Showing posts with label book review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label book review. Show all posts

November 19, 2014

Fut Sao Wing Chun by James Cama - Book Review

Tambuli Media's latest offering by James Cama offers a glimpse into the little seen world of the Leung Family Buddha Hand System of martial arts with "Fut Sao Wing Chun."  A 115 page overview of a little known branch of the Southern Chinese Martial art known as Wing Chun, a system renown for its pragmatic approach to self defense and health.

The author, James Cama, offers a brief historic overview of the art before leading the reader through the various aspects of Wing Chun. Subjects such as weapons, empty hand forms, internal healing (nei gung), and two person form are touched upon.  Cama also shows a taste of the self defense aspects that Wing Chun has to offer.   Unfortunately these are mere appetizers to the uninitiated!  Though written decently it almost seems rushed as I was left wanting more details on every aspect; lineage, pedagogy, mindset of a Wing Chun fighter; how to deal with specialists in other methods of combat etc.etc.  A smattering of self defense scenarios are presented but little explanation is offered.  For instance on page 106 the author talks about the importance of controlling the opponents energy in a self defense situation.  But ultimately this is merely a maxim as their is no further details offered nor explanation.

Edited well the photo's are well lit and clear, offering a single angle on the subject in most instances.  The  form stills are solid and clear though again only offering one angle, not multiples. The reader is left yearning for more info and depth unless of course you already practice the Buddha Hand system of the Leung Family.  To those practitioners this book is of the most value since Cama offers the basic forms broken down into over 200 photos as well as the two person set.  A wonderful source of the movements to any student of the art.


The Hei Gong (nei gung) form is also presented (and to the best of my knowledge this is the first time it appears openly in print).  A strong, powerful healing set that combines breath work with dynamic movements and mental acuity training. 

One is left feeling as if there must be a follow up volume diving into more details of such a rare art, but that desire is overshadowed by the sad fact that James Cama unexpectedly passed on the day this title was in fact published. A legacy cut short for sure but none the less one cemented in the foundation of time with this text as a treatise to his past for the students of the future. 

Fut Sao can be purchased by clicking here

November 25, 2013

Mark Wileys "Mastering Eskrima Disarms" - Book Review

Dead Turkey day is literally right around the corner and I cannot think of a more appropriate martial art to discuss then the Filipino Martial Arts (FMA) of Eskrima / Arnis / Kali!?  And what better topic then Mark Wiley's latest book; "Mastering Eskrima Disarms?"  A long overdue text on common defensive measures found in all styles and subsystems of the FMA (and really in all martial arts), addressing disarms would seem simple, but when looking at the broader scope of the subject we find it to be much more difficult to organize and pedagogically formulate.  I am grateful that a seasoned researcher such as Mark Wiley tackled this subject, as I consider him the Tom Clancy of FMA writing. 

Mark Wiley is a special kind of duck.  Not only are his research skills top notch, but he has a kind attitude and honest love for the arts that grant him unprecedented access to teachers in all sub-styles of the FMA; something unheard of within a traditionally closed off and paranoid culture.  Without this kind of relationship within the community taking on a book of this scope would be incomplete at best.  Indeed Wiley dedicates the ninth and final chapter of the text to a photo collage of various teachers from a multitude of styles showcasing a number of different disarms.  Just shy of 100 pages these photos collected over years of travel and training throughout the USA and Philippines, are meant to showcase the similarities of each system based on the foundation of principle found across all systems of FMA.  It is brilliant to see old friends such as Dan Medina and GM Remy Presas included, as well as some great shots of the legends! 

Discussing disarms is tricky as many feel they are impossible to pull off in real combat, and Wiley acknowledges this straight away by organizing "Mastering Eskrima Disarms" into two parts and eight chapters.  Discussing assumptions that are dangerous, how to progress in your training, and then guiding the reader through ranges, gates, and positional footwork.  ALL key aspects often overlooked by zealous students who want to train the "cool" disarm!  Another fundamental mistake is the difference between training for edged combat versus bladed combat.  Whereas with one it is completely safe to grab the weapon, but with the other it could be a decisive mistake!  Again Wiley addresses all these issues by laying out foundational principles that are universal. 

