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Four Shades of Black: The Traditional Path to Building The Complete Fighter
Four Shades of Black: The Traditional Path to Building The Complete Fighter
by Gavin Mulholland
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars It's All There In Black & White, 13 May 2010
The slow resurgence of Karate as a complete fighting system has taken a momentous leap forward with Gavin Mulholland's superlative work of art, Four Shades of Black. When I say work of art, I mean it as well for the book is beautiful to look at. The large bold black text on the gi-white cover looks stunning; the body of the book goes the other way with white text on a black background which looks even more stunning and the photographs with white gi clad karateka also on a black background are simply superb. This is one martial arts book that would grace the surface of any coffee table.

Mullholland then introduces us to a young man that has suffered at the hands of bullies and wants to learn to defend himself. It is through the eyes of this novice that we take the long, arduous and thoroughly rewarding journey to, what we all believed as beginners was the ultimate goal, gaining the coveted black belt. Studying four Goju Ryu kata, the author explains the progression from long range powerful striking, to mid range striking and escapes and finally to that all too unfamiliar area for most karateka today, the dreaded close range area of grappling. The student is shown pad, partner and traditional conditioning drills and exercises to ensure that each progression is instilled to it's maximum effectiveness befor moving on to the next. So that after five years and four kata a complete fighter and mature man so totally comfortable and aware of his own ability that when the time and opportunity arise tto actually use it, he finds he doesn't need to, emerges at the other end.

Gavin Mulholland has the karate brain and knowledge to identify basic principles of combat and kata that almost puts him into the mind of the great masters that devised them so that he can digest every morsel of information contained within. Along with Iain Abernethy, he has blown the concept of what most karateka believe is "traditional" karate out of the water. The majority of you are being taught the new tradition of karate as a great exercise regime and sport which in itself is fine. However, you will reach the stage, as I did, when you begin to question the validity of your art in the real world so why not learn the old tradition of karate as a complete and brutal self-protection system as well.

Four Shades of Black is an absolute must for all Karateka and if I hadn't discovered Iain Abernethy's work first it would have been a complete revelation to me and had 5 stars.


Mixed Martial Arts For Dummies
Mixed Martial Arts For Dummies
by Frank Shamrock
Edition: Paperback
Price: £15.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Guide, 11 May 2010
If you're thinking of breaking into MMA as either a competitor or as a coach, add this book to your library. As a karateka I already had a pretty good stand-up and kicking game but a limited knowledge of ground work. Frank Shamrock takes you simply through the eight positions of power, giving submission holds for each position allowing the ground game novice to get a well rounded and effective knowledge of simple techniques. Equally, if you're a ground game specialist looking for a bit of advice on stand-up, some sound advice is given too. All the tutorial sections have easy to follow instructions with excellent step by step pictorial guides.

Whilst this book doesn't go into a massive amount of detail, it really does give you all the basic information required to get you started. If you're a complete novice, don't forget that there is no substitute for good instruction so get out there and find an established school with experienced coaches and use the book to help expand your knowledge then hit the roads to increase your fitness. Hard work then more hard work is the only way to success.

I highly reccommend this great book.


On Combat: The Psychology and Physiology of Deadly Conflict in War and in Peace
On Combat: The Psychology and Physiology of Deadly Conflict in War and in Peace
by Dave Grossman
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars If you havent got a copy....GET ONE!, 10 May 2010
I'd heard a great deal about On Combat prior to buying it, most of it very positive and some negative, from those who had already read Grossman's On Killing and compared the two. I hadn't read either so embarked on this read with a completely open mind. Using beautiul and poignant quotes, poetry and real life accounts from veteran soldiers and police officers; Grossman and Christenson allow the layman to gain a greater understanding of what it is to be a modern day warrior. The terrible stresses and split second decisions that could cost them or somebody else their lives. The consequences of their actions on not only them but their families and loved ones.

