Wednesday, July 5, 2017

4.5 Nina Star Review of "Musing of a Budo Bum" by Peter Boylan

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

Title: Musings of a Budo Bum
Author: Peter Boylan
Published: 2017
Format: Softcover
Pages: 154
Cover Price: $20.00 ($8.99 Kindle Edition)

Take Away: A great series of essays on what Japanese budo (martial ways) are.

    I practice Japanese martial arts.  I have for now over 15 years.  For a while now, see my other reviews, I've been reading and exploring other martial arts and their philosophies.  I even studied a non-Japanese arts, Pencak Silat from Indonesia for a little over a year.  But I've returned back to a Japanese martial art recently.  I don't have a pro-Japanese bias, its just where I've studied.  I enjoyed the time away, learning other culture (martial and otherwise) but this book was a nice return home.  It reminds me of what I enjoy about studying budo.

Content


    The book is a collection of essays from the author's blog, called The Budo Bum.  It takes 28 essays about budo and collects them into one place.  Each one is only a couple of pages long, and can be read pretty quickly.  They are grouped together into several topic centered sections which allows the reading of one essay to build on the reading of the previous one.


Pros



    This subject is in my wheelhouse.  I also practice Japanese budo.  Every single time Mr. Boylan described an occurrence he had in his budo training, I was nodding my head.  I've had very similar happenings, though in different martial arts, and different settings.  I liked the quick essay format for this book.  It reminded me of Zen in the Martial Arts by Joe Hyams in that you can read a small bit, think about it, and then either ponder it through out the day, or dive back in to absorb some more.  This makes it very approachable information and description.  Because, honestly, these are some deeper subjects for martial artists.  Every single section had me thinking of my own training, both for what I've done in the past, and how I'm going to train in the future.

Cons


    The only flaw, if you can call it that, with this book would be that it is Japanese martial art specific.  However, that is based on the experience of the author, and everything he says, can be applied to other arts.  It just seems to me, the Japanese are more dogmatic in their approach to budo.

Conclusion


    You can always tell how useful a book is to me by how many times I grab a highlighter.  Well, I grabbed for the fluorescent yellow (and several other colors) a lot in this book.  Nearly every section I highlighted passages.  Sometimes a couple of times in the same essay  It could be an idea I wanted to expand upon later, or it could be a way to describe something that I'm going to use for my students.
    I have no flaws in this book.  This book is so well done, and comprises such good wisdom that I'm going to give it to my students to read.  Even if you don't practice a Japanese art, but are looking to get into the more of the philosophical or, I hate the use of this word, spiritual aspect of martial arts, especially the training then this book is for you.  Its for those reasons that I'm going to give this book 4.5 out of 5 Ninja Stars.  Its very readable, it is deep with valuable wisdom to the budoka (practitioner of budo), and it is varied enough in subject to keep you reading.  The only reason it isn't a full 5 Ninja Stars is because, although I am sure the information and wisdom would be valuable to non-Japanese art practitioners, it is specifically targeted  towards them.  Either way, I'm definitely going onto The Budo Bum and subscribing as soon as I'm done writing this review.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Episode LXVII-Four Score and 20 Podcasts Ago

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Intro Music: Theme from Enter the Dragon by Lalo Schifri

Introduction
  Recorded on: July 3rd, 2017
  Begging for iTunes Review
  Mifune: The Last Samurai 

Interlude Music: Land of Confusion by Genesis

Interview: Phil Trent
  Author of Flawless Deception: The Truth Behind the Samurai Schools

  Movies
    The Last Samurai
    The Duelists
    Gross Point Blank
    Kingdom of Heaven
    Red Sun
      Charles Bronson, Toshiro Mifune
    Shogun

  Books
    Face of Battle
    Warrior Traditions by Koryu Books
    Legacies of the Sword by Dr. Karl Friday
    Anything by Ellis Amdur
      Hidden in Plain Sight
    State of War by Dr. Tomas Conlin
    The Flower of Chivalry by William Marshal
    Donn F. Draeger

  Contact
    Facebook: Genuine Samurai Martial Arts of Dallas
    Blog: Koryu Matters
    Youtube: Genuine Samurai Martial Arts of Dallas
 

Interlude Music: Head Like a Hole by Nine Inch Nails

This Week in Martial Arts: July 2nd, Big Trouble in Little China Premiered

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Outro Music: Voodoo Chile-Jimi Hendrix/Gayaguem by Luna

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Episode LXIV "Mr. Gorbechev, Tear Down This Podcast"


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Intro Music: Theme from Enter the Dragon by Lalo Schifri

Introduction
  Recorded on: 6/24/2017
  James Williams
  Blade Show
  Stop Motion Time Stop
  Dojo of the Southern Wind
    Nami ryu Aiki Heiho

