Thursday, March 23, 2017

3.5 out of 5 Ninja Stars for "Lameco Eskrima" by David E. Gould

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

Title: Lameco Eskrima-The Legacy of Edgar Sulite
Author: David E. Gould
Publisher: Tambuli Media
Format: Softcover
Pages: 273
Cover Price: $29.95

    Because of my association with Tambuli Media I've had the opportunity to scratch a martial arts itch I've had for a while.  The martial arts of the Philippines was something that I new very little about.  Over the last couple of months I've been able to read several very good books about the subject from the perspective of different schools/systems.  In most of the books, the beginning history and stories are what fascinated me the most.  The techniques, while illustrative and well done, weren't as useful to me any my martial arts growth (...yet).  This book then was a different take.  It focuses on the life and times of one particular master of Filipino Martial Arts (FMA) Punong Guro Edgar G. Sulite and how he came to develop and train others in his creation, Lameco Eskrima.

Takeaway from the Book

Great biography of an important Filipino Martial Arts Master and how he synthesized his unique system from the masters he pays tribute to.

Content

    The book is first and foremost a biography.  The last third of the book does have examples of Lameco Eskrima techniques being performed by characters in the book, and they do offer a counterpoint and context to the biographical content.  However, the main section of the book deals with the life and development of a modern Eskrima tradition.  It details how PG Sulite learned and combined the styles from the different masters he studied with, and what he liked to emphasize from each of them.

Pros

    There is a definite sense of weight and responsibility from the author in telling his tale.  Guro Gould has a great deal of respect for PG Sulite, and it shines through in the writing.  The tales themselves are interesting and detail a life growing up in the Philippines and studying Eskrima from "old school" masters who prize "old school" training methods.  He also doesn't deify the man, and shows some instances where mistakes happened, and how Punong Guru Sulite grew from those mistakes. It does a very good job of showing the growth of a man and a martial arts system.

Cons

    My only real criticism of the book is I think the author stayed to close to documentarian in his presentation of events.  The stories lacked some emotion, but that was a stylistic choice, and I understand that.

Conclusion

     As I said, the book presented the story in a very thorough way, and delves deeply into the history of one particular man and his course of study in martial arts.  It includes his stellar rise through hardwork and dedication to join the ranks of master in his chosed art.  It also tells how he incorporated all the different styles he had learned into something of his own, and how he disseminated those teachings.  I really did enjoy reading the stories, they just lacked some panache.  I do understand that the author was going for a specific format to his writing, so I don't hold that against him too much.  Overall, I'm going to give this book 3.5 out 5 Ninja Stars.  If you are a student of Lameco Eskrima this book would be very important to you.  If you are a student of FMA this book should be a very interesting addition to your learning.  If you are outside that group, although interesting, I don't know how useful it would be to your growth as a martial artist.  It's for that reason, and the slight dryness I give it a rating of 3.5.  It was a good book, but not necessarily useful to everyone.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Episode LVIII-Beware the Ides of Podcast


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

Introduction
  Recorded On: 3/20/2017

    
    iTunes Link  Begging for Review on iTunes
    

    www.whistlekick.com
    Whistlekick Martial Arts Radio

       Savings Code: MA10


Interlude Music: Ave Santani (from the Omen) by Jerry Goldsmith
  
Interview: Damion Lupo

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Interlude Music:  Rio by Duran Duran

This Week in Martial Arts: March 19th, 1931: Happy Birthday to Ed Parker

    

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

Saturday, March 11, 2017

5 Ninja Stars for "Always Picked Last" by Coach Kevin Kearns

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

Title: Always Picked Last: A Guide to Finding Your Way in Life
Publisher: Tambuli Media
Format: Softcover
Pages: 257 
Price: $16.95

  This one of those books that turned out to be much more than I thought it was going to be.  I got this more as an aid to my high school teacher mode of thinking, than as a martial artist's way of thinking.  I was surprised by the brutal honesty and heartfelt story that it portrayed.  This book had me reading it continuously.  I finished the book in two or three days.  In my hectic life, where time is a luxury, this was a book I couldn't put down.

Content

    This book is the biography of one Mr. Kevin Kearns who grew up bullied.  It starts with the just "kids being kids" stage of bullying and goes through the stories of adolescents and young adulthood where his choices start to be his own.  Of course, martial arts is a part of this story, otherwise this wouldn't be the correct soapbox for this book.

