Sunday, December 28, 2014

Review of The Kenpo Karate Compendium by Lee Wedlake

In the interests of full disclosure, I was given a copy of this book by Blue Snake Books for review purposes.

Title: The Kenpo Karate Compendium, The Forms and Sets of American Kenpo
Author: Lee Wedlake
Publisher: Blue Snake Books
Pages: 354
Cover Price: $24.95

  Again as I write this, I am not a kenpo person, nor have I had any real exposure to kenpo.  There was a kenpo class that came in after my class when I practiced in Gainesville, but that was long before I had enough martial arts knowledge to really see what was going on.  All of that being said, I really enjoyed most of this book.  Mr. Wedlake is a very humble writer who doesn't claim to know the "true" way of kenpo, but where there is debate of accuracy, he lends what evidence he has.  Several times he states that other schools do their kata differently, and as long as there is a specific reason why, that's okay.  He also talks about how Mr. Ed Parker changed the details of the kata throughout his lifetime.  As someone who is seeing that in my own system, I appreciate that honesty as well.


  This book covers three basic themes.  The first is a discussion of the history of Ed Parker, American Kenpo, and other people that use the term kenpo to describe who they are.  He is very inclusive in the aspect, in that if they can fit themselves on the family tree, then they are family.  He also starts to dispel some of the myths that are occurring in his own art as far as origin and continuation of curriculum.  In the second part, he goes over the finer points of how to practice kata.  Mr. Wedlake has a lot of background in kata competition and kata dissection, so he lends his expertise well to this section of the book.  The third section goes over, in detail, the kata associated with American Kenpo, including what ideas should be derived from each kata form.  He also discusses which goals should be tackled with each kata, an important fact that most people often forget when both doing/learning kata, and teaching them.


  I really liked the first two parts of this book.  I am personally starting to appreciate kata more and more as I go through my own martial learning.  Mr. Wedlake's take on kata was very honest and open.  He also dispenses many little pieces of wisdom that can apply to any martial art/artist even if kata doesn't apply to them at all.  I thoroughly enjoyed and learned from those first two parts.  I enjoyed the book so much, that when I saw Ed Parker's Secrets of Chinese Karate at the bookstore, I bought it.


  The third part of the book was not very useful to me.  As it goes over the kata specific to American Kenpo, and I am not a practitioner, it was not that useful.  However, the kata description section was very well written. I could follow the description of what the kata being described were supposed to be.  Mr. Wedlake also provides a sort of "code language" with which to describe the footwork of the kata, and with some interpretation, I could use this to figure out the transitions between the pictures provided.  Though one drawback is there are very few pictures, which in most martial arts books helps to further readers' understanding of kata and/or the author's meaning.  The author does state that if you want to see the pictures, look at the those in Ed Parker's Kenpo books, and refers you to them.


  Overall, If you are not a kenpo martial artist, I'd give this book 3 out of 5 Ninja Stars.  The book is very well written, and I not only enjoyed reading it, but I learned from it as well.  As I said above, the beginning sections can apply to any martial artist, even if you don't do kata in your art since they cover more of the history and philosophy of kenpo.  However, if you are a kenpo martial artist, then I would give this book a 4 out of 5 Ninja Stars.  I interpreted that this book is intended to be an additional book in your collection after you have looked at and read the other referenced books.  If you have read some of the these books, or at least an intermediate level of experience with kenpo, then this would be a great book for you.  So I guess, I'll average it out to 3.5 out of 5 Ninja Stars mainly based on how it applies to a select group of martial artists.  However, it you are in that group, then by all means add this book to your Kenpo library.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Episode XXI-Twas the Night Before Podcast

Episode XXI-Twas the Night Before Podcast

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Download the Podcast HERE

Recorded: December 23rd, 2014


Intro:  Christmas in Sarajevo by Savatage

The Christmas Episode!
Request for listener emails
African Martial Arts

Interlude Music: Cult of Personality by Living Color

  Rise of the Legend
  Wong Fei HOng
  Jump Ashin!
  Roy Chow Hin Yeung
  Shadowless Kick
  Hung Gar
  Gordon Liu
    Challenge of the Masters
  Jackie Chan
    Drunken Masters
  Jet Li
    Once Upon a Time in China

  Tao Lung = Bruce Lee
  Chen Fu = Jackie Chan
  Ron Jones = Jim Kelly
  Ju Mao
  Hou Fang
  Brother Lu = Gordon Liu
  John Deux = Jean Claude VanDamme
  Chang Tai = Tony Jaa

