Thursday, December 18, 2014

4.5 Ninja Stars for Krav Maga: Real World Solutions to Real World Violence

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

Title: Krav Maga: Real World Solutions to Real World Violence
Author: Gershon Ben Keren
Publisher: Tuttle
Pages: 192
Cover Price: $17.95

  I have zero experience with Krav Maga, so I didn't quite know what to expect from this book.  I had some preconceived notions of what Krav Maga consists of, and to some extent, they proved true.  In others ways, I was pleasantly surprised at what it told me.


  The title is a pretty descriptive one.  The book goes through how to apply principles of Krav Maga Yashir to a variety of situations.  The book is broken down into 4 parts.  The introduction is just a little background about what Krav Maga is, where it came from, and about the author.  There will be an interview with him in a future podcast, so stay tuned. Part 1 describes and gives pictures of the basics of Krav Maga as a martial art including stances, hand positioning, the basic strikes, and blocks.  In their descriptions it also goes into the why of these basics.  Part 2 then takes these basics, and show them in application settings using the previously outlined principles of Krav Maga.  It shows them being employed against both empty hand and weapons.  Part 3 is called Unarmed Assaults and Dynamic Components of Violence.  It takes the same principles, and applies them in more middle of a fight scenarios, including headlocks, clinches, and other such grabbing situation.


    Let me start with the physical book.  When I got the book in the mail, I first noticed the paper.  There is a much higher quality to the paper.  It has a slight sheen to it, and a definite thickness that is noticeable.  I assume this is due to the pictures.  Now the pictures are a special feature all to themselves.  I loved the pictures.  The pictures are clear, in color, and action shots.  What I mean by action shots is that all the pictures were taken in the progress of doing the technique, not staged.  Which means they probably had to to the techniques a couple hundred times.  This does, however, give them a more realistic feel.  They were also taken in actual locations, not on the dojo mat.  They show situations at the a bar,,, being attacked while getting into your car.  As the subtitle says in real world situations.  In that way it reminds me of Shioda's book Dynamic Aikido.  They also show different people performing the techniques, different builds, different heights, and different sexes.  The color pictures are definitely a highlight of the book.  Can you think of the last martial arts book you read with color pictures?
  The techniques presented in the book are principle based, effective, and adaptable.  What I liked best about the techniques presented was that, even though it wasn't explicitly stated, they could be incorporated into your own martial arts training very easily.  Effective self-defense is free from style.  I found myself saying thinking that all the techniques looked familiar enough to my own jujutsu training, that I could very easily perform them with my slight variation.


  The only bad thing I can say about the book is that there isn't enough.  It covers a lot of material, and goes through the explanation of the material, but if feel more like an introduction.  At the end of the book, I wanted to keep reading.  Which I guess really isn't a bad thing.  Maybe that means there is a sequel coming, or that the editors/publishers wanted them to pare down the material.
  One thing that could be interpreted as a con, is the principle based techniques seem to repeat themselves.  I think that this would be an amateur mistake.  Being principle based, means that you can apply the same principle to multiple situations.


  I really liked this book.  It explained how to apply the principles of Krav Maga in a variety of ways, and in a variety of circumstances.   It can be used by new students of martial arts, or by an experineced martial artist to incorporate into their own training.  If you are interested in self defense I would highly recommend this book.  In fact, as a self defense book, I give it 4.5 (out of 5) ninja stars.  I really did enjoy this book.  The descriptions are very good, and you can follow along with the action very easily.  The "action" pictures alone make it worth the price of the book.  The material it covers is good, solid self defense. And again, you can easily find a way to incorporate this information into your own training.  If you call your martial art, self-defense based, then you should be able to recognize all the good information presented in this book.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Can you make your martial art work?

    I have earned a nidan (2nd degree black belt) in Chendokan Aikido.  I have been doing martial arts for over 15 years.    I got my shodan after about 9 years of studying aikido (give or take, I don't remember exactly).  These statements may seem like bragging, but in fact its just the opposite.  I'm just now feeling that I have the basics down to the point where I can start to learn the actual applications.
    I was in class this morning, the first class I had attended in a while, and I got two pieces of wisdom that have completely changed my idea of my own martial arts.  The first one was part of a conversation, and I'm going to paraphrase here.