Pros

    The most important part of this book is the storytelling.  Mr. Kearns does an amazing job of showing you from the inside what being bullied feels like.  Its actually quite heartbreaking.  I found myself reflecting back to my own youth and considering if I had been on either side of the bullying issue.  I don't think I have, but the reflection is the purpose itself.  This book brings about a huge feeling of empathy.  The author then talks about how physical activity in the form of weightlifting and martial arts bring about the change in mindset to stop the bullying.  There is a slow buildup to the final confrontation that you know is coming, but, as it is a biography, it doesn't happen in some contrite prescribed way.  The tension builds throughout the entire telling of the story.  The whole book does a great job of first explaining things from a kid's perspective, and slowly shifting through the adolescent mindset, to reflecting on it from adulthood.

Cons

    I really don't have anything bad to say about the book, except that it IS an autobiography, which just adds to the empathy this book achieves.  It's a little on the short side?  Is that a bad thing?  Seeing as it is the childhood and teenage torturing of a person, no.

Conclusion

    I cannot say enough good things about this book.  In its own way, this book is a real life Karate Kid type of story, where the positive effects of martial arts, and physical training in general come to fruition.  In fact it goes even further to show that through his hard work, Mr. Kearns becomes Coach Kearns.  A UFC level strength trainer, among his other accomplishments.  I loved the story presented in this book.  It was masterly told and in a way that made you feel sorry for the young protagonist, and glad when he makes the right decisions to better his life.  Its for these reasons that I'm going to give this book a rarely achieved 5 out of 5 Ninja Stars.  There isn't anything new in this book, but the method of presentation is what makes this book so great.  I hope everyone reads it.

Episode LVII "Be Like Podcast My Friend" Shownotes

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

Introduction
  Recorded On: 2/26/2017

    
    iTunes Link  Begging for Review on iTunes
    

    www.whistlekick.com
    Whistlekick Martial Arts Radio

       Savings Code: MA10
    Iron Fist on Netflix
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Interlude Music: Funky Monks  by Red Hot Chili Peppers
  
Interview: Monk Yunrou

  Danielle Bolleli's The Drunkest Taoist Podcast
  Yin: A Love Story
  The Perfect Exercise
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  The Crocodile and the Crane
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Interlude Music: Funky Monks by Red Hot Chili Peppers

This Week in Martial Arts: Feb 22nd, 1964: Happy Birthday to Marc Dacascos

    Al Dacascos

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

Sunday, February 19, 2017

4 Ninja Star Review of "The Secret Art of Derobio Escrima" by Dan Medina

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

Title: The Secret Art of Derobio Escrima: A Martial Art of the Philippines
Author: Dan Medina
Publisher: Tambuli Media
Format: Softcover
Pages: 144
Price: $24.95

  I've been reading several books on the martial arts of the Philippines to broaden my horizons as I had only a vague inclination of what they were.  They also have a similar feel to the art I've just started Pencak Silat.  As I take a hopological approach to my academic studies of martial arts, I have to have a cultural context to put the art.  The martial art by itself doesn't make as much sense until you know more about the culture and traditions that birthed it.  This book does a good job of starting with that cultural context and then going into the how and why of the techniques.

Content

  This book is divided into 8 chapters.  The first one deals with the history of one particular school of FMA called Derobio Escrima.  It starts with stories of how Mr. Medina's teacher's teacher learned Escrima and how Escrima was passed down to himself.  It also takes an honest look at the what the author calls the "supernatural" aspects of Derobio Escrima. The short second chapter deals with the weapons that are employed in Derobio Escrima.  From there is goes through the setup of the basics, including rank structure, or this particular Escrima school.  The rest of the chapters then build up through more and more complex ideas and movements what I assume are the basics for the school.

Pros

    I have to say, the part I liked the most was the first couple chapters of the stories of the past masters.  I really enjoyed the tales of the exploits of people who actually had to use their arts for survival situations.  Whether or not the tales are 100% accurate is almost inconsequential.  I study aikido, and the tales of O-Sensei are of legendary status as well.
   In the second chapter, dealing with the weapons, I really appreciated the pictures showing the different types and varieties of the weapons.  That may just be my geekdom coming out, but I spent more time that I should have staring at the pictures trying to determine which weapons were which, and imagining how they would feel to swing them.
   The techniques section of the book was well written, and was filled with loads of pictures.  Enough to actually follow what the movements are supposed to be.  That's a good thing, as a lot of books (though they've been getting better in the last decade or so) have pictures that seem to jump around, or really only make sense if you know what the movements are (which kinda defeats the purpose of them).

