Saturday, May 20, 2017

Epsidoe LXIII-Tippy Canoe and Podcast Too

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Intro Music: Theme from Enter the Dragon by Lalo Schifri

Introduction
  Recorded On: May 17th, 2017
  iTunes Reviews

Interlude Music: Dare to Be Stupid by "Weird" Al Yankovich

Lecture
  The Dunning-Kruger Effect

This Week in Martial Arts: May 19th, 1999
  World Premiere of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace

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

Saturday, May 13, 2017

4.5 Ninja Star Review for Secrets of the Samurai

In the interests of full disclosure, I was given this book for review purposes.
Title: Secrets of the Samurai, The Martial Arts of Feudal Japan
Authors: Oscar Ratti and Adele Westbrook
Publisher: Tuttle
Published: 2017 (1973 Originally)
Format: Softcover
Pages: 399
Cover Price: $19.95

Take Away: This is the first book to get if you are interested in Japanese martial arts

    I first got this book when I was in college (Go Gators!) and starting my martial arts journey.  I didn't realize it until later, but I ended up viewing this as another textbook in my studies.  Except this was one of the text books I kept.  That's how I still view this book, as a college level textbook about Japanese martial arts origins.

Content

    Okay first off, there's a lot in this book, its 400 pages long with the index.  The book is broken up into three sections.  It starts off going over the history and rise of those who would eventually be called the samurai.  Of course this only makes sense if you contrast a people against the others in their society so that's part of this part. The next section deals with how and where this martial information was passed on.  The second section deals with the external factors that comprise Japanese martial arts.  It gives a brief look at the different types of arms, armor, and martial arts systems that supplied the samurai with their skills.  The third section deals with the internal aspects of martial arts.  This is where things can become a little mystical in a lot of books.  However, it presents everything from either simple physical science point of view, or the authors explain some of the more esoteric aspects as concepts.  This third section also deals with modern arts of Japan and how strategy and morality form part of the study of Japanese martial arts.

Pros

   This books has a lot going for it.  Primarily, the vast amount of information presented in the book is staggering.  That's why I initially kept this book.  I wanted to use it as a reference book.  I still often come back to it, to remember some things.  Secondly, the pictures in this book would alone make this book worthwhile.  The late Mr. Oscar Ratti was the artist for this book, and his illustrations immediately convey the sense of movement inherent in martial arts.  Each simple, black and white picture beautifully illustrates a concept or object.  It maybe the geek in me, but his weapons pictures bring up memories of old D&D manuals, so maybe I'm putting a little bit of nostalgia onto it.

Cons

   The only thing I have that would be considered a negative aspect of this book it that it is an overview book.  Whole books have been written each of the sub-sections.  But again, think of it as a college textbook.  A biology book will go over a lot of material, but each section probably has another whole class and book dedicated to it.  Same thing.  That being said, there is enough information in each section to give you a healthy idea of what that specific art or item entails.  Also, because it is a textbook, it does have a bit of a dry flavor to it.  There are neither tales of daring and dashing, nor are there lists and pictures of techniques.

Conclusion

    This is Japanese Martial Arts 101 text book.  I know, I keep saying that, but that's what this book is.  If I taught an aikido class at a University (yes, please) I'd use this book as required reading.  Now, as much praise, as I can heap on this book, it is written is a little bit of a dry style, and I think its main use is for those studying, or interested in Japanese martial arts.  That's why I'm going to give this book 4.5 out of 5 Ninja Stars.  If you are studying a Chinese martial art, this may not be as helpful for you.  Sure, many of the concepts from the external and internal sections will be familiar, and could be useful, but the book wasn't written for you.  If you want to read up on Samurai and their impact on Japanese martial arts (which I do), or are interested in the history of Japanese martial arts (which I am), this book is THE place to start.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Episode LXII-Dewey Defeats Podcast

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Intro Music: Theme from Enter the Dragon by Lalo Shifri

Introduction
  Recorded on: May 7th, 2017
  iTunes Reviews

Interlude Music: Spirit in the Sky by Norman Greenbaum

Interview: Ken Jeremiah
  Previous Interview: Episode XLIV
  Aikido Ground Fighting (Review, Amazon)
  Atemi: The Thunder and Lightning of Aikido (Review, Amazon)
  Following the Martial Path (Review, Amazon)

Interlude Music: Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana

This Week in Martial Arts: May 2nd 2006
  Internation Kyudo Federation formation

Contact Info
Email: martialthoughts@gmail.com
Twitter: @martialthoughts
Facebook: www.facebook.com/martialthoughts

Closing Music: Voodoo Child-Jimi Hendrix / Gayageum ver. by Luna

Saturday, May 6, 2017

4 Out of 5 Ninja Stars for "Aikido Weapons Techniques"

In the interests of disclosure, I was given this book for review purposes.
Title: Aikido Weapons Techniques: The Wooden Sword, Sick and Knife of Aikido
Author: Phong Thong Dang and Lynn Seiser
Publisher: Tuttle
Published: 7/11/2017 (originally 2006)
Format: Softcover
Pages: 144
Cover Price: $12.95

Take Away: This is the perfect book to introduce the integration of aikido and the weapons practiced along with aikido.  It should be on every aikidoka's shelf.

