Saturday, October 8, 2016

3.5 Ninja Star Review for Kong Han Ngo Cho

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

Title: Kong Han Ngo Cho: Forms-Weapons-Fighting
Author: Henry Lo and Daniel Kun
Publisher: Tambuli Media
Format: Softcover
Pages: 468 (There's a lot to this book!)
Price: $39.95

    The name of the system is often translated as Five Ancestor Fist.  This is one of those systems I've heard of about for a long time, and never really knew anything about.  So I decided to get this book to look at what the system is about.  


    The book starts off normally with a history of the system, and goes through the different patrons, telling stories about them, until it gets to the current head of the system.  It explains a little about the political aspect of the system.  This branch is from the Philippines from Chinese immigrants.  It then heads into the physical movements that are part of the system, and how they comply with the ideas of energy and body movement.  The meat of the book however goes through the three beginning (up to Black Belt) forms, as well as the
beginning weapons forms.  You normally don't see that in the same book.  After the forms, the author's also explain and demonstrate some of the drills that their system uses.  


    One of the things I really liked about this book is the forms section.  It shows the forms in three different ways.  As a solo routine, as a paired drill, and how the ideas are utilized in a fighting situation.  I don't know enough to say this is something unique to this style, or if this is just a rare way to show the form that is accomplished in this book.  Either way, I like and appreciate this idea.  Also, with each picture there is a description of what is supposed to be occurring in between the pictures.  Sometimes in the written picture accompaniment there's even an explination of why the movements are occurring, and what its supposed to be teaching.
    I also enjoyed the completeness of the book.  The writing of the history and the philosophy along with the empty hand and weapons forms and training drills give you a very good general feel for what the system is about, and what you would expect to see at a training session.


    One of the things I rate martial arts books on is how useful is it to every martial artist, not just the ones that are in the system.  While I fully agree that this book would be very useful, and maybe even a must have for someone practicing Five Ancestor Kung Fu, other artists would have to look deeper into the book to get something more out of it.  The beginning section talking about the different energies would be good to read a couple of times, but then, apart from walking through the forms, and trying to learn them, it would be hard get the full function out of the book.


    If you're like me, and you remember the martial arts books from the 70's, 80's, and most of the way through the 90's where all you had was just a brief description of a martial art, and then pages and pages of pictures, most of which ranged from OK to huh? when you had to follow the movements.  This book is reminiscent of that style, but greatly improved on.  The beginning sections are well explained in terms of history, and philosophy.  As I said above, I really like the idea of showing the forms in three different ways. The descriptions on the pictures allow you to create a sense of movement in the pictures that is hard to accomplish.  Overall, I'm going to give this book 3.5 Ninja Stars.  I think that if you practice this style, or perhaps a related style, it would be a really useful resource.  If you are not, it can still be a good resource, but the impetus is on you to delve in and get the knowledge nuggets that can be applied to you and your art. 

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