  Sensei: Do you know this technique?
  Me: I can make it work?

  Sensei: Why do you have to make it work?

  I stood there flabbergasted.  He was right and I didn't know what to say.  Techniques shouldn't be made to work, they should work or not work.  If I have to force it to work, then I don't know the technique, at least as well as I should.  Aikido is a martial art, and it will work in self defense situations.  After all the time I've put into this, I know the techniques on a physical, level, and maybe as a dojo technique.  Now how do I make sure the technique works when it needs to?  That's what I get to work on for the future.  What do I have to do to allow the technique to work, not make it work.

  The second remarkable line Sensei said to me (and the whole class) hit a cord, and I wanted to share it with everyone.  He said, "I know more about what NOT to do, than I'll ever know about what to do."  Once you learn the techniques of a martial arts system at a decently proficient level, say by about black belt, the rest is just polishing them so you know how to use them, and know when to use them.  By that, I mean when a certain technique is required, and when to abandon the technique as well.  I had learned this as "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilites, in the expert's mind there are few"  I had not ever fully understood that statement until Sensei's statement this morning.  So again, thank you to Sensei for adding to my world view.

Episode XX-The Good, The Bad, and the Podcast

Episode XX-The Good, The Bad, and the Podcast

Download the Podcast HERE

Recorded: Wednesday November 26th, 2014


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

  Black Friday = Ninja Day
  (Ancient Assassins) 47 Ronin
  Ninja Turtles

Interlude Music: Clint Eastwood by Gorilaz

  Bonsian Ninjas Gather Under the Roof of Ninjutsu Samurai Club
    Ninja Olympics
    Scottish Games
    Caber Toss
    Nippon Era
    Sensei Darko Treykovic
    Power Rangers
  Vladamir Putin Earns Black Belt, 8th Dan in Kyokushin Karate
    9th Dan in Tae Kwon Do
  Rare Samurai Swords and Arms up for bid in online Christie's Auction 
  Soke Don Angier (10/9/2014
    James Williams
    Atlanta Knife Show
    Yanagi Ryu
    Don Angier on Youtube

Interlude Music: Man in Black by Johnny Cash

Ninja/Shinobi no mono kanji
Interview: Antony Cummins
  The Book of the Ninja
  True Path of the Ninja
  Iga and Koka Ninja Skills
  In Search of the Ninja
  The Illustrated Guide to Viking Martial Arts
  Ninja (Shinobi no Mono) Kanji
  Taihiki Scroll
  Shoniki Scroll
  Jonin = Great Ninja (Upper level ninja)
  Koga Ninja Clan
  Iga Ninja Clan
  Ninjas walking on water
  Ninja walking through walls
  Mizagumo = "Water Spider"
  Fuji Taseko
  Iga Ninja Museum
  Nakashima Sensei
  Storm Shadow
  James Bond 1st Ninja Reference in American Film (You Only Live Twice)
  Stephen K. Hayes
  Shogun TV Mini-series
  (Teenage Mutant Ninja) Turtles
  Sakura Killers
  13 Assassins
  Hagiwara Juzo
  Deadliest Warrior Viking vs. Ninja?
  Secret Traditions of the Shinobi
  Antony Cummins Youtube Channel
  Antony Cummins Facebook

Interlude Music: Shadow of the Wind by Black Sabbath

This Week in Martial Arts: November 25th, 1931, Shintaro Katsu's Birthday
  Tomisubura Wakiyama
  Akira Kurasawa
  Lone Wolf and Cub
  Blind Fury
  Rutger Hauer
Contact Information
Twitter Account: @martialthoughts
Atemicast Youtube Channel

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

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Episode XIX-Do the Right Podcast Shownotes

