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5.0 out of 5 stars Learn why martial arts can be a waste of time if you want to learn self-defence, 17 Feb 2012
This review is from: How To Be Your Own Bodyguard (Kindle Edition)
I'm approaching this book by instructor Nick Hughes from an unusual perspective. Since leaving the military I've worked in the psychological trauma field and have lost count of how many people I've spoken to who have been victims of violence and sexual assault in the last 2 decades. The psychological fallout from involvement in such incidents is well documented. A common problem for victims is gaining a return of confidence to go back out and about again. Many of those I've spoken to have taken up or at least considered training in the martial arts, so that they can `handle' themselves if they run into trouble again. Whenever I hear this I cringe inwardly, sure that they have images of fighting off the nasty hordes ala Hollywood! Totally unrealistic... An actor playing a make believe role in a film is the only person who can take 20 kicks and punches to the head and not end up in a critical care ward. In reality, you need to avoid those 20 kicks and punches, and the only way to do that is to be aware so that you spot any trouble in time to avoid it. I was encouraged that despite Hughes background that this is the approach that he also advocates.

Anyone who is fool enough to think that martial arts training on its own is going to keep them safe on the streets is quite frankly in for a hell of a surprise when they find themselves being kicked and punched by a gang of mindless thugs. At that point it's too late to realise that Bruce Lee movies are fiction, and that the ideal solution would have been to avoid being in this situation in the first place. There is nowhere quite like a dojo to pick up a false sense of self-confidence. I declare an interest at this point; I do have a black belt. I quite like it; I use it to keep my trousers up. Do I sound cynical? It's because I am!

Unfortunately too many dojos, in my experience, are run without teaching the mindset and awareness skills necessary to avoiding the problem in the first place. Couple this with learning how to use the body in unnatural ways, for heaven's sake who will have time to drop into the correct stance, feet at a 45 degree angle, body slightly inclined at another stupid impossible angle, ready to take on the world. Why do I say that this is unnatural? Well, you have to learn it, when your body already knows how to fight by instinct, a point well made in Hughes book. On the proverbial street the world happens suddenly, often from behind and it often comes in groups. I've seen little taught in a dojo that prepares someone for the harsh reality of a street event in all its horrible glory. It all happened so quick, I didn't know what was happening, it was all very confusing, didn't have time to get a description, I was on the floor, didn't see them officer - all common comments from people who have been victims of sudden violence.

The advice and basic common sense presents in this book is excellent, clearly written by someone whose CV speaks for itself. For many years I've been recommending a book to people called `the gift of fear' which Hughes also mentions - this supports the opinion formed reading this book that Hughes 'knows his stuff'. As I've already said what is particularly impressive about this book was the emphasis on `soft skills' i.e. avoiding trouble in the first place. Hughes deals with recognition, awareness and avoidance in great detail. Hard skills, the "punch up" so to speak, are dealt with right at the end of the book. This is a suitable metaphor suggesting strongly that hard skills are a last resort, this is certainly the best philosophy.

It's a shame that print copies of this text are not yet available, here's hoping - if print copies become available I'll be giving copies out as presents. All in all an excellent book - highly recommended... For updates on Hughes' work see his web site: [...]
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 5 Sep 2012 13:28:55 BDT
A. Murdoch says:
I'm buying the book but in the meantime, this review contaiins good advice. I too have a black belt and wholeheartedly endorse the views here that the dojo is one thing but real life is quite another. Listen to this man.

Posted on 5 Sep 2012 13:29:15 BDT
A. Murdoch says:
I'm buying the book but in the meantime, this review contaiins good advice. I too have a black belt and wholeheartedly endorse the views here that the dojo is one thing but real life is quite another. Listen to this man.
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