Saturday, March 14, 2015

3.5 Ninja Stars for Japanese Jiu-Jitsu by Darrell Max Craig

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

Title: Japanese Jiu-Jitsu, Secret Techniques of Self-Defense
Written by : Darrell Max Craig
Publisher: Tuttle
Page Count: 209
Cover Price: $16.95 (USD)

    Japanese Jiu-Jitsu (or jiujutsu, or jujutsu or any of the other myriad of spellings) is something that I am readily familiar with.  I have been studying Japanese martial arts for about 15 years now, with Atemi ryu Jujutsu (our spelling) composing a large part of that time.  As such I was eager to get access to Mr. Craig's book.  I have another of his on my bookshelf right now.  Iai, The Art of Drawing the Sword was an important book in my early studies of martial arts, specifically the swords arts.  If fact, it was the first book on Japanese swords arts that I bought.  Knowing that he wrote another book that pertained to martial arts that I know fairly well was exciting.


Mr. Craig's other book I own.
    The books starts out with a brief introduction as to what jiu-jutsu is and some of the more basic information such as how to fold a gi and hakama.  On a side note, I too HATE when I see students just crumpling up their gi or hakama to throw into their bag.  He then starts with a general idea of the philosophy of unbalancing an opponent, and I'll admit, I haven't see it put the way Mr. Craig lays it out.  The majority of the book then goes through examples of jiu-jutsu techniques and explanations.  They proceed in a methodical pattern to give the readers a good idea of what sort of techniques comprise jiu-jutsu.


    This book is very well written and easy to understand.  From the introduction, you get a very good feel for Mr. Craig's passion for his martial arts, and how he wants others to have that same passion.  To show the importance of principle over technique, the author constantly goes back to his unbalancing diagram from the beginning of the book to use as a reference point to the individual techniques.  I like how that shows themes in the techniques being presented.  It illustrates how they are part of an overall system, and not just a smattering of techniques for demonstration purposes.


    First off, I did enjoy the book, and I think it was very well done.  I just think the book was designed for people who are at the beginning of studying jiu-jitsu, which is not me.  I don't think I was the target audience.  However, there were pieces of information that I could add to my knowledge base, as there are in any book.  Also, although the illustrations were very well done, and I do love illustrations in martial arts books, I had a hard time seeing how someone not familiar with the techniques could follow the steps to get through the pictures.  It could be that the illustrations are better than I'm giving them credit for them being.  I've said several times on these reviews that trying to show something dynamic and moving, like martial arts, in a two-dimensional way is a very difficult task.


    As I said, I did enjoy the book, and if you are either at the beginning of your path in traditional Japanese martial arts, or if you study a different art and want to do some research on this specific subject, then this is a perfect book for either of  those situations.  As such, I'm going to give this book 3.5 out of 5 Ninja Stars.  It is a good book that is well written, and if you are part of the prospective audience, this book will be extremely useful.  I may have to have some of my readers try out this book and tell me if my point on the illustrations are accurate.  Get the book, and let me know if you can follow what is being illustrated.  If you can, and its just me, then I'll reassess my views on them.


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