How often have we heard our troops being criticised and castigated for their actions by press, media and people at home who have not got the slightest clue of what those men and women have to endure on a daily basis. I for one cannot imagine what it is like to have to kill or be killed, see a friend maimed or blown to pieces then have to deal with it and try to get on with life like a normal person. I dont know what it is like to have to deal with armed criminals or brainless football hooligans taunting and gouding me when the first thing I have to consider is not the danger I and people around me may be in but what trouble I could get into if I have to use force on tehse scum. Our soldiers and police officers deal with these decisions daily and should be praised for it not questioned and criticised.

On Combat is an excellent and very relevant read for everyone, especially those in direct contact with someone in a stressful, dangerous and thankless occupation whether they're a warrior or not. At the very least it will help you understand their moods and behaviour and at the very most it could help you prevent a suicide or save a marriage.

If you havent got a copy....GET ONE!

I have since read On Killing and whilst it is a superb book, it is definately relevant to the warrior only. Review coming soon.


Ascension
Ascension
by Steven Galloway
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quite possibly the best storyteller of our time!, 7 May 2010
This review is from: Ascension (Paperback)
In a rush to catch a train one morning I grabbed a book off the shelf of WH Smith, quickly scanned the back, saw the words "gypsy" and "Transylvania" and being a horror fan thought, RESULT! Settling into my train seat with a bad cup of coffee, I was a little surprised to find that the first chapter began in pre 9/11 New York on top of one of the twin towers with a performer preparing for the ultimate extreme wire walk.

Was I disappointed? Absolutely not! For what followed was the best opening chapter of any book I've ever read. I will not disclose too much here as i would not not want to deprive you of the pleasure. What I can say is that I was immediately transported onto that wire with Salvo, a Romany gypsy immigrant and gifted circus performer. I felt every movement of the wire, sway of the towers, and gust of wind, I held my breath and my heart skipped a beat along with Salvo. At one point I almost spred my arms out to keep balance for him.

From that first chapter I was completely hooked on this man's incredible journey. From his tragic childhood in Hungary, suffering family tragedy and social bigotary. From escaping Nazi Europe and narrowly avoiding the holocaust to world stardom as leader of a family troop of ground-breaking wire walkers with the biggest Circus in the World. Lessons are learned using the wise words of Salvo's father through wonderfully imaginative and colourful Romany gypsy tales that have been handed down through generations, helping to add humour and lightness to what at times is a heart wrenching story.

Galloway's rich descriptions of Europe's gothic cities, Romany history and circus life betrays the huge amount of research that he has done to ensure this book draws you in so you live every moment, taste every morsel and inhale every smell that the wonderful character encounter.

This novel is a without doubt a real tour-de-force worthy of the greatest storytellers of our time. Is Stephen Galloway the Charles Dickens of the age? If he keeps pouring out works like this and the sublime Cellist of Sarajevo.....Maybe.


Karate-do: My Way of Life
Karate-do: My Way of Life
by Gichin Funakoshi
Edition: Paperback

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Study & Learn From The Master of Karate, 7 May 2010
As a 5th dan practitioner of Shotokan Karate for nearly 40 years I have been aware of Gichin Funakoshi as it's founder the whole of my life. For many years I questioned the practical relevance of many of the techniques and kata I have been taught and in turn passed on to my own students. As a student I began to think that the aesthetic appearence of Karate seemed to be important to my seniors than its actual use as the self-defence system that it claimed to be. I was taught Karate kumite as a sport for scoring points with techniques of nearly no relevance to real confrontation and kata as almost a dance routine to look good to the eye and impress judges in an over riding and all important quest to gain a medal or trophy.
On studying closely Karate-do: My Way of Life by Gichin Funakoshi we learn that Karate has changed so much since its introduction to Japan, that if our great projanitors were to see it practiced today it would be unrecognisable to them as Karate. This superb book gives us a unique snapshot at the old masters: Sokon Matsumura, Itosu and Azato. These truly hard man practised karate as a close quarter combat system designed specifically to protect their king. Kata was not a meaningless succession of movements for physical exercise or performance but rather each kata was a recording of a complete and utterly devastating fighting system. Moreover we discover that Gichin Funakoshi was adamantly against the stylisation of the art and was dismayed at his Karate being named Shotokan!
Karate Do My Way of Life is a superb book written by a genius of the art.Okay, it's not Orange Prize book award writing but we're Karateka and every karateka should read it and enjoy it.... NO! STUDY IT AND LEARN from it for what it is. It gives us all the clues on how we should be teaching this life-changing art and its not how the majority of schools do it today.

