Sunday, March 29, 2015

5 Stars for Self-Defense for Gentlemen and Ladies Edited by Ben Miller

In the interests of full disclosure, I was given this book by the publisher for review purposes

Title: Self-Defense for Gentlemen and Ladies
Edited by : Ben Miller
Publisher: Blue Snake 

Format: Hardback 
Page Count: 199
Cover Price: $14.95 (USD)

  Let me first say that I am in favor of inclusion of HEMA (Historical European Martial Arts) in our little martial arts family.  Its a weird kind of  reverse racism that says "martial arts can only come from Asia."  Especially when its being said by a person of European decent in America.  Do you get the joke?  In rare occasions, we have historical fencing being practiced with a direct lineage back farther than some of the Asian martial arts. The Martinez Academy in New York City is a prime example of this.  However, just before the turn of the last century there were actually many people, in many American cities teaching different lineages of different combat systems, both armed and unarmed.  The most colorful of these characters has to be Col. Thomas Hoyer Monstery.  That's what this book is; a combination of a biography and collection of his teachings.

Content

    The book is really divided into two parts.  It starts off with a biography of the Danish born American, Col. Thomas Hoyer Mostery.  This man had the type of adventurer life that only seems possible in the Victorian age. He learned various forms of swordsmanship and fencing as a youth, was involved in at least 50 duels, fought under 12 different flags and achieved the rank of colonel. If anyone is going to read this, I don't want to spoil the anecdotal stories about him, because they're that good.
    The second half of the book is a collection of newspaper articles which detail his methods of combat.  The first couple chapters are collections of unarmed combat, which he calls boxing, but it includes things like trips, sweeps, and how to escape headlocks, so its much more than the sport boxing that we think of today.  He then continues on with his weapons techniques including cane, swords of various types including foil, rapier, and saber, and concluding with staff techniques and drills.

Pros

    To be honest, just the biography at the beginning would be worth the price  of admission This guy was a gentleman badass in the truest sense of the word.  I wanted to go and look up more on this guy, whom I had never heard of before this, just from the introduction. Besides that, this book contains a wealth of information on a lineage of martial arts that most people, that are going to be reading this, have more in common with culturally than the Asian martial arts.  There is a rich heritage of fighting arts from Europe that made its way across the Atlantic with many of America's (and I assume Canada's) immigrants.
    The chapters by Col. Monstery are surprisingly well written, and can still be followed very easily.  With a little bit of practice, I think they can be very easily worked out what the techniques are, and what the principles behind them are.  With my background in Asian martial arts, I could easily follow the descriptions and illustrations.  Especially the staff section, as it shows how transferable this knowledge is.

Cons

    I really have no faults with this book, except maybe it is too short.  It makes me want to go out and learn more.  I think there needs to be more written, perhaps in defense of, about these European martial artists.

Conclusion

    The easiest thing to point out about this book is how very similar it is to the older writings about both Chinese and Japanese martial arts that I've read.  If you take out the Buddist or Taoist philosophy that often creeps into those texts, the way of explaining the respective martial arts is very similar to the way Col. Monstery explains his arts, and philosophies behind them.  One thing I was really struck with, was how the Col. kept talking about how the fighting/combat methods bred better people, how it was a source of self-development.  It was remarkable how alike that is to the older writings on budo.  I have a feeling that if Funakoshi, Kano, and Ueshiba were sitting around a table, they would invite Monstery in as compatriot of martial arts (wouldn't you like to be a fly on the wall for that conversation?).  I really cannot recommend this book highly enough for anyone that has even a passing interest in European martial arts.  That's why I'm going to give this book the rarely received 5 out of 5 Ninja Stars.  There were no faults in the book, except that it was too short, and that just means I read it too fast.  Oh well, I guess I can re-read it now.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Episode XXVI- Podcast=mc^2

Episode XXVI-Podcast=mc^2



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

Introduction:
Interlude Music: She Blinded Me with Science by William Shatner (featuring Bootsy Collins)

Interview: Dr. Jason Thalken
  Contact Information
    Book of Five Rings
    John Wick
    Facebook Page: Fight Like a Physicist
    @jasonthalken

Interlude Music: White and Nerdy by Weird Al Yankovic

This Week in Martial Arts:  March 23th,
  Akira Kurosawa's Birthday (3/23/1910)
    Sanshiro Sugata (Judo Saga)
    Drunken Angel
      Toshiro Mifune
    Rashamon
      Quentin Tarantino
    The Seven Samurai
      The Magnificent Seven
    Throne of Blood
      MacBeth
    The Hidden Fortress
    Yojimbo
      Fist Full of Dollars
    Kagemusha
    Ran    