Part one of the text is broken into three chapters:
  1. Principles of Effective Disarms 
  2. Supporting Structures (includes joint control concepts as well as modes of engagement)
  3. Grip Release Concepts (arguably the best chapter, encompassing a wide variety of techniques into five fundamental concepts)
I like Marks approach to categorizing as he avoids using style specific terms regarding footwork and the like.  As any practitioner of the FMA knows terms are relative and often confusing.  Within one system one can find five different names for the same technique or footwork pattern, but Mark avoids such pitfalls by employing the KISS principle (Keep It Simple Stupid)!  This is so important when writing a general text that covers techniques found in all martial arts. 

Covering all aspects of weapon engagement as well, Wiley hits the note addressing stick vs. blade, double vs. single, as well as weapon vs. empty hand.  Any student with more then 2 years under their blade will be able to learn these principles and apply their own styles disarms and variations without any trouble.  Wiley has showcased the principles but has avoided trying to become a repository of every single disarm from every single angle!  That would be redundant and distracting. 

One area of discussion missing from this book is that of the clinch and ground grappling.  I confess
this may be a separate subject in the authors mind and thus the exclusion.  But it has been this reviewers limited experience in my 20+ years in the FMA that when dealing with the real threat of a weapon, the bull rush into a clinch of some sorts is VERY common!  This also often leads to the ground.  I would love to hear how  Prof. Wiley would deal with such threats and disarming from the perspective of being nearly smothered.  Again this is less of a criticism and more of question, as Mark may look at this subject in a totally different light (hinting at a book idea Mr. Wiley ;). 

"Mastering Eskrima Disarms" includes over 950 photographs and really these are the only criticisms I have of the otherwise excellent book!  The instructional sequences are pretty clear but can be a bit dark at times, shot in black and white I confess I am never a fan of both parties (demonstrater and demonstratee) being dressed in the same color.  White and black lay better contrast and allow for some depth in photo's such as these.  Though not cost effective, color photo's and/or multiple angles have become the norm in martial art texts and when discussing weapon based arts are almost essential. 

Retailing at $29 (Amazon has it listed under $25), "Mastering Eskrima Disarms" is a must have for any practitioner of the FMA, and really anyone interested in a great text on joint manipulation and weapon engagement.  Wiley addresses the subject honestly and with real world wisdom that is often washed out in the world of weapon work.  This also makes a great gift for the martial artist on your holiday list, so before grabbing the Golok and carving that Turkey take a moment and order this fundamental text! 



You can order "Mastering Eskrima Disarms" by Mark Wiley by clicking here and you will be redirected to Amazon! 

September 1, 2009

Book Review - "Me, Chi and Bruce Lee"


My good friend Mark passed along Brian Preston's "Me, Chi and Bruce Lee: Adventures in Martial Arts" for some light hearted reading on my vacation. Preston is by no means a professional martial artist but decided to try some of it out in his late 30's in an effort to get in shape and have some fun, and the result is quite a humorous ride through one mans search for "real" martial arts.

Preston is a fellow NW-er (living on Vancouver Island) and begins his search with a local cat who teaches Shaolin Kung Fu and Taiji. As his interest piques Brian finds himself travelling to China, struggling to get a press pass for a UFC fight, following Jeff Monson around as he prepares for one of his UFC fights, as well as going to BFE British Columbia to train with Royce Gracie.

Self depreciating throughout, Preston pulls no punches when evaluating his own shortcomings in regards to training (or lack thereof) and the interesting cast of characters he meets on his path. Packed with humor this book requires no previous experience, nor interest, in the martial arts and ends up being a fun, funny read.

Along the way Preston inadvertently touches on a subject that is subject to argument throughout the Chinese martial realm, that being the prowess and efficacy of the Chinese Martial Arts. Meeting up with Jarek Szymanski (a Polish born martial artist living for the past decade or more in northern China), Preston really pushes the issues of how realistic the philosophical theory, and much of the training methodology found in the Chinese Martial Arts (CMA) really are. Seemingly without an agenda Preston sheds some much needed light on a subject that many CMA teachers shy away from. This is the problem in CMA, no one wants to face reality and step up to challenge "tradition." Unfortunately the art and culture suffer because of peoples unwillingness to evolve in their training methods and approach.

Everything from overweight Shaolin "masters" commenting on Royce Gracie's fighting prowess, to 60 year old ladies handing Preston his ass, this book is a great fun read for martial artists and wanna be's alike. For a good laugh and an interesting perspective from an objective point of view pick up Preston's book "Me, Chi and Bruce Lee."

Enjoy,
JAB