Overall a pleasant read but more importantly the key to how karate should be practiced is held within.


Bunkai-Jutsu: The Practical Application of Karate Kata
Bunkai-Jutsu: The Practical Application of Karate Kata
by Iain Abernethy
Edition: Paperback

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Revelation!, 7 May 2010
Having read this book I immediately booked Iain Abernethy for a seminar. Where had this guy been all my Karate career? He, without doubt is the man that made Karate make complete sense to me, showing it's brutal effectiveness at all combative ranges including, hold on you Karate "traditionalists', including grappling and groundwork. Iain has a knowledge of Karate's projanitors and the arts history that is second to none and has modelled his teaching methods on what they have been telling us for over a century i.e. Karate is a self-protection system designed for the real world and not the sports arena. Having trained with him on many occasions now, I can tell you that he continues to study and unlock some incredible bunkai from the kata he studies.

I highly reccommend that if you are serious about learning Karate as the practical, pragmatic and brutal protection system that men like Sokon Matsumura, Itosu and Azato created it to be: you should study Iain's superb publications and attend his superb seminars at every opportunity. He has established himself alongside the likes of Vince Morris as one of the world authorities on kata bunkai.

Andy O'Brien
Author of "The Little Bubishi: A History of Karate for Children"


Animal Day: Pressure Testing the Martial Arts
Animal Day: Pressure Testing the Martial Arts
by Geoff Thompson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars More of The Same, 7 May 2010
Let me start by saying that I am a great admirer of Geoff Thompson and he has been a great influence on me as a martial artist and a writer. I've no doubt of his real life experiences despite those that question his claim to having had many hundreds of street fights. You've only got to look at the guy to see he's had a scuffle or two! There is also no doubting that he is writer of great skill and eloquence with a huge amount of extremely useful, though controversial to some, (those who have no idea what a real fight is!)information. Dead or Alive is, along with Meditations On Violence by Rory Miller, by far the best self-protection book I have come across to date and I firmly believe that everyone should own a copy.

This is where the big "However" crops up. I have a fine collection of Geoff Thompson martial arts books and DVD's and whilst Animal Day is amongst my favourites purely for the training drills, much of the rest of the book seems a bit familiar. If you suddenly feel a wave of de ja vu come over you after reading two or more of Geoff Thompson's books, a feeling that you've read that somewhere before before, you probably have - in one of Geoff Thompson's books!

This is even more apparent when you read his self-help books. Read one and you'll feel truly inspired and mentally invigorated. Read another and you'll stop reading half way through because you've read it all before. I don't want to upset those of faith out there, especially Geoff, but I've also found that the self-help books have become increasingly preachy and bible punching. Ensure that you do at least read one though! I reccommend The Elephant and The Twig. (see my review)

Having said all that, I still continue to purchase and collect anything by Geoff Thompson as his writing style continues to inspire me and his views can still be refreshingly controversial and stir up the "stuck-in-mud" so called traditionalist martial arts set in this country, which is always enjoyable.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 5, 2010 11:08 PM GMT


Karate-do Nyumon: The Master Introductory Text
Karate-do Nyumon: The Master Introductory Text
by Gichin Funakoshi
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Worth having as a piece of Karate history., 6 May 2010
Karate Do Nyumon was Gichin Funakoshi's book for beginners and introduced us to the little practiced Ten No Kata. Ten No Kata is a fantastic tool for teaching fundamentals and introducing beginners to rehearsed kumite. As it is practised on the spot it takes up very little room and can be practised anywhere.

