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On Killing

February 4, 2010 Leave a comment

In movie combat we often see one individual grab another by the throat and attempt to choke him. And Hollywood heroes give the enemy a good old punch in the jaw. In both instances a blow to the throat (with the hand held in various prescribed shapes) would be a vastly superior form of disabling or killing the foe, yet it is not a natural act; it is a repellent one.

This quote comes from Lt Col Dave Grossman’s book, On Killing, which I picked up after reading the though provoking review at the TKRI blog.

There are plenty of reasons to read Grossman’s book “On Killing”; there are historical lessons to be gleaned, there are matters of strategy to be considered, there are lessons for society regarding the importance of honoring the service of members of its military, there are the lessons regarding drilling and conditioning, Grossman’s discussion of PTSD is very insightful, the list could go on and on. This is an incredibly rich book that not only offers the reader profound insight into the psychology and history of killing in combat, and of preparing men to kill in combat; it also examines and reveals the deep humanity at the heart of professional soldiers.

Personally, I found the book cranked how I thought about fighting 180 degrees. As martial artists, we spend a great deal of time thinking about how to avoid force, and when no other option is available, how to apply it with precision. Grossman’s book talks about the rules governing military combat (which I find fascinating), and then goes one step further to talk about how those who have engaged in extreme violence live with the memory.

If you’re interested in the review (and it is excellent), you can find it at the TKRI blog. If you’ve ever wanted to pick up a copy of the book, it’s currently on sale for 6.99$ at Munro’s Books on Government Street.

Categories: Reviews

Book Review: The Book of Martial Power

November 16, 2009 2 comments

In summertime I went on a book binge, and got me a few martial arts books at the Emily Carr library (that’s the one here)

Among the books I picked up was The Book of Martial Power which, I’m not going to lie, had a title that worried me a little. As it turns out, the author, Steven J Pearlman, is talking about power not in terms of physical muscle power, but in terms of physics, so the book is aptly named.

I enjoyed this book. I liked it for three big reasons. The first is that it opens with discussion of basic physics, the sort of stuff you get in grades 9 and 10 and promptly forget about except in rare occasions (of course, if you grew up to become a physicist, this may not have been your experience). We’re talking about levers, velocity and force. I love to see things explained, and this book is chock-a-block full of nice, physics based explanations for why a tiny person can kick a very big person’s tush. Common sense says, forget it, but physics says yes. I love it when physics says yes.

The second thing I liked about this book were the stickmen. Seriously, you can talk to me about movement and leverage all you want, but I’m a visual person. Stickmen. They’re what makes it all make sense.

The third thing I liked was also oddly something I didn’t care much for. No, this isn’t a Zen thing. The author’s very careful to avoid stepping on toes. He takes pains to explain that he’s not saying any one style is better or worse than another, just looking at the physics, guv. At first, it looks like due diligence. Then it looks like tush-covering (fair enough. Who wants 100 members of some martial art to show up at your door and say, “So you think our style sucks, huh?” Heck, who even wants to deal with that once?).

By the third or fourth time it happened, I started to wonder, Are martial artists all prissypants who feel so insecure about their styles that they’ll just assume that if they’re not explicitly described as just as worthwhile as another style, then people don’t like take them seriously? Really?

That’s a little depressing. I sort of thought we might not care about what other people think, because if it came down to it, if some dark-clad stranger strode into our dojo and said, “I think you all suck,” then we could bust it out. I’m just saying. Respect I’m down with. Soothing delicate egos not so much. Still, I didn’t write this (excellent) book, so I wouldn’t have to deal with people coming after me if they felt slighted. And as issues with an MA book go, they’re pretty darn minor.

Categories: Reviews