Episode XIX-Do the Right Podcast Shownotes

Download the Podcast HERE

Recorded: Thursday October 9th, 2014


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

Return of Mariano
Our Groupie: Chris
Moses Powell Memorial Seminar
Aikido vs. Aikijujutsu
kote gaeshi
Shorin ryu karate
Kenpo karate
Irimi nage
Kokyu nage/Kokyu ho
"Clothesline otoshi"

Discussion Topic: The martial arts test
Why do martial arts have tests?
  Dan/Kyu system
  Jigoro Kano
  Black Dragon Jujutsu

Formal vs. Informal Testing

Getting rid of kata in testing
Black Belt class
The Black Belt club
"The secret ingredient is You."
First Aid
Meiji Restoration
Chen style Taiji
Subjectivity of Grading tests
Plinio's Rant on kata
Ukemi kata
Iain Abbernathy Podcast

Should Etiquette be tested?

Interlude Music: Perfect Strangers by Deep Purple

Vietnamese Hairdresser

This Week in Martial Arts: November 23rd, 1899
Maneuel dos Reis Machado "Mastre Bimba"
  Bimbe Angola

Contact Information
Twitter Account: @martialthoughts
Atemicast Youtube Channel

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

Sunday, November 23, 2014

4 Ninja Stars for Shang Yun-Xiang Style Xingyiquan by Li Wen-Bin

Shang Yun-Xiang Style Xingyiquan by Li Wen-Bin

    Okay before I review this book two things to get off my chest.  First.  Although my interest in the internal Chinese martial arts is new, and I have been reading up on some of them, my experience with Xingyi consists of one class with Allen Carroll in Atlanta.  Second, for full disclosure purposes, I was given this book by the publisher, Blue Snake Books, for the purposes of reviewing it.  Phew, not that that's over, on to the review.

    Let me start off with this first impression of the book.  It is dense.  Even though there is 290 pages, each page seems to be filled to the brim with information.  After finishing it, I felt that I needed to read it again, just to get the second layer of information from it.  One of the things I particularly liked about this book was when it gave you the names it did so in the Chinese characters, the English lettering translation(what I would call romanji if this were Japanese), and then the English language translation. This was cool to me, as I can read a character or two (from studying Japanese) here and there, and it added to the depth that I was able to assimilate some of the information.


    The title of this book says a lot about what the content is.  This book covers one style Shang Yun-Xian, of the Chinese martial art Xingyiquan.  This does in no way distract from its value.  If fact the first part of the book is dedicated to telling you the differences between Shang style, and other styles of Xingyi.  The author, Mr. Li Wen-Bin, then went on to explain why these differences were in place, even siting the original art that Xingyi was derived from Xinyi.  Even though I'm not familiar enough with Xingyi, I appreciated the open discussion on his part.  Included in the first third of the book is a discussion on how and why Xingyi works, and why it is an internal art, as well as how it is linked to the ideas of traditional Chinese medicine.
  The second part of the book goes through the ideas of the key stance and what are called the five fists.  Again, the author explains, in terms of internal arts and traditional Chinese medicine, why Shang style teaches them in a different sequence than most Xingyi.  For those that don't know, there are five elements in Chinese ideology: Earth, Fire, Water, Metal, and Wood.  The reason for the difference has to do with the cycle of elements, how each if encouraged by a different element in the cycle, and how each element is linked to one of the five fists.  The book then, in very detailed description, goes through some of the Xingyi forms, in a way that can be easily interpreted from the combination of description and illustration.  Each form also includes a description of what the purpose of the form is, or rather, what should be learned/studied through that particular form.
    The third and last part of the book follows the pattern set in the second, but describes some of the weapons forms, including broadsword, jian sword, staff, and spear.  Again, with diligence, the forms could be done from just the description and illustration alone.


    There are many good points about this book.  Like I said earlier, this book is DENSE.  There is a lot of information and effort put into this book, and you can tell.  The tone doesn't convey the typical "why my style is better" mood, but rather, it reads more like an argumentative essay where the author says "here's what's different about my style, and here are my reasons why the differences are there."  There isn't any sense of condemnation or superiority, just a explanation of why, and I liked that .
    In the forms section, as I said, the pictures and description are very will done, which is hard to do.  Trying to show a system of movements in still photography is a skill all in itself, and this book does it well.  If you wanted to learn the form, you of course still need an instructor to critique you, but this book does a good job giving you the basic framework to build those critiques on.


