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4.8 out of 5 stars
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on 11 July 2006
I'd heard about the imminent publication of this book via internet martial arts forums. So, having read Goran Powell's posts and articles, I was already expecting something way above average. I wasn't expecting to put the day on hold and read it in one go.

I have been around MA for many years, studied the mind for the same time, and read a lot of the books about "fear" from some of the greats (Geoff Thompson, Iain Abernethy, Jamie Clubb) but this was the first one that took it from opinion, science and personal experience to actually being inside MY head.

For the first time ever, I could believe it isn't only me who feels that way. He takes us through from the denial, the decision, the build up and the event, and even further on to the aftermath, and the lessons gained.

Throughout the book he refers to Tao (Dao), and is neither flippant nor fanatical about it. His own writing is in my opinion Taoist in itself. It's only when going over it the second time you actually taste the philosophical morsel with which he has tempted you. So simple, it's beyond clever.

It is also no exaggeration to say this book came at just the right time for me, for many personal reasons. But that's Tao for you.

Most of all, he says it all in such a simple way with such a great 'confidential' narrative, that I'm convinced at times he was addressing me personally, "you know, just between you and me" and he left me reassured it's ok to doubt myself without the world getting to know.

If you train, or are about to train in any martial art, on any level, may I humbly suggest that you order this book now?

It will shine light into the darkest reaches of your psyche.

Had this book been available when I first started training, it would not have taken me 28 years from first ever grading to first Dan. Never mind, it's put me firmly on a better path, and for that Mr. Powell, I am eternally grateful.
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on 16 August 2006
Goran Powell combines insight and authority born of years of experience with a down-to-earth and humorous style. I know there have been some reviews of this book by people who have themselves performed the Thirty Man Kumite - this is from the other end of the spectrum, from someone just a couple of years into that journey. The parts of the book I appreciated most were the reflections on how we learn - how periods of struggling with an idea, or drilling something without feeling comfortable with it, are interspersed with moments of enlightenment when it suddenly makes sense - and on the nature of fear.

Goran describes the fear he encountered at various points in his training, and explains how he accepted it and harnessed it as a positive force - with some interesting thoughts on how professional fighters have dealt with the same problem.

The book isn't just about the build-up to the ultimate challenge (after all, for most of his martial arts career he didn't know he would one day do the Thirty Man) but about all the challenges along the way, and that's something anyone can learn from whatever the specific nature of the challenges they face.
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on 19 July 2006
What I really liked about this book was the author's honesty. His journey in the Martial Artists contains universal truths that will be familiar to us all. If you have a faced any kind of adversity in your life (real or imagined) the doubts and fears the author expresses so eloquently in this book will be familiar. His choice to confront these doubts and fears head on is truly inspiring. And it was a choice, he could have just as easily hidden from them (superficially it would have been the easier option) instead he chose to put himself in the `hard path' to self discovery.

One final thing this book is extremely well written, the author is a professional writer and it shows.
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on 26 July 2006
OK, I confess, I'm the author's sister.

I sat down to read "Waking Dragons" one evening as a matter of duty. I knew Goran was an entertaining writer but I anticipated finding the subject matter difficult. I know nothing about martial arts and represent the couch-potato side of the family. I thought, I'll read for an hour and then watch "Big Love" on telly. There's nothing like a TV show about bigamy to refresh a girl after reading her brother's boring book about karate. Five hours later, I realised it was one o'clock in the morning. I thought, I'll just read one more chapter.

"Waking Dragons" is a book about a man who finds a pattern for his life through martial arts. It's not didactic but it is inspirational. Regardless of what your interests are, reading this book makes you feel that you can achieve your dreams as well. I might even rise from the couch and do some step-aerobics!

Goran's enduring relationship with martial arts shaped his approach to work and other activities. His fascination inspired him to start writing this book but the mental discipline he mastered due to martial arts gave him the focus to finish it.