  David Carradine
  Martial Arts History Museum
  Green Hornet
  Billy Jack
  Radames Pera
  Clyde Kusatsu
  Kam Yuen
  Douglas Wong
  James Lew
  Don "the Dragon" Wilson
  Cynthia Rothrock
  Art Comancho

Interlude Music: The Thing that Should Not Be by Metallica

Interview: Professor T.J. Deschi-Obi
  Donn F. Draeger
  Robert W. Smith
  Khoison Language Family
  Bill Richmond
  Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots
  "Scientifitized" It
  Haitian Machete Fighting
  Chevalier  de Saint-Georges
  Fighting for Honor
Interlude Music: The Way of Life by Dead Prez

This Week in Martial Arts: December 27th, 1926
Robert W. Smith
  Professor Cheng Man-Ching
  T. T. Liang
  Comprehensive Asian Fighting Arts
  A Complete Guide to Judo
  Pa-Kua Eight Trigram Boxing
  Hsing-I: Chinese Internal Boxing
  Allen Pittman
Contact Information
Twitter Account: @martialthoughts
Atemicast Youtube Channel

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

Thursday, December 18, 2014

4.5 Ninja Stars for Krav Maga: Real World Solutions to Real World Violence

In the interests of full disclosure, I was given a copy of this book by Tuttle Publishing for review purposes

Title: Krav Maga: Real World Solutions to Real World Violence
Author: Gershon Ben Keren
Publisher: Tuttle
Pages: 192
Cover Price: $17.95

  I have zero experience with Krav Maga, so I didn't quite know what to expect from this book.  I had some preconceived notions of what Krav Maga consists of, and to some extent, they proved true.  In others ways, I was pleasantly surprised at what it told me.


  The title is a pretty descriptive one.  The book goes through how to apply principles of Krav Maga Yashir to a variety of situations.  The book is broken down into 4 parts.  The introduction is just a little background about what Krav Maga is, where it came from, and about the author.  There will be an interview with him in a future podcast, so stay tuned. Part 1 describes and gives pictures of the basics of Krav Maga as a martial art including stances, hand positioning, the basic strikes, and blocks.  In their descriptions it also goes into the why of these basics.  Part 2 then takes these basics, and show them in application settings using the previously outlined principles of Krav Maga.  It shows them being employed against both empty hand and weapons.  Part 3 is called Unarmed Assaults and Dynamic Components of Violence.  It takes the same principles, and applies them in more middle of a fight scenarios, including headlocks, clinches, and other such grabbing situation.


    Let me start with the physical book.  When I got the book in the mail, I first noticed the paper.  There is a much higher quality to the paper.  It has a slight sheen to it, and a definite thickness that is noticeable.  I assume this is due to the pictures.  Now the pictures are a special feature all to themselves.  I loved the pictures.  The pictures are clear, in color, and action shots.  What I mean by action shots is that all the pictures were taken in the progress of doing the technique, not staged.  Which means they probably had to to the techniques a couple hundred times.  This does, however, give them a more realistic feel.  They were also taken in actual locations, not on the dojo mat.  They show situations at the a bar,,, being attacked while getting into your car.  As the subtitle says in real world situations.  In that way it reminds me of Shioda's book Dynamic Aikido.  They also show different people performing the techniques, different builds, different heights, and different sexes.  The color pictures are definitely a highlight of the book.  Can you think of the last martial arts book you read with color pictures?
  The techniques presented in the book are principle based, effective, and adaptable.  What I liked best about the techniques presented was that, even though it wasn't explicitly stated, they could be incorporated into your own martial arts training very easily.  Effective self-defense is free from style.  I found myself saying thinking that all the techniques looked familiar enough to my own jujutsu training, that I could very easily perform them with my slight variation.


  The only bad thing I can say about the book is that there isn't enough.  It covers a lot of material, and goes through the explanation of the material, but if feel more like an introduction.  At the end of the book, I wanted to keep reading.  Which I guess really isn't a bad thing.  Maybe that means there is a sequel coming, or that the editors/publishers wanted them to pare down the material.
  One thing that could be interpreted as a con, is the principle based techniques seem to repeat themselves.  I think that this would be an amateur mistake.  Being principle based, means that you can apply the same principle to multiple situations.


  I really liked this book.  It explained how to apply the principles of Krav Maga in a variety of ways, and in a variety of circumstances.   It can be used by new students of martial arts, or by an experineced martial artist to incorporate into their own training.  If you are interested in self defense I would highly recommend this book.  In fact, as a self defense book, I give it 4.5 (out of 5) ninja stars.  I really did enjoy this book.  The descriptions are very good, and you can follow along with the action very easily.  The "action" pictures alone make it worth the price of the book.  The material it covers is good, solid self defense. And again, you can easily find a way to incorporate this information into your own training.  If you call your martial art, self-defense based, then you should be able to recognize all the good information presented in this book.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Can you make your martial art work?