Interlude Music: Uncommon Man by Deep Purple

Interview: Vito Trabucco

  Henchman: The Al Leong Story
  Al Leong
  Big Touble in Little China
  South Park Big Trouble
  Die Hard
  Lethal Weapon
  Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure
  A-Team
  Rapid Fire with Brandon Lee
  Doug Wong
  James Liu
  Stephen Lambert
  Jeff Yamada
  John Carpenter

  Movies
    Enter the Dragon
    Sammo Hung
    The Masters The Grandmaster
    Films of Fury
    Martial Arts in the Movies  The Art of Action: Martial Arts in Motion Pictures(with Samuel L. Jackson)

  Contact
    Facebook

Interlude Music: Uncommon Man by Deep Purple
 
This Week in Martial Arts: June 22, 1962 Stephen Chow
  Final Justice
  The Final Combat
  Fight Back to School
  Shaolin Soccer
  Kung Fu Hustle
    Yuen Wa
    Yean Qiu
    Leung Sui-Lung
  Journey to the West
  The Mermaid


Contact Me
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Twitter: @martialthoughts
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Outro Music: Voodoo Child-Jimi Hendrix / Gayageum ver. by Luna 

Saturday, June 17, 2017

4 Ninja Stars for Flawless Deception by Phil Trent

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

Title: Flawless Deception: The Truth Behind the Samurai Schools
Author: Phil Trent
Published: August 30, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition
Pages: 2749 (screens?)
Cover Price: $9.99

Take Away: Curious about koryu?  Then this book describes them, their training methodology, and challenges their preconceived conceptions.

I've been involved in Japanese martial arts pretty much the entirety of my 20 years in the arts.  Almost none of that has been in the most traditional part of the arts, the koryu.  A koryu is a, theoretically, historically accurate representation of an art that has been preserved through direct passage of information and tradition.  It is something that calls to the romantic in me.  To be training in the same methodology and ways of the actual samurai?  That would be awesome!  However that may not be a entirely accurate truth, as the author, Mr. Trent proposes.

Content


    The book is divided into three main section, which are called Deliberate Deception, Inherent Deception, and Inadvertent Deception.  While going through the entire book, the author uses examples from medieval time, both Japanese Samurai, and European knights, as well as modern, possibly more relate-able  examples.
    The first section deals with why deception was used, as if that needed to be explained) in warfare.  It then goes onto the ways that koryu used deception as part of the theory of warfare and combat, just as every civilization and general has done, and is still doing.  This includes why school would have okudan, or hidden techniques, as well as ways to hide their techniques in written form, kata (physical patterned movements), or by changing the distance or timing of practiced forms.  This is a form of deception within the school.
    The second section deals with the more esoteric forms of training, the psychological/physical manipulations that derive from the religious/philosophical preference of the koryu developer.  These could be Taoist, Buddhist, or Shinto in origin, or some combination there of.  The techniques included could be a simple thing as breathing, or as complex as hara (center) manipulation, both of your self, and your opponent, as well as advanced training that the author calls Spontaneity.  In someways, you could think of these as the internal aspects of these martial arts.
    The third section deals more with our interpretation of koryu from a modern world.  It included a thorough analysis of the effectiveness of the training and techniques used in koryu.  This section, to me, was the most controversial, and honest look at the koryu I've read in a while.

Pros  


    This is one of the most, honest, critical looks at koryu, their training methods and results that I have seen.  It is openly criticizes the reported effectiveness of koryu in today's world, and indeed even challenges the idea of the "passed down as the Samurai trained" theory espoused by many koryu.  I don't mind that aspect at all.  Either the conclusions can be backed up with evidence and reason, or they cannot.  Mr. Trent does a good job at backing up his claims.
  My favorite part was the middle section (ha pun!) that deals with the hara or center.  It is one of the most in depth examinations of what hara is, and how it is used as an internal training I think I've read.  As an aikidoka, I have experienced hara training, and can honestly say, it is hard to describe the sensation of correct usage of center.  The technique just happens easier, and you have more control in what you're doing.  Again, its hard to describe.


Cons


    There are some parts of the book that will draw criticism from any practitioner of a koryu.  The last section of the book for sure will.  This by itself is not a wrong thing to include in this book.  It is just an honest questioning, with logic and reason to back up the questions.  Just thought I should mention that before moving on.
    Okay, one MINOR point I have to say, just because its in my zoological wheelhouse.  The author makes a reference to the hara, being like the "second brain" that sauropods were supposed to have around their hips.  This commonly held incorrect hypothesis has been debunked.  I don't blame the author, as it is a small thing, and is still part of the remembrance in the public consciousness.  There, got that off my chest.  Whew...
    I  have to admit, ebooks are not my favorite.  I don't enjoy the electric format of reading through digital devices.  I'm a bit of a Luddite that way.  It was nothing again with the book, just the format.
    The last thing is as many of the books I've reviewed is "who can benefit from reading this book?"  I think this book has a more limited audience.  It is really intended to be beneficial for those studying Japanese martial arts.  Which of course is fine, but I give my reviews for any martial artists that would want to read the book.
 

