Martial arts instructional books are generally written along one of several different lines; they’re written to address a specific topic and give you another tool you can add to your current martial art. They can tackle philosophy, or they can provide an overall solution, a martial arts system, acting as a textbook.
I recently received a copy of Cary Nermeroff’s Aiki-Jujutsu: Mixed Martial Art of the Samurai.
This is a Textbook
I have nothing against textbook style martial arts books, but they are more difficult to review because there is a danger that I’ll end up passing judgement on a martial arts style rather than the book itself. While this book is entitled Aiki Jiu-jitsu, it really seems to be an overview book of Fukasa-Ryu Bujutsu Kai, the style created by the author. At the end of the day, you can’t learn a martial art from a book, but you can gain insights into the art, and hopefully with an open mind, gain insights into your own.
This book is divided into 4 sections: Martial History, Kempo-Jutsu, Aiki-Jujutsu: Body Conditioning Techniques, and Fukasa-Ryu Aiki-Jujutsu.
This is probably more easily read as: Unattributed History, Blocking & Striking, Breakfalls, Pivoting & Knee-Walking, Throws & Groundwork.
The first section covers the philosophy of the style, and its historical roots. There is no attribution nor bibliography, so take the history element with a grain of salt. The philosophy of the style, however, is important to understand the choice of techniques, movement styles and hand positioning presented in the book.
The next 3 sections are all techniques, and this is really what we’re looking for in a martial arts instructional book, the quality of the written descriptions and the photography.
Quality & Confusion
The pictures are generally quite good and well chosen. For the most part the photos were really good, and the use of close-ups for grips was well done. There were one or two techniques that I wish they had a different photo or zoomed in on a different part, but these were minor gripes, and the written descriptions made up for it.
The written descriptions were generally excellent, with one very annoying and confusing caveat. Because of the style, there is a heavy use of Japanese to describe everything.
At first and second reference, there was generally an English translation in parenthesis, but after that you had to remember the terms, and even with my prior knowledge I had to flip back and forth once or twice to remember which stance, or what level height a punch was being referred to when I couldn’t figure it out from the photos. While the occasional reference would have been okay, I found myself starting to assume I knew what they were doing based on my prior training knowledge. This focused me on the second problem, which had to do with layout of the pictures with text.
I really loved that they chose to include photos showing techniques from both the right and the left sides. That meant if you didn’t’ get quite the right angle in a photo from the right side you could see it better on the left. That was great, and I know it added a lot of extra work. However, because the descriptions of the left side were generally along the lines of, “just do the same but mirrored,” it meant the next technique was often being described on the same page as photos from the previous technique. So to follow along with the pictures I had to read, then flip ahead to the next page to see the photo and then flip back to read the next step.
It’s too bad and not the author’s fault, because the written descriptions and photos are good quality, but that just further slowed my reading. Having taken a thorough look at it, I don’t think they had to lay it out that way.
Great Book – Limited Audience
This is a well-produced, high-quality book, however, I didn’t find it offered much in the way of new perspectives on the techniques presented, most of which are found in mixed styles of Japanese Jiu-jitsu. For a martial artist looking to improve any one particular aspect of their training, I can’t recommend it because it’s an overall textbook touching on many subjects. If you want to improve your throwing, you’d be better looking at a pure throwing style, the same if you want to enhance your striking, etc.
While on the whole this book is well presented, it is best used as a reference book for those training in Fukasa-Ryu Bujutsu Kai. For them, it would be invaluable, but for martial artists looking to broaden their outlook, there are better options.
Aiki-Jujutsu is available through Trafalgar Square Publishing for both Kindle and in Amazon.com.