Contact Information
Twitter Acount: @martialthoughts
Email: martialthoughts@gmail.com
Atemicast Youtube Channel
www.thinkingmartial.blogspot.com
www.facebook.com/martialthoughts

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

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

3.5 Stars for Bruce Lee Artist for Life

In the interests of full disclosure, I was given this book by the publisher for review purposes

Title: Bruce Lee Artist of Life
Edited by : John Little
Publisher: Tuttle
Page Count: 261
Cover Price: $18.95 (USD)

    Every martial artist is going to be eventually confronted with the images and writings of Bruce Lee.  Regardless of what martial art you practice, he is an inescapable force in martial arts.  He has almost become the patron saint of martial artists.  At some point most martial artist want to learn more about the man.

    This book takes a different take on him.  It looks at the process of how Bruce's now famous ideologies came to be, most often using Bruce's own written words. 

Content

    The book starts off with an forward by Linda Lee Cadwell describing Bruce as not only a martial artist, but as an artist of life.  Then the editor John Little offers his own piece in the introduction and first chapter where Mr. Little sort of explains some of the more common philosophies of Bruce Lee, often quoting directly from handwritten notes that Bruce Lee took on everything.  What follows though is the real meat of the book.  It is collections of Bruce Lee's notes transcribed.  It starts out with his notes and papers from his philosophy classes at University of Washington.  It follows the same set, but each section shifts emphasis of one aspect of Bruce's life.  The list of subjects covered by these notes include psychology, poetry, Jeet Kun Do, acting, and finally self knowledge, which is sort of a running theme through the rest of the sections anyway.

Pros

    I really liked how book gives a look at the process, not the product, of Bruce Lee.  The philosophy section in particular was fascinating for me.  By looking at how he took notes about Socrates and Rene Descartes, you get to see what information Bruce deemed important, and how that eventually resulted in his own personal philosophy. The same goes with the Jeet Kun Do letter drafts to Black Belt Magazine.  By seeing the changes that were done, you get a glimpse into his thought process.  
    I had also never seen any of Bruce Lee's poetry, and that was a special treat.

Cons

    I wouldn't recommend this book to be someone's "My First Bruce Lee book."  I think you have to have a pretty decent grasp of his ideas and philosophies, and probably his life, before you pick up the book.  Also, a general knowledge of the philosophies of Taoism, Plato, Socrates, and Descartes wouldn't hurt either.  Also because many of the pieces are drafts, you do get some repetition of reading material and ideas.  

Conclusion

    I really enjoyed this book.  I've seen the Bruce Lee movies, watched some documentaries, and read some other Bruce Lee books, so I had a pretty good idea of the ideas and philosophies being presented.  I think I was the target audience for this one.  This book lets you see the development of the result that we think of as "Bruce Lee."  As I said, the different drafts of certain papers can get repetetive in their information, but that isn't the point.  The point is how they change.  Look at the how, and try to deduce the why. That's the joy of this book.  As such I'm going to give it 3.5 (out of 5) Ninja Stars.  I really did enjoy the book, but it took me a while to really start to get into it, which could also be my fault as I was expecting a light biography, and this was a denser, more mentally demanding, examination of the process that was Bruce Lee.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

3.5 Ninja Stars for Japanese Jiu-Jitsu by Darrell Max Craig

In the interests of full disclosure, I was given this book by the publisher for review purposes

Title: Japanese Jiu-Jitsu, Secret Techniques of Self-Defense
Written by : Darrell Max Craig
Publisher: Tuttle
Page Count: 209
Cover Price: $16.95 (USD)

    Japanese Jiu-Jitsu (or jiujutsu, or jujutsu or any of the other myriad of spellings) is something that I am readily familiar with.  I have been studying Japanese martial arts for about 15 years now, with Atemi ryu Jujutsu (our spelling) composing a large part of that time.  As such I was eager to get access to Mr. Craig's book.  I have another of his on my bookshelf right now.  Iai, The Art of Drawing the Sword was an important book in my early studies of martial arts, specifically the swords arts.  If fact, it was the first book on Japanese swords arts that I bought.  Knowing that he wrote another book that pertained to martial arts that I know fairly well was exciting.

Content

Mr. Craig's other book I own.
    The books starts out with a brief introduction as to what jiu-jutsu is and some of the more basic information such as how to fold a gi and hakama.  On a side note, I too HATE when I see students just crumpling up their gi or hakama to throw into their bag.  He then starts with a general idea of the philosophy of unbalancing an opponent, and I'll admit, I haven't see it put the way Mr. Craig lays it out.  The majority of the book then goes through examples of jiu-jutsu techniques and explanations.  They proceed in a methodical pattern to give the readers a good idea of what sort of techniques comprise jiu-jutsu.