"Waking Dragons" spans Goran's life from a chubby boy eating the filthy Judo mats of the West Midlands to a fit and driven man training for the ordeal of the Thirty Man Kumite. Goran is the everyman of the martial arts. He is honest about his failures in both combat and approach but, in deconstructing them, learns from his mistakes and shows his readers how they might do the same.

On the way, he learns to endure the hard knocks of Kyokushinkai, loosens up with Taekwondo, takes a sneaky interest in Boxing, then finds his Chi with the hard-soft school of Goju Ryu.

"Waking Dragons" is consistently entertaining, with surprisingly profound ponderings and some very witty moments. There are anecdotes from Goran's life peppered throughout the book, which either inform or are influenced by his interest in martial arts and its philosophy. These give "Waking Dragons" the easy momentum of a novel, rather than a self-help book, and build up to the subtly-referenced but pertinent revelation that he found true love in the Goyu Ryu dojo.
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on 11 August 2006
I've just finished reading Waking Dragons, an account of the Thirty Man Kumite event which is one of the pinnacles of acheivement at Daigaku Karate Kai, my karate club. The author Goran, is my karate sempai, and is a very able, eloquent writer, a really good egg and a great trainer to boot! It's very interesting to be able to get into his head and amongst his thought processes and history culminating to the thirty man fight which I watched (and cheered loudly at!) in December of 2002. Seeing his personal views stated candidly reminds me that no matter what belt we wear or tribulations we face, we are all three dimensional characters with fears and weaknesses as well as great strengths. What Goran's book shows, much in the style of Angry White Pyjamas and Moving Zen, is that one can delve deep into resources that weren't even imagined about under great duress and once unearthed, bring them to the fore again as necessary.

It brought back memories of Goran's day and the first Thirty Man Kumite fight I had seen by Steve Jones, whose ordeal is also mentioned in the book. I remember finding Steve's fight so inspirational, and it still is a driver for me to perform that well when I eventually take my Thirty Man fight, sometime in the future. Goran's book is also a great example of shugyo, the personal sacrifices one makes to acheive new understandings and insight into one's character, and I really recommend it to anyone who wants to find out more about Karate and self testing one's boundaries!
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on 19 July 2006
I have been an avid collector of martial art books for many years and there are not too many that I would recommend. However, in my opinion, Goran Powell's work should be in every martial artist's library. This is not a "how-to-do-it" book, but a how to "feel" it one. Mr. Powell has pulled no punches with his honest appraisal of what some martial artists go through. His truthful approach has shown him to possess the martial virtue of humility. Well done!

Albie O'Connor
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 29 April 2007
This brilliant book by Goran Powell (4th Dan), charts his history in martial arts from youngster doing Judo to 3rd Dan Karate expert taking the 30 man Kumite test. For those unfamiliar with the Japanese, Kumite essentially means sparring. Goran had to fight 30 opponents, each for one minute. Not only that, but these were full contact no holes barred fights against progressively tougher opponents.

Goran is a writer by trade so the book is well-written. Although mainly chronological, at certain points Goran jumps forward to record his views on others attempts to take the 30 man kumite test. This is riveting reading, bone-crunching punches and kicks are described in vivid detail, and you are left in no doubt about the difficulty of the test.

The other great moments in the book were when Goran discovered something totally new or different to do with his training, Karate or style. There are 3 or 4 of these revelations throughout the book and the experienced martial artist will probably have experienced the same sort of thing themselves.

For anybody who has studied martial arts this is essential reading.
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on 4 July 2006
Don't let the cartoonish cover fool you, this tome is as serious and substantive as any martial arts book that I have ever read, and I've read hundreds. It retells the author's pinnacle karate achievement, completing a 30-man kumite during which he successfully fought against 30 progressively skillful opponents in consecutive full contact bouts. Despite the fact that this feat is rarely undertaken, let alone pulled off, by even master martial artists, I found that the accomplishment is far less important for the reader than the way in which he got there.

