Sunday, September 25, 2016

3.5/5 Ninja Stars for Filipino Martial Arts by Mark V. Wiley

Title: Filipino Martial Arts: Cabales Serrada Escrima

Author: Mark V. Wiley
Publisher: Tuttle (no longer actively being published)
Format: Softcover
Pages: 151
Price: $0.79 (Print) or $9.99 (Kindle) on Amazon

    I picked this one up at a used book store a couple of weeks ago to broaden my knowledge base.  I haven't read a lot on the Filipino Martial Arts, and decided to add it to my library.  Since it was titled "Filipino Martial Arts" I figured that was a good place to start. In my root martial art of Atemi ryu, we have a component that is an Arnis system, called Atemi Arnis.  However, I was always more interested in the Japanese portion of aikido and kenjutsu.  So I've never really paid it its deserving attention.  I decided to at least get some more background information on Arnis and Escrima.

    This book goes through a brief version of the history of where the Filipino martial arts came from.  The author then tells the story of how this particular branch, Cabales Serrada, was developed by its founder, and how it made its way over to the US. Once the background history is done with, the philosophies and basic movements are then described.  The last third of the book is dedicated to showing the basic techniques of the system.


    I really like how the author went into the history of the martial art, and its development.  This gave the background for the demonstrated techniques.  By describing the philosophy, it allows the reader to appreciate the mindset of the techniques presented later in the book.  The other thing that I really like about this book was that as a non-escrimador, I could still take out pieces that were useful to me and my martial arts.  The author describes the "zoning" theory of the Cabales Serrada system that I'm definitely going to steal their explanation for.


    There is some dating that is apparent with this book (originally published in 1994).  Some of the ideas that are presented here that are supposed to be new have migrated their way through most martial arts now.  Not that they're any less valid, but since FMA are a little more main stream now, the ideas have become a little more common place.
    Also, the pictures could use some work.  I know its a point I make about most of the books, but if you're trying to capture motion, such as a martial arts technique, its very difficult.  Sometimes the pictures jump a little too much and its hard to follow the motion.


    Overall, I think this was a very good book for its time, and for its purpose.  I learned some things about Filipino martial arts, including the history and philosophy.  I was able to see how they physically exemplify their philosophies and in doing so, what their techniques look like.  I think I lucked out in that this is a good book to start out with for learning about Filipino martial arts.  I was a little disappointed that the book called Filipino Martial Arts didn't go more into the different Filipino martial arts, but I understand that this was what the author studied, so he wrote what he knew.  
    I do think it was a little dated, and the pictures could have been a little more fluid, but apart from that it was definitely worth the read.  For those reasons I give the book 3.5 out of 5 ninja stars.  I enjoyed the writing style and organization of the book and I look forward to reading more about FMA.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Episode XLIX-Alas Poor Podcast, I Knew Him Well

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

  Recorded On: 9/19/2016

  Forged in Fire
  Begging for Review on iTunes

Interlude Music: Lock Lomand by The Real MacKenzies
Interview: David Baker of Forged in Fire


  La Bossu
    Vincent Perez
  Rob Roy
  The Duelist
    Ridley Scott
  Richard Lester's Three and Four Musketeers
  Queen Margot


Interlude Music: Scotland the Brave by A.C. Roberts

This Week in Martial Arts: Stephen K Hayes 9/9/1949

Contact Information
Twitter Account: @martialthoughts
Atemicast Youtube Channel

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

Saturday, September 17, 2016

4 out of 5 Ninja Stars for "Letters of the Dragon," Edited by John Little

In the interests of disclosure, I was given this book for review purposes.

Title: Letters of the Dragon
Editor: John Little
Publisher: Tuttle
Format: Softcover
Pages: 184
Price: $12.95 $9.07 (US)

Bruce Lee is always going to be a fascination for most martial artists.  He embodied a change that was coming to martial arts in the US, and eventually the world.  Most people know the movie man, and see the action hero.  Some of those who delve deeper know he was a philosophy major in college.  He loved delving into Chinese philosophy and culture.  Some people who go even farther into his biography start to get a better idea of who Bruce Lee was as a man.  When the cameras were off, what was he like?  How did he develop his philosophy of life and marital arts?  This book gives you glimpse into the head of the master, when he wasn't trying to impress people, just being himself.