Conclusion


    Overall, I have to say I liked the book, even the challenging portions.  I appreciated the in depth access to the hara in section two, and the writing style made it an easy read.  Even if it was in digital format.  Therefore I'm going to give this book 4 out of 5 Ninja Stars.  I enjoyed the read, it made me think deeper about my own martial arts, and question a lot of the collective wisdom of static martial arts.  I didn't necessarily agree with all the conclusions, but I understand why they were made.  The reason it isn't a higher grade is, as I've stated above, the usefulness to a wide variety of martial artists.  I don't honestly know how useful it would be to someone not practicing Japanese martial arts.  It very well could hold value for them, but I don't see the immediate connection to other arts.  Which again, if fine, it's just that "wide placed value" is part of my ranking system.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

4.5 Ninja Stars for Historical European Martial Arts in its Context

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

Title: Historical European Martial Arts In Its Context (Single-Combat, Duels, Tournaments, Self-Defense, Masters and their Treatises)
Author: Richard Marsden
Publisher: Tyrant Industries Publishing
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 215 with Index
Cover Price: $59.99

Take Away: A great book at explaining the "why" of HEMA

  HEMA is a general terms used to describe historical European martial arts.  This is a very general term which, if you wanted it to, could cover not only an entire continent's worth of combat styles, but also several millennia as well.  Generally those that are covering what they do HEMA limit themselves from the medieval period up to the 18th or 19th century.  This still covers many different societal and technological changes that influenced how and, of course, why they fought.  This book does an amazing job of covering both the temporal and geographical difference of the "why" people fought, mainly with regards to melee weapons.

Content

    Mr. Marsden uses the history of the European continent to define how and why people were fighting they way they were.  He starts off with the different types of personal combat we have records of, which mainly consisted of types of duels.  The author goes through the differences and similarities of Judicial Duels, Private Duels, and how these techniques and methods could be used in self-defense in the different times and places.  He then, briefly, examines some of the weapons that could be used in these situations.  He concludes by taking the reader through time and location by looking specifically at the Treatises of the various masters, who they were, and what they taught.

Pros

    First off, let me say this is physically a beautiful book.  It almost reminds me of a coffee table book you'd have out for other people to browse through.  It is hardcover, which is a rarity in martial arts books today.  The book is full of beautiful full color pictures, both from the source material, and from The Phoenix Society of Historical Swordsmanship, demonstrating some of the points showcased in the book.  I know, its a small thing, but every page number is in color.  I appreciate the extra effort and cost that went into this book.
    As far as the material, this book accomplishes what it set out to do in a brilliant fashion.  It goes a long way to show that the fighting styles changed greatly over time and location, and although we now lump it all together as "HEMA" there was a lot of variation in methodology, and even reasons for combat.

Cons 

    The only reason this book would have any negatives would be on the part of the reader.  If you come into this book looking for techniques or strategies, then you've come to the wrong place.  There are other books on that subject, including one specifically on Polish Saber by the same author.

Conclusion

    I really believe that HEMA should become more accepted into the general idea of martial arts than it currently is.  It faces an uphill battle of stereotype and bad-image control (maybe nerdy image-control), but I think books like this that give more historical context for what people are doing in HEMA will help.  HEMA is just as just as the traditional koryu of Japan, they just come from halfway around the world.  If you are curious not just about how those in Europe fought, but why they would engage in these matters, then this book is for you.  It is for that reason that I'm going to give this book 4.5 out of 5 Ninja Stars.  It very nicely fulfills its purpose and does so in a educational manner.  I learned a lot of historical context by reading this book.  The only reason I don't give it the full five stars, is that part of my ranking system is based on usefulness to all martial artists.  If you're only looking on improving your martial art, this might not be the most appropriate book for you.  If you're looking to expand your knowledge of martial arts from around the world (and I am) then this is a great book.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Episode LXIV "Walk Softly and Carry a Big Podcast"

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Intro Music: Theme from Enter the Dragon by Lalo Schifri

Introduction
  Recorded On:
  iTunes Reviews
  Bill Herndon of Piranha Gear on Episode XIV

Interlude Music:  Brother by Alice in Chains

Interview: Roberto Escobar
  Object History

Interlude Music:  Got Me Wrong by Alice in Chains

This Week in Martial Arts: Premier of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi
  May 25th, 1983
  Bob Anderson
  Mark Hamil
  Evolution of the Lightsaber Duel

Contact Info
  martialthoughts@gmail.com
  @martialthoughts
  facebook.com/martialthoughts

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

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