    Back to my wheelhouse: aikido.  I've read the other books by these authors, and have loved them.  Somehow, though, I missed this one.  I was excited by the chance to get a copy of this book.  So excited that i read it in 1 day.

Content

    This book is beautifully layed out in its simplicity.  There is an introductory section which describes aikido, aikido training, and the concept of weapons use in aikido.  Which at first may seem contradictory.  Aikido is supposed to be this "peaceful, non-violent" martial art, yet a weapon's sole purpose is to hurt people right?  The authors do a great job of showing how those conflicting philosophies can be blended to create a unique set of practices with weapons.
    After the introduction, each of the three weapons associated with aikido is given its own section.  The wooden sword (bokken) is first, followed by the jo (4ft. staff) and finally the tanto (Japanese knife).  Each section gives you a beginners look at the weapons including its history, how to hold it, and then delves into the basic practice techniques.

Pros

    What I love about this book is its simplicity.  There is no assumption of knowledge, yet doesn't come off as a lecture.  It does a very good job of just presenting the information for your edification and enjoyment.  Also, each of the sections have enough well done pictures to easily decipher what the authors are describing.  The practices/techniques are easily mimiced from the description and the pictures if that's your goal for this book.

Cons

    I don't really have any complaint about the book.  The book does exactly what it is designed to do;  Introduce the weapons practices of aikido.  It does this really well, and is easy to figure out how to practice on your own.  Perhaps, it may be to basic?  Or maybe, because I'm an aikidoka it seems that way to me?  I don't know.

Conclusion

    Overall, I enjoyed the book.  After reading it, I immediately went to my home dojo and started practicing.  Which I think anyone can do with this book.  It makes aiki-weapons very accessible.  For my rating, though I'm not going to give it a perfect score.  I'm going to give it 4 out of 5 Ninja Stars for two reasons.  One of my criteria for my rating system is 'how useful is it to ALL martial artists?'  If you don't study aikido is this book useful?  Yes, I think it can be if you are looking for basic aiki-weapons practices.  If not, then maybe not so useful.  Also, I know it's an introductory book, but I would have liked to see more in depth look at the weapons uses and practices.  Maybe, that's for another book?

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Episode LXI-Read My Podcast, No New Taxes

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Intro Music: Theme from Enter the Dragon by Lalo Shifri

Introduction

  Recorded On: 4/23/2017
  iTunes Review
  www.whistlekick.com

Interlude Music: We're Gonna Make It by Hammerfall

Interview: Sensei Jesse Enkamp

  Contact Information
  karatebyjesse.com

Interlude Music: Theme from Enter the Dragon by Lalo Shifri

This Week In Martial Arts
April 26th, 1954
Seven Samurai Premiered in Japan

Contact Information

Email: martialthoughts@gmail.com
Twitter: @martialthoughts
Facebook: facebook.com/martialthoughts

Closing Music: Voodoo Child-Jimi Hendrix / Gayageum ver. by Luna

3.5 Ninja Star Review for "Fundamental Iron Skills" by Dr. Dale Dugas

In the interest of full disclosure, I was given this book for review purposes.
Title: Fundamental Iron Skills: Tempering Body and Limbs with Ancient Methods
Author: Dr. Dale Dugas
Publisher: Tambuli Media
Published: 2015
Format: Softcover
Pages: 155
Cover Price: $29.99

Take Away: An excellent introduction to the ways of building up your own iron skills

    This book represents a  curiosity of mine.  As I come from a very soft martial art (aikido), I have no experience with the hard styles building up of the body in this way.  I had seen a couple of documentaries where if you look closely, the old karate master's hands were calloused and looked barely functional anymore, but I wouldn't want to be hit with them.   There had to be something in their training that could lead to this.  Then, when reading the Bubishi, translated by Patrick McCarthy, they talked about the medical tinctures or liniments that allowed for them to heal their hands when doing their training.  This awoke a curiosity in me, and led me to this book.