Pros

    This book is very well written and easy to understand.  From the introduction, you get a very good feel for Mr. Craig's passion for his martial arts, and how he wants others to have that same passion.  To show the importance of principle over technique, the author constantly goes back to his unbalancing diagram from the beginning of the book to use as a reference point to the individual techniques.  I like how that shows themes in the techniques being presented.  It illustrates how they are part of an overall system, and not just a smattering of techniques for demonstration purposes.

Cons

    First off, I did enjoy the book, and I think it was very well done.  I just think the book was designed for people who are at the beginning of studying jiu-jitsu, which is not me.  I don't think I was the target audience.  However, there were pieces of information that I could add to my knowledge base, as there are in any book.  Also, although the illustrations were very well done, and I do love illustrations in martial arts books, I had a hard time seeing how someone not familiar with the techniques could follow the steps to get through the pictures.  It could be that the illustrations are better than I'm giving them credit for them being.  I've said several times on these reviews that trying to show something dynamic and moving, like martial arts, in a two-dimensional way is a very difficult task.

Conclusion

    As I said, I did enjoy the book, and if you are either at the beginning of your path in traditional Japanese martial arts, or if you study a different art and want to do some research on this specific subject, then this is a perfect book for either of  those situations.  As such, I'm going to give this book 3.5 out of 5 Ninja Stars.  It is a good book that is well written, and if you are part of the prospective audience, this book will be extremely useful.  I may have to have some of my readers try out this book and tell me if my point on the illustrations are accurate.  Get the book, and let me know if you can follow what is being illustrated.  If you can, and its just me, then I'll reassess my views on them.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Episode XXV-Podcast it again, Sam

Episode XXV-Podcast it Again, Sam


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

Introduction:
  Recorded On: March 6th, 2015
  Listener email?
  -do vs. -jutsu
  Supernatural
  iTunes Reviews

Interlude Music: The Piper's Calling by Blind Guardian

Discussion Topic
Aikido vs. Aikijutsu
  Aikibudo
  Sensei Reynosa
  Aikikai
  Daito ryu Aikijutsu
  Tomiki
  Hell Dojo
 
Interlude Music: One Little Victory by Rush

Interview: Lori O'Connell 
  Can ryu Jujutsu
  Tuttle Publishing
  Bruce Fontaine (IMDB)
    Beyond Redemption
  Scary Movie IV
  Smallville
  Embrace the Vampire
  Supernatural
  Felicia Day
  Deadpool
  Spiderman 3
  Star Trek
  (Blog) http://pacificwavejiujitsu.com/blog/
  Lori O'Connell (IMDB)
  www.lorioconnell.com
  Weapons of Opportunity
  
Interlude Music: Light in the Dark by Rainbow

This Week in Martial Arts:  May March 8th,
  Cynthia Rothrock's Birthday (3/8/1957)
    Tang Soo Do
    Tae Kwon Do
    Eagle Claw
    Wu Shu
    Northern Shaolin
    Pai Lum Tao
    No Retreat No Surrender
    China O'Brien (and II)
    The Martial Arts Kid
    Don "The Dragon" Wilson
    White Tiger
    Bitchfight

Contact Information
Twitter Acount: @martialthoughts
Email: martialthoughts@gmail.com
Atemicast Youtube Channel
www.thinkingmartial.blogspot.com
www.facebook.com/martialthoughts

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

Sunday, February 22, 2015

4.5 Ninja Stars for "When Buddhists Attack"

Review of "When Buddhists Attack"

In the interest of full disclosure, I was given this book by the publisher for review purposes.

Title: When Buddhists Attack: The Curious Relationship Between Zen and the Martial Arts
Written by: Jeffrey K. Mann
Publisher: Tuttle Publishing
Pages: 221
Cover Price: $16.95

    If you've practiced Japanese martial arts, you've probably heard some of the ideas that are part of Zen Buddhism mentioned in your practice.  Mushin, zanshin, and others are always discussed as part of the mental or the, for lack of a better word, spiritual portion of the art.  When Buddhists Attack is a book which not only discusses what these Zen ideas are, and how they became associated with the martial arts, but Dr. Mann also answers the more important question of "why".  Why did Zen became intertwined with Japanese martial arts.  


