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Neil Adams MBE autobiography: A Game of Throws Paperback – 13 Aug 2016
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I have often been disappointed by biographies. Not because they were not interesting but because there often seemed to be a lack of honesty. Either a white-washed perfect life or a deliberate bad-boy image there just to enhance a reputation. Happily this was not the case here. This book reminded me of a book called Snowboard To Nirvana that I read years ago. Although there was no religious language in this book there was a clear message about learning lessons to reach a better place. What was that place?
It wasn’t necessarily as a world beating Judoka, I thought there would be more Judo in this book. Don’t leave just yet, hear me out. This book had more to do with Neil Adams as a person than as a Judoka. It wasn’t until after I finished the book that I realized what it was about for me. This book was all about learning, how to play better by being a better person. Then I thought some more and realized it wasn’t actually about Judo players as much as it was about transitioning from one phase to another. In this case from Judoka to coach. The lessons in this book could help a lot of young martial artists but more importantly I think most of us could benefit from taking a step back and looking at where we are, how we got here and how we can improve ourselves and those around us. It was also interesting to hear such an honest portrayal about how family dynamics can affect so much about a person and how they approach their work.
I know that sounded rather like a review for a self-help book, and at times I did think of this book in that way. There was more to it though. There was a passion that effused every page and the section about Chris (no spoilers from me) had me in tears at my desk during a lunch time reading session. Not exactly a cool thing for a middle-aged man but unavoidable when reading something that raw and emotive.
There were a couple of things that were repeated. One of which was in this book at least three times. At first I thought it was lazy writing but then I realized it was a teaching aide. Repetition of an important lesson, not just for the sake of competition but for life in general. It was a simple one too, smile. That’s it. When the brown stuff hits the fan smile and do your best to deal with it.
I loved this book and it took me back to all those great martial arts lessons and why I enjoyed them. Go play was something I heard a lot and sparring with that in mind always resulted in some of the most fun I ever had getting bruised and beaten. Smiling and bowing off the mat before laughing and joking with friends was always my favourite part of martial arts and I still miss that feeling.
Neil Adams – More than a Judoka, Sensai, coach and media personality. A person with all the struggles that entails.
The book itself is an easy read but not a good one. It really is in need of a good editorial hand, it doesn't flow and often repeats itself. As someone who really loves hearing Neil's skilful commentary strangely I didn't feel I could hear his voice in this. I'm afraid Neil if you were unhappy with how you came across in your first book, in time to come you'll be even less satisfied with this one. Priced as it is its not bad value and so I'd recommend if you are a big Adams fan you buy it and form your own opinion perhaps you'll rate it differently.
Neil's life has clearly been a roller coaster--the personal and professional highlights, tragedies and struggles he writes about here are significant and make for compelling reading. Despite his incredible achievements, his Olympic disappointments continue to haunt him 30 years later. Though most people would be more than satisfied with a legacy like Neil's, it's something he views as incomplete, and the book is a good insight into the sacrifices he and his family made help him get to and stay at the top. I didn't get a sense of the "selfishness" that he thinks comes across in "A Life in Judo," (no one gets to that level without making it their top priority) but this is a deeper look at his personality and drive.
I read this cover-to-cover the day I received it. I haven't done that with a book in a long time. Whether you are generally interested in judo, know (of) Neil, or just want to read about what a world champion does after he retires, this is a great read. Highly recommended.
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