Book Reviews

  1. Facing the Double-Edged Sword by Terrence Webster-Doyle

  2. Tao of Jeet Kune Do by Bruce Lee
  3. Living The Martial Way
  4. The Ultimate Book of Martial Arts by Fay Goodman
  5. The Answer by John Assaraf & Murray Smith

Facing the Double-Edged Sword by Terrence Webster-Doyle

        Anyone who has spent years training in the martial arts knows that good self-defense is complete only when the student learns to repel an attacker by using his/her wits and verbal skills.  As the author writes, “to subdue the enemy without fighting is the highest skill.”  Only when all other sources are exhausted does the student use his hands and feet in defense of his self, his loved ones, or in defense of the weak and oppressed. 

This is the relevant, over-all theme that the author, Terrence Webster-Doyle is portraying through out this book.  The days of the hard core “Cobra Kai” karate schools, as portrayed in the “Karate Kid” movie series is dead.  This book should be a must reading for the young karate student and his/her parents.  If this is not the attitude of the instructors of the martial arts school where you are training, (the attitude of physical self-defense is used only if all other methods fail), then you should look to train somewhere else.

Professor David L. Grosscup

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Tao of Jeet Kune Do by Bruce Lee

        Volumes could be written on the information contained in this book.  Bruce Lee was surely a martial artist whose concepts were far ahead of his time.  He irritated the traditionalists of his day, and yet, his ideas are well accepted in the 21st century, as most martial arts schools now cross train in other styles and arts not related to their original personal training.

Mr. Lee expressed the idea that a true martial artist will train, read, sleep, think, and devote his/her entire life to the study of martial arts.  Many readers can study this book and yet miss the minute details that Bruce relied upon as everyday fact.  For example he said “a person reacts to a quick motion toward his eyes instinctively blinking.  Such instinctive blinking must be controlled in practice or else the opponent, if aware that the fighter closes his eyes when threatened, may provoke this reaction and utilize the moment of blindness for a hit or kick.”  Two sentences out hundreds presented in this book, and yet, a complete course can be built around it, (frontal, side, surprise, angry attacks, etc).

Many new students want to show their speed of technique in a short time frame but, Bruce stated “high levels of perceptual speed are the product of learning, not of inheritance.”  Mr. Lee presents to the reader a fact that occurs when stress or anger interferes with your self-defense.  “Over all tension and unnecessary muscular contractions act as brakes reducing speed and dissipating energy.”  What angered Bruce Lee’s distracters the most was his philosophy that the true martial artists are not confined by rules, tradition, or fighting methods.  He believed that the best art was no art, that one must just flow and let the attack and defense be one and the same.

A story was told to me that one day Bruce Lee and Edmund Parker, the Father of American Kenpo, were having a discussion on this very matter.  Mr. Parker told Bruce that he agreed in many parts of his concepts but, a student needs to be grounded in a good solid martial arts system and master the basics before that student can explore ideas on his own.  He also reminded Bruce that he had a solid base in Wing Chun style and trained under the Great Yip Man before expressing his own methods.  Read this book carefully and let Mr. Lee’s ideas enhance your personal style of martial art, not replace it.  All styles and arts have value to them, and no matter how long we train and study, we can always learn something from them that will add substance to our personal development. 

Professor David L. Grosscup

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Living The Martial Way By Forrest E. Morgan, Major USAF  Published By: Barricade Books, Inc

I intend to review this book chapter by chapter.  To begin with I find the author to be an intellectual who possesses a deep understanding of his subject matter, mainly martial arts.  He has gained much knowledge though his extensive travels and with training in other arts not particularly related to his home style.

However, I do not agree totally with all his conclusions.  As I got deeper into Mr. Morgan’s book I soon discovered that this was another battle between traditional thinking and neo-martial artists.  The traditionalist will almost always state that no one style or art has all the answers, and it is good to train in other arts (as long as it is a traditional style).  They also state that a traditional art has been handed down from ages past to the present.  What they are really saying is, if you read between the lines, that if you are not training in a time honored style that has not changed in eons, if you wear a gi of colors, or are adorned with patches and emblems, than you are not a true martial artist.  Traditionalist may not always come right out and say this, but deep down in their hearts this is how they believe.

In some later chapters of this book I found myself constantly nodding my head in agreement, as if I had written these words myself.  In some later chapters there were many points that rubbed a nerve.