Content

  The book roughly separated into three content portions.  The first is a generalized history of Buddhism, with an emphasis on the Zen branch.  It includes some of the basics of Japanese, and by default samurai, history.   It then starts to discuss how and when it Zen become part of the Japanese culture, specifically the culture of the samurai.  The second delves into why these ultimately practical warriors would willingly adapt this new philosophy.  What did they get out of it.  It also includes a deeper discussion into some some of the specific Zen aspects that influence martial artists today.  Dr. Mann does a good job of explaining mushin in a way that is more in depth and more decipherable than I've ever read before.  I admit, I had a shallow understanding of the term, and the book discusses the shallow meaning, and why that isn't enough.  The third section is a sort of closing argument which talks about how zen can and is being used today in dojo, and even discusses the zen of competition arts such as kendo or judo.


Pros

    This book, although focusing on a very specific point of reference, goes through a generalized history of Japan and the samurai and explains how and why zen came to be entwined with the ideas and teachings of martial arts that of Japan.  It explains the often confusing Zen ideas in less esoteric ways than many other books on the subject.  To that end, this book is either filled in a lot of information I was missing, or deepened my understanding of what I did know.  As with any book on philosophy it naturally has to be a thought provoking book, and it was.  It is dense with information.  I had to take my time with this book.  I had to read it in smaller bites.
    The author also is good at taking the parts of Zen most martial artists are exposed to and explaining them in terms and ideas most martial arts would understand.  The book has a very informational way of saying "if you want to get better at martial arts, then here is how Zen can help you."  This makes it a practical philosophy book, at least from a martial arts perspective.


Cons

    The only negative I can see is that the part of the book that I liked, may be bad for other people.  Because of the informational density, I wouldn't recommend this book, if this is your very first exposure to the ideas of zen.  Even though it does a good job explaining them, it could be a bit overwhelming.  It does jump quickly into the deep end with the philosophies.  I think the reader would be well served to have a cursory idea of what the ideas and philosophies of Zen are first.  That being said, many martial artists would have probably been exposed to some of these ideas either inadvertently or on purpose through their martial studies anyway.


Conclusion

    I've had this book on my wishlist since it came out in 2012.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, and I learned a lot from it.  Which I guess is the best praise you can give a book.  As such, I'm going to give this book 4.5 out of 5 ninja stars.  The only reason it isn't a full 5 ninja stars is that you have to have some exposure to zen to fully understand what is being said throughout the book.  That being said, I'm going to shelve this one, and come back to it in a couple of years, and see how much more I understand at that point.  It's that good of a book.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Episode XXIV-I Came, I Saw, I Podcast

Episode XXIV- I Came, I Saw, I Podcast

Download the Podcast HERE


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

Introduction:
  Recorded On: February 18th, 2015
  Snowed in, in Nashville

Interlude Music: Godzilla by Blue Oyster Cult

News
  NBC's Warrior
    AMC's Badlands
    Lance Gross
    Natalie Martinez
    Will Yun Lee
      Hawaii 5-0
      True Blood
      Marvel's The Wolverine
      Witchblade
  Paratroopers become resilient force through Kung Fu
     Tagou Shaolin Martial Arts School in Henan China
  In Democratic Republic of Congo, Martial Arts Helps Children Get Away From Fighting
    Capoiera
  Martial Arts taught to employees
  Argentinian Guillermo Grispo is the man behind the "Kingsman" fight scene
    Guillermo Grispo
    Wesley Snipes
    Blade 2
    300
    X-Men: First Class
    Kick-Ass
    Conan
    Iron Man 2
    Kingsman: The Secret Service
    Colin Firth
    Superman vs. Batman

Interlude Music: Baby Please Don't Go by Van Morrison

Interview: Gershon Ben Keren 
  Krav Maga: Real World Solutions to Real World Violence
  Neal Adams
  Brian Jacks
  Kibbutz
  Krav Maga
  IDF (Israeli Defense Forces)
  Krav Maga Yashir
  Irmi Lichtenfeld
  Goju ryu Karate
  Shorin ryu Karate
  "The situation determines the solution."
  Grayson and Stein Study
  Victim Identifiers
    Eyeline Down
    Unnatural Stride Length to Height
    Upper Body moved out of sinc with their lower body 
  Jedi Mind Trick
  Jigoro Kano
  The Equilizer
  
  Contact Information
  www.kravmagablog.com
  
Interlude Music: Long Distance Runaround by Yes

This Week in Martial Arts: February 22nd
  National Ninja Day
    Iga and Koka
  Kung Fu Premires on ABC (2/22/1970)
    David Carradine
    Kung Fu: The Movie
    Brandon Lee
    Kung Fu: The Next Generation
    Kung Fu: The Legend Continues
    Baz Luhrman

Contact Information
Twitter Account: @martialthoughts
Email: martialthoughts@gmail.com
Atemicast Youtube Channel
www.thinkingmartial.blogspot.com
www.facebook.com/martialthoughts

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