    There is only one real complaint I have with this book, and it has more to do with me than the book.  This book is written for people who already have at least a decent background in Xingyi.  For example, several times it referred to "the classics of Xingyi" or the "songs of Xingyi," which I was not familiar with.  The author did explain somewhat what the information contained in them was, but i just didn't have that reference point in common with the author.


    Overall, I give this book 4 out of 5  Ninja Stars.  The book is well written, the illustrations and techniques are easy to follow, and I enjoyed the tone of the book.  I just think I wasn't part of the intended audience.  If I was a practitioner of Xingyi, or if I was starting out in Xingyi, this would be a great book.  I have a feeling that if I were to start studying Xingyi, then this would be a book I would read every couple of years, and gain new insights every time I read it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

My martial inspiration for this week

Your Martial Thoughts Hosts: Mariano, Rick, Plinio, Jaredd and Tony
    I just got back from our system's annual seminar, a memorial to Dr. Moses Powell, my instructor's instructor.  Normally, I train in South Florida with my instructor, but because I've moved to Nashville, I haven't had the opportunity for a while now.  For about 2 months now, I haven't been able to train, and I didn't realize how much I really missed it.
    It started on the drive down there.  I picked up Mariano (see Episode XV of Martial Thoughts Podcast) on the way, and we started talking martial arts.  This started to get my martial mind back in order.  By the time Friday night came about, I was reved for the seminar.  Because of the time off, I was rusty.  I had expected this to happen.  My mind could remember what I was supposed to do, but my body wasn't quite up to it.  The mind-body coordination was off.  However, what surprised me was how quickly, the flow came back.  I really did think I was going to have to re-learn a lot.  I guess I've been doing it long enough that some of that information stuck.  Our theme for this year was something along the lines of taking aikido, and making it a practical self-defense art.  I don't know how successful we were at doing this, but there was a lot of tough practice, and hard falls.
  The next morning, the seminar started at 10:00.  Which means I had to get up relatively early to make it to the dojo by 9:00 (I needed A LOT of warm up time, even before the warm-ups).  I woke up excited to go again.  Excited, but sore.  I realized as I was entering the dojo, and putting on my backup gi (the first one was soaked through), that I was smiling.  I couldn't wait to get back on the mat.  We trained hard for about 4 hours, and then went out with friends, to do what? martial arts.  I then had to drive the 14 hour trip back home on Sunday, so that I could work on Monday.  This may have been the best answer for the seminar is a long time to think over everything I just was taught.  Digestion time.  It gave me time to unfold the origami of information I had just given.  I vowed to start going to martial arts again.  I realized how incomplete I was feeling without it.  And not just the physical part, though that is important, but the social/tribal part of martial arts as well.  I missed everything that is martial.
    I guess my take away for this week is that everyone should go to a seminar occasionally, even if it's not in your system.  Try them out, and see how inspiring they are to you.

    In the comments section, please tell me about your seminar experience, both good and bad.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Episode XVIII-The Nightmare Before Podcast Shownotes

Episode XVIII-The Nightmare Before Podcast

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Download the Podcast HERE

Recorded: Wednesday October 22nd, 2014


Intro:  This is Halloween by Marilyn Manson

  Dr. Moses Powell Memorial Seminar

Interlude Music: Fear of the Dark by Iron Maiden

Interview with: Noel Plaugher

  Qi Gong
  Shou Shu
  Moore's Family Shou Shu
  Standing Qi Gong
  Xing Yi Chuan
  Standing QiGong for Health and Martial Arts

Interlude Music: The Ripper by Judas Priest

This Week in Martial Arts: October 28th, 1860 = Birthday of Jigoro Kano
  Tenjin Shin'yo ryu
  Kito ryu
  Kodokan dojo

Contact Information
Twitter Account@martialthoughts
Atemicast Youtube Channel

Outro Music: Vincent Price by Deep Purple