Book Review: How To Win a Fight by Lawrence Kane and Kris Wilder

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Prolific martial authors Lawrence Kane & Kris Wilder (guest on Episode 3 of The Applied Karate Show podcast) have done it again, with a brand new book targeted to young people (actually young men) helping them to win in physical conflict.

How to Win a Fight: A Guide to Avoiding and Surviving Violence (aff.) is purposely written and illustrated with a tone and layout that the authors hope will get the message through to a large audience who needs to hear that fighting and violence is hardly romantic, is generally not “fair”, and rarely resolves the issue.

To get their message across, Kane and Wilder teamed up with veteran DC Comics artist/illustrator Matt Haley. The comic-book style imagery engages the mind and tells the story clearly and succinctly. With the popularity of comics in recent story telling (see TV shows like The Big Bang TheoryHeroes, and even NCIS for examples), I applaud this approach, and really enjoyed the parallel approach with the detailed written descriptions.

I like it that How to Win a Fight takes a pragmatic view of violence, detailing how most seemingly random violence is unnecessary and is for the most part avoidable. The authors describe the pre-incident indicators that lead up to violence, and describe how to recognise these and (critically) avoid them!

The book continues into detail into escape and evasion techniques, then describes the mental and physical techniques that are vital if the encounter is unavoidable. Unusual for a self-defence book, the authors then describe what to do after a fight, including aspects of first aid and the need for first aid training, dealing with the police and possible legal problems and the post-traumatic stress aspects.

How To Win A Fight is a terrific book that tells a sobering and realistic story of violence, and is one that all karate and martial arts enthusiasts who study the defensive aspects of the tradition should own. It’ll be on the reading list for my students at the Kengokan Dojo in Sydney, Australia. The message is important, and I love how Kane and Wilder have worked hard to get the message through to the group of people that most needs it.

Messrs Wilder and Kane teach Goju Karate at West Seattle Karate, and are the hosts of the always excellent Martial Secrets podcast.

Buy How to Win a Fight: A Guide to Avoiding and Surviving Violence (aff.) on Amazon.com now. On sale from 4 October 2011.

Book Review: The Detachment by Barry Eisler

I posted the following review of Barry Eisler’s latest thriller, The Detachment, on Amazon.com.

Gripping from End to End

The Detachment is the latest of Barry Eisler’s series of thrillers featuring four gritty characters coming together for the first time as a single detachment (hence the outward meaning of the title). Rain, Dox, Treven and the particularly evil Larrison join forces to use their special “skills” to prevent a coup in the US government. When they find out they might unwittingly have become aiding the coup, things get murky.

The four members of the detachment each have their own issues and agendas, and before they can achieve the final goals, they need to survive working with each other.

From start to finish, The Detachment is a gripping tale. Author Barry Eisler brings realistic fight scenes to the story line, based on his own experiences as a martial artist. The spy craft is supposedly equally real-world, given Eisler’s 3 years of experience in a covert role for the CIA. He marries all this together with his interest in politics and sociology to weave a story that is compelling and believable. 

I have read all of Eisler’s previous thrillers and 2 short stories, and now can’t wait for the next instalment.

I also really liked the fact that Eisler is now writing with a contemporary audience in mind – The Detachment was released first as an ebook and audiobook, and will be released later as a printed volume. I somehow think the wait for instalments will be shorter with Eisler likely to release short stories in ebook form more regularly.

Buy The Detachment at Amazon.com (aff.).

Book Review: Hidden Karate by Gonnosuku Hidaki

Like many, I am somewhat sceptical when I see a book advertised as having the “previously untold” secrets of karate that were handed down to an author, but no-one else. The fact that Hidden Karate by Gennosuke Higaki also claims to tell the story of a pact by Okinawan karateka, including Gichin Funakoshi, to hide the true bunkai of kata when introducing karate to Japan also made me somewhat dubious. However, I also admit to being a little intrigued, so went ahead and ordered it anyway.

First impressions always count, and I must say that this book is beautifully presented. Clearly a great amount of effort was put into the exterior look and feel of the book, and it immediately made it to the top of my reading pile. Second impressions also count, and reading the author’s bio was interesing as it was clearly written in a poor version of Janglish – that hybrid of Japanese and English. I must admit to worrying about the overall quality, but my concerns were reduced when I set out on reading the intro – clearly the translator did an excellent job on the actual content of the book.

Hidden Karate makes an attempt to provide a set of rules for interpreting the bunkai (analysis) of the application of karate’s kata in a meaningful way. In so doing, the author attempts to provide a cultural context about how and why the real meanings of the movements were hidden, and then lays day 20 or so “rules” by which each movement of a kata can be analysed. He then applies this approach to the 5 Heian (Pinan) kata, and also to the first Naihanchi (Naihanchin Shodan) kata.

To be honest, I quite like the approach taken by the author. With rules along the lines of a primary attack is a punch, kick or strike, and that the effectiveness of a strike is greater if an opponent is immobilised, a good game plan for interpreting kata is provided, whilst continuing to rest on karate’s primary weapons augmented by the locks, holds, strangles, etc.

This is kind of refreshing in an age where many have interpreted karate kata as being primarily responses to very close range, grappling encounters. Although those aspects are clearly catered for, I am a believer that our primary weapons tend to the longer range punch, kick and strike scenarios.

In all, I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to see an approach to kata application that sits somewhere in between the primitive punch and kick only scenarios, and the grappling only scenarios that seem to have some favour today. You may not agree with everything (I don’t), but there is some good food for thought.

Buy Hidden Karate at Amazon.com (aff.)