Content


    The book starts off with what iron skills actually are.  If you're like me, you've heard of "Iron Palm" techniques.  Maybe from old Kung Fu movies.  Well, Dr. Dugas explains how iron palm is just one subset of techniques/skills that comprises iron skills.  He then explains why every martial artist would want to train some in iron skills.  He then goes on to explain what prep work is required to actually start training.  The first thing this includes is the creation and use of Dit Da Jau liniment.  These are the "magical" recipes passed down from master to student which enables the hands to heal from the purposeful beatings you give them with iron skills.  The other equipment you'll need is a striking bag and bag stand.  Dr. Dugas includes the different theories on these and how you should select one if you are going to work iron skills.
    The second section of the book deals with training.  How to train to acquire the iron skills, and specific training methods.  But of course training without application is useless, so the author then shows how these skills can then be applied, specifically how it applied in Baguazhan and Southern Mantis, which I think the reader can extrapolate how to apply these in their own arts.

Pros


    This books puts forth some of the more extreme sides of martial arts in a very simple, matter-of-fact way.  It doesn't seem to be trying to convert you to a way of thinking, it just presents you with information.  I appreciate that part of the book.  I also appreciated the application portion of the book.  Once you learn the methodology, its always good to see how your new skills can be learned.

Cons


    There really is nothing wrong with the book.  It is well written, it makes sense, the pictures are easy to follow.  If you are looking for an introduction book to iron skills, this should be the one you get.  If you're not looking, I think there can still be some value.


Conclusion


    If you were looking for a book to start your iron skills training, (or are just iron skills curious?), this would be a perfect place to start.  It beautifully lays out what you need to start, both in terms of materials and initial practices.  The only reason I'm going to give this book a lower rating is because of my rating scale.  I rate on how useful it is to martial artist of any style, skill level, or ability.  I think this book is great, but it may only be really intended for a specific set of readers.  Therefore, I'm going to give the book 3.5 out of 5 Ninja Stars.  I enjoyed reading it.  I learned a lot, and I appreciate the skill set gained by the practitioner, I just don't know if its for me, and my martial art.  Perhaps there's an idea for a Martial Thoughts experiment on my part?  Could be.  If there is, I'll let everyone know how it goes.

Friday, April 14, 2017

5 Ninja Stars for Krav Maga Tactical Survival by Gershon Ben Keren

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

Title: Krav Maga Tactical Survival-Personal Safety in Action
Author: Gershon Ben Keren
Publisher: Tuttle
Format: Softcover
Pages: 224
Cover Price: $17.95 ($12.16)

Take Away: A book of amazing pictures masterfully illustrates how to use martial arts tactics in realistic personal safety situations.

    I've reviewed Mr. Ben Keren's previous book (here) and found it a really frank and honest review of self defense situations.  I liked it so much that I interviewed the author on Episode XXIV of the Martial Thoughts Podcast.  When I heard his second book had come out, I was excited.


Contents


    This book continues in the vein of the first one.  It goes through very realistic situations and tactics while using full color pictures to show the tactics and techniques being employed.  The book itself is broken into five separate parts.  The first being striking.  It illustrates simple to use strikes, and more importantly how and when to use the appropriate strike.  The second section may actually be the most important.  It deals with trying de-escalation and how to read the warning signs that the other guy is going to attack regardless of what's being said.  The third section deals with what was left out of the first book: armed assaults.  It details some techniques that could be employed in armed situations, including how to foil/stop a weapon a weapon from being drawn in the first place.  The fourth describes what to do when being grabbed in various ways, and the last section deals specifically with throws and how and when to apply them.

Pros


    The book is really well written in plain language to make it easy to understand.  You get the feeling of the gravity of the situation and techniques without it feel like its trying to scare you.  The author calmly explains what happens to you and the attacker biologically, psychologically, and emotionally when fights occur.  It also gives you an option or two to deal with the confrontation.  So in the end you feel kind of empowered by the knowledge.  
    However, The biggest thing about this book that stands out to me is the pictures.  First, they are in color.  Second, they are set in real places/situations and they are taken in the middle of an executed technique, not "staged" in place as some others tend to be.  

Cons


    I don't think I have any cons.  If there is one specific detail I had to pick on, it would be that this is more of a volume two.  You can read this book and experience it in its glory as is.  However, it would be better suited to have read the first book first.  The first book deals more with the history of Krav Maga, and how to deal with unarmed attacks.  

Conclusion


Overall this book accomplishes exactly what it aims to do.  Using Krav Maga strategy to effect simple self defense tactics in realistic ways.  The book is presented to be useful for anyone.  If you are looking for self-defense and are not a martial artist, this gives you a REALLY good starting point to work from.  If you are already a martial artist, you probably practice some, if not most, of these techniques in your art.  This book might just be there to give you context.  That's why I'm going to give this book 5 out of 5 Ninja Stars.  There is honestly nothing wrong with this book.  Especially if you consider it as volume 2 in conjunction with the first book.  If you teach or take martial arts and want to talk about self-defense as part of your curriculum, both books should be in your library.