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
martialthoughts@gmail.com
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.