    This book is a collection of letters written by Bruce Lee from the time just before he left for America, until his untimely death.  These include letters to his wife, his friends and fellow martial artists, and to his business partners.  The letter also include some of his drawings, both for martial arts, and for some pieces of equipment that he was having made.


    The first thing that jumps out at me after reading this book is his relaxation.  Whenever I've seen him in movies, or in interviews, I always got the feeling that he was "on."  Which I'm not blaming him for.  He was an action/martial arts star.  People expected a certain aspect of you, and Bruce was glad to show you that aspect.  These letters seem to give you a more relaxed view of him.  There is still a very steady, strong flow intention and ambition to the writings, especially as his movie career starts to build up.  but because of the media, and the intended audience, there is a more personalized feel to the writings.  


    I don't think this should be the first, or even possibly the second book you read on Bruce Lee.  If you're a martial artist, Tao of Jeet Kun Do should be first.  In some ways, that's starting with the finished product first, but I think that's the most applicable.  The second book you should read be a more rounded biography.  To get the gist of what's happened to him.  This book then will further add in some details, and fill in the human part of Bruce Lee, rather than just the action star.  


    I enjoyed this book, and would easily recommend it to any of my fellow martial artists, or anyone who's looking for another piece of the mystery that was Bruce Lee.  I easily give it four out of five ninja stars.  It was a good read, and I read it really quickly, because I couldn't put it down.  I enjoyed the personal glimpse behind the curtain to see more of the man behind the martial arts star.  However, as I stated before, if you're just starting out your research into the life and times of "Saint Bruce, the patron Saint of Martial Arts" then this probably shouldn't be the first book you add to your collection.  But if you're looking to add a unique aspect to your knowledge of Bruce Lee, this is definitely a nice piece to add.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

4 out of 5 stars for Wisdom of Taiji Masters by Nigel Sutton

In the interests of disclosure, I was given this book for review purposes.

Title: Wisdom of Taiji Masters: Insights into Cheng Man Chings
Author: Nigel Sutton
Publisher: Tambuli Media
Format: Softcover
Pages: 167
Price: $21.95 (US)

"If you say that you only pay attention to the health aspects of the art then it not gongfu, it is merely exercise.  This is wrong."
                                                                    -Shifu Tan Ching Ngee

    For the longest time, I had an misinformed idea of what taiji (Tai Chi) was.  Granted, the only version I had ever really seen was the old people in the park version of it.  It took me years to realize what taiji was, and how it could be an effective martial art. Funny part is, being an aikidoka, I should have seen that coming.  There is a lot of similarities in taiji and aikido.  Which, I think is why I was able to get so much out of this book.


    This book delves into the heroes/instructors of one particular branch of taiji, Cheng Man Ching's taijiquan.  This is a branch of the Yang Style taiji.  From what little I know, Yang style still is a martial art, as opposed to be just a health practice, as some of the other taiji has become.  Shifu Cheng Man Ching taught for a long time in Malaysia, where his system flourished under constant physical scrutiny from other local martial artists, i.e. they challenged him often.


    One thing I really liked about this book is that it looks more at the philosophy of taijiquan rather that the techniques.  As I am not a taiji practitioner, I don't know how helpful that would have been.  However, when you talk about the philosophy, the practices, and the stories of a martial art, then it becomes more widely useful.  As an aikidoka, I found so much in common with the ideas and ideals of taiji.  I think everyone, regardless of style can pull some information from this book to add to their own knowledge.


    The one thing I think I would have liked to see better, which is only a small flaw, is that the author writes as though the audience has a basic understanding of taiji, which I don't.  However, with a quick youtube search, I can find demonstrations of the ideas he's describing.  For example, I didn't know what "pushing hands" was.  So I went and found several different versions of the practice and was able to keep reading.
    I also was not as in awe of the subjects of these books, as I gather the author was.  That's due to my lack of familiarity rather than any fault of his or theirs.  Again, its due to my lack of knowledge about taiji and taiji practitioners and masters.


    Overall, I have to give a very high 4 out of five ninja stars.  I really enjoyed the stories about the masters and their abilities.  Their theories of martial arts, despite the softer reputation of taiji, were soundly practical, and I can appreciate that .  As an aikido practitioner, I got a lot out of this book.  Aikido suffers much of the same stigma of the new-age, health aspect that I think taiji does as well.  I was able to take many ideas and quotes and substitute the word "aikido" for "taiji" and write it in my journal.  I truly believe that anyone who reads this book regardless of style will be able to take something useful from it and grow as a martial artist.