Chapter One:  The Warrior Mind-Set.  “Start thinking of yourself as a warrior….True mastery in the martial way involves more than physical prowess and expertise.  The modern warrior is a man of character, a man of wisdom and insight.  These goals are far more elusive than technical expertise.”  I agree that some arts and styles today lack these teachings, which makes them a shallow method of study.

Chapter Two:  Your Martial Destiny.  Every martial arts organization must set doctrine, strategy and tactics that determine their core of training to be followed by their students.  But each student must realize that their particular art is not the “ultimate in self-defense.”

Chapter Three:  Train as Warriors Train.  Training should not be part of your life, it should be your life.  Know your subject matter well.  Train to be physically, mentally and spiritually fit.

Chapter Four:  The Warriors Way of Strategy.  “Develop the ability to read your opponent, and use that skill to help you control the fighting range.”  In other words, Practice, Practice, Practice.

Chapter Five:  The Warrior Spell Book.  Develop your ki by finding your warrior heart.  Practice your kata with energy and totally defeat your enemies in your mind every time.

Chapter Six:  The Foundation of Honor.  A true warrior is a man/women of honor, conviction, loyalty and self restraint.

Chapter Seven:  Honor In Action.  A true warrior knows the difference between right and wrong.  He will not be afraid to act upon his convictions.

Chapter Eight:  Revenge and Suicide.  I personally see no possible reason for revenge.  “What a man sows, so shall he reap.”  Time will take its toll on evil.  Justice may be served by the courts in many cases.  Suicide can only be tolerated on a calculable risk by a hero charging into a flaming building to save a life, or heroics performed on the battlefield.  “There is no greater gift than for a man to lay down his life to save another.”

Chapter Nine:  Warrior Fitness.  This positive chapter states that a martial artist should be a picture of health, living an exemplary life, thus presenting a positive role model to others.

Chapter Ten:  Religion and Mysticism.  No matter how ancient philosophies began, they all formed a particular religion that various martial arts around the world have conformed to.  Most westerners do not object bowing to their teachers or to their fellow students as a means of respect, as long as the bow is returned to them.  However, in my opinion, bowing to a picture on the dojo wall, a flag, or a set of ornaments hanging in a corner of a room is idol worship.  No martial arts explanation can erase these images from the thinking western mind.

Chapter Eleven:  The Warrior Stand Alone.  The warrior should present an image of strength and self confidence.  It must be remembered that as you stand tall, you must always be willing to bend over to help others.

Chapter Twelve:  Mastery and the Martial Way.  As I agree with the author that there are too many so-called masters strutting their stuff, I totally disagree that some martial artist should not carry a title with them of master or professor.  I personally know of fourth degree black belts who have trained in multiple styles for twenty to thirty years.  They surely deserve the privilege to be bowed into class as masters.  There are those who have spent a lifetime studying various martial arts, have written training manuals and books, have a college degree, and who also have a deep understanding of the arts.  Some have put in more time studying the arts, traveling the warrior trail, teaching for a lifetime, etc, than say, for example, a person holding a doctorate degree in flower arranging.  Does not he deserve the title of professor or grandmaster.  Titles are just as important in the martial arts as they are in the air force.  After all, the author holds the title and rank of major, with all the respect and perks that go with it.  He has worked and studied hard for this honor rightly deserves it as does the long time true Grandmaster.  How can he separate one from the other?

In conclusion, I recommend reading this book to all students of the martial arts, but do so with an open mind.  Remember, no one has all the answers, traditionalist or modernist, only opinions.  By looking at everyone’s views we can certainly come up with a consensus of what a real warrior is.

Professor David L. Grosscup

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The Ultimate Book of Martial Arts by Fay Goodman

When critiquing a book I always look for the yin and yang, the positive and negative sides of the information written within.  After all, it is very difficult for the reviewer to totally agree with all the information being presented, except this time.

I can find nothing negative to say about Ms Goodman’s fine work.  It is a masterpiece.  I have never met Sensei Goodman, but I was very impressed when reading her short geography on page 253.  As the cover states, this is a “Step - By - Step” practical guide to Tae Kwon Do, Karate, Aikido, Ju-Jitsu, Judo, Kung Fu, Tai Shi, Kendo, Iaido and Shinto Ryu.

Each section begins with history and philosophy of the art being discussed along with the benefits.  Clothing, equipment, etiquette, warm up basics, self-defense and other topics are presented in an easy and understandable format.