As far as the book goes, that's pretty much it. All of the stories and background can be found in Karate Do Kyohan which is a far superior work and the stories of Azato and Itosu are repeated in virytually all Funakoshi's work. The techniques displayed in the photographs are for me being a Shotokan karateka, shockingly poor and I shudder at the thought of a complete novice having this book and thinking that what he/she was looking at was good form.

However, this is Funakoshi's text and being a complete karate geek the book, for, me is worth having as a piece of Karate's history only.


Shotokan's Secret: The Hidden Truths Behind Karate's Fighting Origins: The Hidden Truth Behind Karate's Fighting Origins
Shotokan's Secret: The Hidden Truths Behind Karate's Fighting Origins: The Hidden Truth Behind Karate's Fighting Origins
by Bruce Clayton
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A BOOK OF TWO HALVES - 1 GOOD & 1 QUESTIONABLE, 4 May 2010
The first thing to strike you about this book is the amazing cover. It shows an elderly but regal looking eastern man of high standing flanked by two very stern looking younger men. The first thing I did was to search the book to find out who these enigmatic men were. Using the very few clues left to our generation, Bruce Layton, quite reasonably speculates that these men could possibly be the last King of Okinawa with his bodyguards and masterminds of modern Karate Do, Itosu and Sokon Matsumura. As you would expect from Bruce Layton the historical data is investigated thoroughly with some very interesting and viable conclusions being met. The biography's on the Master's of Shotokan's lineage are also a very enjoyable, interesting and informative read.

Where the this book sadly fell short for me were the, in my opinion, often ludicrous assumptions made as to how the Karate kata and techniques would have been used by these great men in their daily role as aides to the King. Occasionaly Layton put's forward what appears to be reasonable argument for the use of a technique in a protection situation but when you see the photos to accompany the explanation, they immediately bring to mind a very poor Kung Fu Movie. Is Kiba Dachi as performed in Tekki, designed to keep your primary to your back whilst you defend him? Is the Crane posture from Gankaku designed to balance on top of a stairs whilst you despatch your enemy to their foot in a painful heap? Oh dear! The bunkai displayed in this otherwise interesting book are far to literal to the kata and unfortunately hold no water whatsoever.

If you want a very good historical record about Shotokan's projanitors, I highly reccommend this book. If it's a practical and pragmatic look at the use of karate technique in combat situations; invest in messrs Vince Morris, Iain Abernethy, Gavin Mullholland and the like.


Karate-do Kyohan: The Master Text
Karate-do Kyohan: The Master Text
by Gichin Funakoshi
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars DON'T JUST LOOK AT THE PICTURES!!, 2 May 2010
Karate-Do Kyohan was the first written text book of Karate, all Karate, not just Shotokan (and I am a Shotokan practitioner!. At a time when Karate had to evolve just to survive the Meiji Restoration,Funakoshi and his great teachers Itosu and Azato conspired to evolve Karate into a system of physical exercise. Encouraged by interest from military and governmental departments in both Ryukyu and Japan, these visionary men were the projanitors of the modern sporting phenomena we know today.

Unwilling to completely dilute his art from the deadly personal protection system that had been used by generations of royal bodyguards on Okinawa, Funakoshi includes, albeit at times vaguely, historical data that provides us with clues as to the true nature of his art, including the use of dirty tactics such as grabbing, wrestling and spitting at your opponent to distract them before applying a finishing technique and escape.

Often maligned these days for weakening a great fighting art, Gichin Fubakoshi's and indeed Itosu's decision to modify their art was a necessary evil to ensure the survival of Karate Do due to the Meiji regime's hatred of anything too old fashioned or barbaric. Take the time to read the text in this record and all the clues as to how Karate was originally intended to be used, as a brutal and practical self - protection system, are there. It is up to us as studious Karateka, to look at and extract the clues that were left to us in this and other texts of that time, written by the men who created and developed our art. I'm of no doubt that they knew a damn sight more about it than you or I. To criticise the teachings of men of the incredible calibre of Gichin Funakoshi is both ignorant and extremely arrogant!

Karate Do Kyohan is a piece of Karate History that every serious Karate student should have in their library.


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