Cons

   My only negative might be the limited usefulness of the book.  If you are in an Escrima, other FMA, or something similar, then I think this would be an extremely useful book.  At the very least for looking at another school's thoughts on martial arts.  However, if you are a karateka, or a BJJ guy, I don't know how useful the technique part would be.
 

Conclusion

    My rating scale for books is based on a three part matrix concerning ability to present information, enjoyability of reading it, and (for the purposes of this blog) usefulness to all martial artists.  The first two characteristics for this book are both very high.  The only downfall is who this book is aimed at.  I don't think it is meant to be a "hey here's how to use Escrima in YOUR art." book.  It is a record and exposure of a specific school of Escrima.  As I said, if that is your chosen art, then this book is right up your alley.  All of that being said, I'm going to give this book 4 out of 5 Ninja Stars.  The beginning chapters about the history and the weapons were the part I got the most out of, but I really do feel that with a skilled and dedicated partner, the techniques in the rest of the book could be studied, and learned to a certain degree of competency.  

Episode LVI-Now You're Cooking with Podcast


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

Introduction
  Recorded On: 2/17/2017

    
    iTunes Link  Begging for Review on iTunes
    

    www.whistlekick.com
    Whistlekick Martial Arts Radio


Interlude Music: Princes of the Universe  by Queen
  
Interview: Paul Wilson

  Karate Cafe on iTunes
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Interlude Music: Crazy on You by Heart

This Week in Martial Arts: Feb 15th, 1951: Happy Birthday to Cory Yuen!


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

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Review of "FMA Education" By Louelle C. Lledo Jr., and Andy T. Sanano Jr.

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

Title: FMA Education: The Fundamental Core of Arnis De Mano
Author: Louelle C. Lledo Jr., and Andy T. Sanano Jr.
Publisher: Tambuli Media
Format: Softcover
Pages: 269
Price: $32.95
  I've been doing quite a bit of reading up on Filipino Martial Arts (FMA) and this was the next book on my list.  I have to say, this was an unusual book, in that it had a specific goal of talking about the FMA Arnis de Mano that is the sport and educational portion of the martial arts of the Philippines.  It has been deemed the national sport of the Philippines, and as such this was indeed a necessary book, especially in English when the US has increasing numbers of FMA practitioners.  

Content

    FMA Education starts with an overview of the physical philosophy that Arnis de Mano exemplifies.  It explains the basic ideas that are taught in this particular branch of Filipino Martial Arts.  It then goes through the basic ways to break down the types of strikes, and how Arnis de Mano number their strikes, as well as how some other systems do.  This is done to show that more is the same in their techniques than is different.  After the basic strikes are detailed, then the targets of these strikes.  There is also a section on drills to develop these strikes.  It finishes up with the rules and regulations for the Arnis de Mano competitions.

Pros

    I got a lot out of this book despite not being a FMA practitioner.  It's most promising aspect was a well thought out plan for teaching the material.  This aspect could easily be adapted to any martial art.  If you're in the process of laying out the curriculum for a martial art, then this book would be a great template.  Look at how the authors have done this, and simply apply the process to your art. 
   Besides that aspect, the book does a good job at simplifying the ideas to the point where the can be practiced individually until enough skill is built up.  Then it gives you more complex drills to practice these more complex ideas again.  There are plenty of pictures to show what the ideas being presented look like.

Cons

    I don't really have any complaints about the book.  It is well presented information.  The pictures are easy enough to follow.  Not being an FMA practitioner, I don't know how simple, complex, or revolutionary the book is, so I can't judge it based on that criteria.  However, if you are not an FMA practitioner, or an instructor looking for a way to organize your martial art, I don't know what you'd get from this book...let me know when you read it (in the comments below).

Conclusion

   Overall, I enjoyed this book.  I do think it has a somewhat limited audience. If you are in FMA, then I suspect this would be a great help to you.  If you are into any sort of stick/blade art, this could be a helpful book.  If not, you may still get something out of it like I did.  I really appreciated the organizational aspect of the martial art, as I've been recently thinking about my own art, and how that is organized.  That's why I'm going to give this book 3.5 out of 5 Ninja Stars.  Not due to any fault of the book's, because it is a very well presented source of information, but rather for the smaller scale of its intended audience.  I would still read this book again, and will indeed be keeping it on my bookshelf for as long as I have one.