How Not to Get HIT: A Book Review

Book Cover

HOW NOT TO GET HIT: The Art of Fighting Without Fighting | Staying Safe in a Violent World

When it comes to self-defense books, there are generally two approaches. Books that try and teach you physical skills through descriptions, photographs and books that teach awareness and avoidance tactics.

Despite being an instructor in a style of Jiu-jitsu that is primarily self-defense and law enforcement oriented, I prescribe to the awareness and avoidance school of thought when it comes to self-defense. My views on this topic mirror Lori O’Connell Sensei’s, and anyone who has attended her self-defense for busy women classes, or been taught by us at a corporate seminar can attest to the fact we spend more time on these concepts than the physical skills.

90% of self-defense, in my opinion, is awareness, avoidance and safe practices. Violence should always be the last resort, and when violence is used, it’s for the purposes of creating an opportunity to escape.

That’s how I would quickly sum up any of the seminars in self-defense that O’Connell Sensei puts on, and it’s also how I would quickly sum up this book. (more…)

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The Value of Old Knowledge in the Martial Arts

The Value of Old Knowledge in the Martial ArtsA couple of weeks ago, I went to Powell’s Book Store, a huge bookstore in Portland that had the biggest martial arts section I’ve ever seen with a variety of new and used books on every topic. I bought half a dozen books, but my most valued find was an old book, The Complete Jujitsuan, that was originally published in 1915.

I am always on the look-out for old martial arts books like that for a variety of reasons. Firstly, they’re interesting to read from a historical perspective. The writings reflect the unique attitudes toward training and combat of the time and place during which it was written. The demonstrators wear clothes that are customary for the era, which can make for differences in movement strategy. The techniques sometimes comprise of different moves or even weapons that have fallen out of favour. And sometimes you find different techniques or ways of applying familiar techniques that are new to you. (more…)

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Book Review: American Shooter by Gerry Souter

A brief preface: When I was asked to review this book, I was offered the chance to interview the author about guns for self-defense. I think the idea was that it would make it slightly more relevant for this martial arts blog, with our focus on self-defense. I declined the offer because of my view that in Canada, guns are not, for civilians, truly self-defense tools. Our culture and our laws make the use of guns, handguns especially, difficult to use for self-defense. In Canada, guns are in a lot of ways viewed more as tools; for farmers, hunters, law enforcement, and the military. However, for understanding the differences in our views on self-defense with our brothers to the south, I thought that this would be an interesting book to review, so I give you:

American Shooter: A Personal History of Gun Culture in the United Sates by Gerry Souter (more…)

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Focus Your Mind/Go with the Flow: Martial Arts Training Tips

I just finished reading a great book, Slowing Down To The Speed Of Life. I found it had really useful tips for helping to establish a more peaceful, simpler, happier life. It also gave me some great insights that apply for martial arts training, which I’d like to share. The main premise behind the book is that we spend all our time in one of two mental modes, the analytical/processing mode or the free-flowing mode. Both modes have their purposes, and this is apparent when you consider their usage in martial arts training and application.

Analytical/Processing Mode

This mode is most useful for learning new skills and concepts. It allows you to deliberately think through each step and consciously learn a physical technique. When you first learn a joint lock, throw, or other martial arts technique, the instructor breaks it down into steps to make it easier to follow along, and offers corrections along the way for you to process and analyze, so you better understand the fundamentals of the technique. As you practice in this mode, you’ll often find that the technique feels slow and chunky, especially ones requiring fine motor skills. This could also be thought of as the conscious mind. (more…)

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The Gift of Fear vs. the Price of Worry & Ignorance

I recently finished reading The Gift of Fear, by Gavin de Becker. It is a powerful book about the survival signals that protect us from violence. I think everyone could benefit from reading this book, women especially so. I recognized many components within its pages that I teach in my Vancouver/Richmond BC women’s self-defense class.

Fear Itself

The Gift of Fear breaks down the process by which fear is generated and shows how it serves to warn us of danger. De Becker posits that fear is ignited by our subconscious mind, which is registering signals of danger that our conscious mind hasn’t seen or has dismissed through “logic.” I always teach women that when they experience real fear, the kind that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, they should listen to their instincts and take action to get away from the person or remove themselves from the situation that is causing the reaction. But this experience of acute fear is very different from the kind that many women experience on a day-to-day basis, a general fear that violence could happen to them randomly. This is not “authentic” fear, according to de Becker, but is actually worry, a form of fear that is manufactured, and it actually debilitates a person’s ability to sense real danger. (more…)

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A Personal Review of the Zone Diet

Leading up to an important martial arts grading, I decided to try eating healthier. A martial artist friend of mine recommended the “Zone Diet”, featured in the book Barry Sears’ book, Mastering the Zone. It’s not so much of a diet specifically for weight loss and more a way of eating on an ongoing basis that helps you achieve peak performance physically and mentally.

Sears’ concept of “The Zone” changes the way you look at nutrition, weight loss and performance. It stresses getting more of your calories from fat and protein and fewer from carbohydrates, but it’s not about getting rid of carbs altogether. It’s about eating the right amount of protein relative the the amount of carbs you’re eating to maintain the right levels of insulin production in your body. (more…)

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Book Review: Zen in the Martial Arts

I recently picked up Zen In The Martial Arts, out of curiosity. Under the guidance of such celebrated masters as Ed Parker (the man who taught Elvis Presley) and the immortal Bruce Lee, Joe Hyams vividly recounts stories from more than 25 years of experience in the martial arts.

Hyams demonstrates to readers how the daily application of Zen principles not only developed his physical skills, but gave him the mental discipline to control his personal problems related to self-image, work pressure, competition, etc. I’ve read a number of martial arts philosophy books in addition to books entirely about Zen and I found that this book speaks strongly to martial arts students as an introduction to the topic. It communicates Zen concepts in an anecdotal fashion that would help students make sense of it all in the context of their training. (more…)

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Book Review: Fighting Science

I was recently recommended a book called Fighting Science by Martina Sprague. The premise behind the book sounded interesting and useful so I gave it a read.

Fighting Science teaches you what you need to know to successfully apply the laws of physics to your technique in the martial arts. As we all know, size and strength only take you so far, especially for someone my size.

In her book, Sprague gives a solid overview of strategic concepts that allow you to exploit your opponent’s weaknesses and maximize your strengths. She provides a detailed look at how things like momentum, rotational speed, friction, direction, impulse, and conservation of energy can work for or against you. (more…)

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