The photography is outstanding.  This book is what I call “Professional and High-Tech”.  It amazes me that after spending 37 years in the martial arts, that I am still learning.  This is what makes martial arts interesting.

I highly recommend this book to the novice and to the masters.  This book belongs in your martial arts library.

Professor David L. Grosscup

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The Answer  by John Assaraf & Murray Smith

    After over forty three teaching martial arts and operating a successful business one would think that I have this thing nailed down to a science. The' Answer' showed me that I still have a lot to learn. Using the principles that the authors of this great book have written down has now become part and parcel of my business philosophy.

    The first thing that I did, as the authors suggested, is to write down on paper my affirmations. After carefully going over my list I have penned thirty of them. I keep this list on my desk and read them over several times each and every day. Statements such as, 'I am a unique creator and artist when helping others to succeed', and 'I consistently attract the right people to help me grow my business' I always believed this but never wrote them down. I have taken the next step and at the end of each class we take one affirmation that will fill the needs of our students and repeat it three times before we close class. The first mantra is 'we are warriors', the second month we are repeating the words, 'I am a very intelligent person'. Every thirty days, as it is written in this book, we will add another positive affirmation. By the way, the class is really getting into this.

    I think that I have learned the most from the chapter 'Reaching Your Ideal Customer'.

    In the martial ~arts there is a very high student turnover, as no matter how the movies portray the martial arts hero, it takes sweat, hard work and dedication of long time invested to become a talented martial artist. Our success is based on families training together, and or supporting their children by observing every class, every time. We are interested in a long time relationship, family values and good old fashion discipline, in a healthy, loving environment. Even though we treat everyone fairly who walks through our door, from now on I am going to aggressively seek out our long time ideal customer.

    The authors have also strongly stressed that for a business to succeed at a higher level, price wars should be avoided at all costs. What is important is value and giving the customer more than what they are paying for. We have a very strong parents committee who will do almost anything to see our Maryland Professional Karate Association succeed. When I ask them what can I do to repay them their answer is always, 'just keep teaching our children the skills and talents that you are now doing'.

In this well thought out book I have also learned that to hit the customer's hot buttons I must learn to meet their wants, instead of their needs. Even though they may need certain things - a healthier body, quicker reflexes, greater balance, more self discipline, better school grades and anger managements - their wants are - to become very special individuals who have complete control over their lives, so by meeting their wants we are supplying their needs.

    I have also decided to create a new 'lifetime value' that will appear on my business cards, or as the authors state, 'Creating a Concise USP - Unique Selling Proposition'. As they say the customer must ask, 'how do they do that'?' Mine is - 'MPKA - we build strong bodies and smart minds'. I expect the phone to ring more often and heard folks say, 'how do you do that?'

    John and Murray have written that people are swamped with media advertising and simply ignore it. To get the public's attention I must;

1.      Grab our prospects attention with an action headline

2.      Engage them to read more with a short informational sub headline

3.      Inform the reader with short hard driven to the point body information

4.      Make a strong offer - a call to action - so that the reader will move on it right away

    This has taught me that we must prove to the reader, in a very short time, why we are better than our competition - by meeting their wants.

    One of the most interesting statements that were emphasized was 'to surround yourself with the best possible people and then 'get out of the way'. I have always had good people in my organization; it just took me some very harsh lessons to learn to 'get out of the way'. If I had done that twenty years ago I would have grown to be twice the size that I am at the present and saved a lot of heartache.

    As I have reached senior age I can totally agree with this statement from the Answer book - success is not totally about business or financial goals, it is about our experiences in life' - amen to that.  

    As John and Murray have emphasized, 'energy has but one constant attribute - change.  

    We will grow or we will decline. Our life may be temporary, but our visions are eternal'. This has been the hardest message for me to get over to those who have been teaching for us for years. In my organization there are two very successful business men who are great martial arts teachers, and yet they are terrified of change, even little changes.

    I would like to end this book review with a most poignant paragraph written near the end of this book. 'Everyday you are trading away the moments of your life for whatever you are creating and experiencing during these moments. What do you want to trade you life for? What is worth that trade? With every breath that you take you are choosing what you get in exchange for the moments that you spend, the people you are spending time with and the activities that you are engaged in'.

    I strongly urge every business owner, or future owner, to read this book from cover to cover and implement some of the principles and ideas that John Assaraf & Murray Smith have researched and proven to be workable and very successful solutions.

Professor David L. Grosscup

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