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?