His martial training began as a child with judo where he learned the fundamentals of fitness, balance, timing, and attitude. As a young man he switched to Kyokushinkai karate, taking on a full contact style that demonstrated the benefits of disciplined training and a strong spirit. Later on, tae kwon do taught him to relax, conserve energy, and flow with his techniques. Switching back to Goju Ryu karate he refined his posture and balance, learned the value of kata, and developed a refined sense of awareness. The sum of these experiences helped him develop the quintessential martial virtue, an indomitable spirit necessary to take on and overcome nearly any challenge, even the brutal 30-man kumite. He compares this spirit to a pilot light. No matter how battered and beaten you may become, with the right mental attitude your pilot light can still burn brightly. No opponent can ever reach in and blow it out.

The author's journey is one in which we can find great wisdom, information that all martial artists should know regardless of the length of their experience, the style they practice, or whether or not they ever intend to compete in full contact events. He makes full use of his formidable writing skills and martial knowledge, aptly demonstrating how he learned and grew through various trials and tribulations in a way that is entertaining, easy to read, and, thankfully, never self-aggrandizing or preachy. He demonstrates how he discovered the secrets of quickness and power, patience and perseverance, body mechanics and technique, in a way that anyone can truly appreciate, relate to, and learn from.

Very highly recommended!

Lawrence Kane
Author of Surviving Armed Assaults, The Way of Kata, and Martial Arts Instruction.
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on 3 November 2013
Upon first seeing this book and looking at the information, it seems almost like a work of fiction or something from a Hollywood film and certainly one man taking on 30 fighters one after another in full contact karate seems an insane prospect.

But this is both an interesting and inspiring book from a now seasoned martial artist. I found it very interested that he hadn't just picked one style of martial arts and then postured that this was the best - the "my style is better than everything else" mentality - which sometimes happens. The writer has tried many different styles of martial arts throughout his life and has been able to distinguish the parts he enjoyed and therefore parts he could continue to work on and those parts he didn't feel worked. This giving him a well-rounded perspective of the world of martial arts.

There is plenty of detail about his training regimes and happily he is able to relate that he is a normal man who suffers from all of the typical restraints of getting old. As much as we'd all like to do be young, flexible and able to shrug off any sort of injury, sadly it's just not reality and the writer recognises this.

The sections on the 30-man line-ups are interesting, not just for the writer, but from his point of view of spectating/taking part in other people's line-ups.

The only part I was slightly disappointed in was that the writer didn't mention much about training and getting his first black belt, which as someone fast approaching this, would have found it useful information. But perhaps the training for and the receipt of a black belt is personal and also as the book is mainly about training for the line-up, perhaps there wasn't room for me.

I'd definitely recommend this book - a must read for karate enthusiasts and practitioners - but also for other styles of martial arts - the training, spirit and attitude shown by the writer are all things we can tap into.

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on 25 August 2006
First off, this book is constructed beautifully. The flash backs are exquisite, tantalising excerpts promising more. And the `more' is delivered. The 30 man kumite chapter is fantastic and easily my favourite. The culmination of the hard work and then the realisation of what the test actually is. Great stuff expertly described.

This book is as Geoff Thompson says in the introduction about us all. So many scenes we can empathise with or relate to. So many to laugh at. Or more precisely laugh along with, because the writing style is so open and honest we are taken into these scenes and live them.

I'm sure this book will sell extremely well. It is inspirational and confirmatory in equal measure. This is one to reread over time and can almost be used as a reference checklist. From first grading nerves through black belt achievement to teaching, it charts one mans karate progression but will appeal equally to those starting out or further along the journey. The journey, which these events chart along the karate path which shape and nurture us as human beings, is presented so well. Goran achieves this by providing the reader with candid insights into not only his karate life but also his private life. I could go on but will stop before this post gets too creepy. It's a great book, read it or better still buy it.
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