    I have earned a nidan (2nd degree black belt) in Chendokan Aikido.  I have been doing martial arts for over 15 years.    I got my shodan after about 9 years of studying aikido (give or take, I don't remember exactly).  These statements may seem like bragging, but in fact its just the opposite.  I'm just now feeling that I have the basics down to the point where I can start to learn the actual applications.
    I was in class this morning, the first class I had attended in a while, and I got two pieces of wisdom that have completely changed my idea of my own martial arts.  The first one was part of a conversation, and I'm going to paraphrase here.

  Sensei: Do you know this technique?
  Me: I can make it work?

  Sensei: Why do you have to make it work?

  I stood there flabbergasted.  He was right and I didn't know what to say.  Techniques shouldn't be made to work, they should work or not work.  If I have to force it to work, then I don't know the technique, at least as well as I should.  Aikido is a martial art, and it will work in self defense situations.  After all the time I've put into this, I know the techniques on a physical, level, and maybe as a dojo technique.  Now how do I make sure the technique works when it needs to?  That's what I get to work on for the future.  What do I have to do to allow the technique to work, not make it work.

  The second remarkable line Sensei said to me (and the whole class) hit a cord, and I wanted to share it with everyone.  He said, "I know more about what NOT to do, than I'll ever know about what to do."  Once you learn the techniques of a martial arts system at a decently proficient level, say by about black belt, the rest is just polishing them so you know how to use them, and know when to use them.  By that, I mean when a certain technique is required, and when to abandon the technique as well.  I had learned this as "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilites, in the expert's mind there are few"  I had not ever fully understood that statement until Sensei's statement this morning.  So again, thank you to Sensei for adding to my world view.

Episode XX-The Good, The Bad, and the Podcast

Episode XX-The Good, The Bad, and the Podcast

Download the Podcast HERE

Recorded: Wednesday November 26th, 2014


Intro:  Theme from "Enter the Dragon" by Lalo Schifri

  Black Friday = Ninja Day
  (Ancient Assassins) 47 Ronin
  Ninja Turtles

Interlude Music: Clint Eastwood by Gorilaz

  Bonsian Ninjas Gather Under the Roof of Ninjutsu Samurai Club
    Ninja Olympics
    Scottish Games
    Caber Toss
    Nippon Era
    Sensei Darko Treykovic
    Power Rangers
  Vladamir Putin Earns Black Belt, 8th Dan in Kyokushin Karate
    9th Dan in Tae Kwon Do
  Rare Samurai Swords and Arms up for bid in online Christie's Auction 
  Soke Don Angier (10/9/2014
    James Williams
    Atlanta Knife Show
    Yanagi Ryu
    Don Angier on Youtube

Interlude Music: Man in Black by Johnny Cash

Ninja/Shinobi no mono kanji
Interview: Antony Cummins
  The Book of the Ninja
  True Path of the Ninja
  Iga and Koka Ninja Skills
  In Search of the Ninja
  The Illustrated Guide to Viking Martial Arts
  Ninja (Shinobi no Mono) Kanji
  Taihiki Scroll
  Shoniki Scroll
  Jonin = Great Ninja (Upper level ninja)
  Koga Ninja Clan
  Iga Ninja Clan
  Ninjas walking on water
  Ninja walking through walls
  Mizagumo = "Water Spider"
  Fuji Taseko
  Iga Ninja Museum
  Nakashima Sensei
  Storm Shadow
  James Bond 1st Ninja Reference in American Film (You Only Live Twice)
  Stephen K. Hayes
  Shogun TV Mini-series
  (Teenage Mutant Ninja) Turtles
  Sakura Killers
  13 Assassins
  Hagiwara Juzo
  Deadliest Warrior Viking vs. Ninja?
  Secret Traditions of the Shinobi
  Antony Cummins Youtube Channel
  Antony Cummins Facebook

Interlude Music: Shadow of the Wind by Black Sabbath

This Week in Martial Arts: November 25th, 1931, Shintaro Katsu's Birthday
  Tomisubura Wakiyama
  Akira Kurasawa
  Lone Wolf and Cub
  Blind Fury
  Rutger Hauer
Contact Information
Twitter Account: @martialthoughts
Atemicast Youtube Channel

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