Title: Fundamental Iron Skills: Tempering Body and Limbs with Ancient Methods
Author: Dr. Dale Dugas
Publisher: Tambuli Media
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.