, originally published in 1985.  The book has a feel that's a combination of Dune and Star Wars.  Or maybe a better description would be Dune, if it took place in Star Wars dive bars.  It deals with the hero of the story, Emile Khadaji, and his works to take down the corrupt, and oppressive ConFed government.  He partially does this by learning a fictional martial art called "Sumito" which, although made-up, is based on real martial arts.

   This book was obviously written by an individual who knows martial arts, and he can describe those type of action scenes beautifully.  But more importantly, he is able to describe the headspace of a martial artist.  I've never read any fiction book that describes what occurs in your head during martial arts as well as this book does.  He perfectly describes the way one action, by itself, is really used to set up a desired reaction in the opponent.  I was hooked.  I immediately went out and bought the other books in the series.  The next two books Matadora, and The Machiavelli Interface build on those same themes, but because they don't have to world-build like the first book, they jump right into the action.  In the two months since I heard of this series I've read 8 of the books, and am waiting on the last one. 
I really cannot recommend these books enough.  In fact, I'm rather upset that I didn't know about these books earlier.  The first trilogy especially, but the whole series gets 5 out of 5 Ninja Stars from me.  I love the feel of the books, I love the martial arts mentality of the books, and I love the little inside jokes of the names and place names in this universe.  I just gave the first three books to my friend, and I told him I would kick him in the shins if he didn't read them.  That's how good they are.  I may go buy a couple more copies of the book, just to give them away to martial artists I know.  In fact, I'm going to have a contest and give away a copy of the book just because I want to spread the word about this series.  Immediately after reading these, my thought was "why isn't this a movie, or at least a mini-series?"  With the level of sci-fi on TV today, including the new series Killjoys and Dark Matter on Sy-Fy (is that how they spell it now?), which I'll review at a later date, they could do this series very easily.  Until then, strap on your spetsdōds, walk the 97-Steps, and READ THESE BOOKS!