Book review: Fight Like a Physicist – The Incredible Science Behind Martial Arts by Jason Thalken

A while ago, I read the book “Fight Like a Physicist: The Incredible Science Behind Martial Arts” by Jason Thalken.  I read it mostly because it received such rave reviews. Several people I know also recommended it to me, so I decided to buy it and give it a try. I have a particular interest in the physics of martial arts and conditioning, so I was eager to start reading.

The book has several sections and first talks about basics like center of mass, energy, momentum and glancing blows.

The second section is slightly different and covers protecting yourself with knowledge. It dives deeper into the mechanics of a knockout and how it damages your brain both in the short and in the long term. There is also a piece about how safety equipment works and how it can be improved.

Both these sections are interesting and I don’t really have any issues with them. The main negative point is that they are all rather basic. If you have trained for several years in the martial arts, you have probably heard of these concepts before or have studied them. The odds are good that you therefore already have a good working knowledge and the book doesn’t necessarily give you much more information. So I would look at it as a basic primer as opposed to an in-depth study.

 

Book review: Fight Like a Physicist - The Incredible Science Behind Martial Arts by Jason ThalkenThe second section is slightly problematic. Once again the first few chapters are relatively basic and don’t offer knowledge that isn’t freely available elsewhere. However, I take issue with the two final chapters.

First, there’s a part about guns, knives and the “Hollywood Death Sentence.” Though the author gives some basic information, he tends to put things in extremes as opposed to add nuance to the debate. The chapter about chi and pseudoscience in the martial arts also shows a limited understanding of Chinese martial arts. For sure, there is fake mysticism involved, but the practice is not by definition useless, despite the misgivings of the author.

If it sounds like I’m harshly criticizing this book, that is not my intent. Mostly I’m just disappointed because I expected more from the book. Perhaps you will find it more useful and interesting than I did, I sincerely hope so.

 

Conclusion

This book is great for beginners and if you haven’t really given the physics part of the martial arts and self-defense systems much thought. In that case, it is a good introduction to this topic. If you already have a solid working knowledge, then I would suggest waiting for another one to come along with more in-depth and nuanced information.

 

This review was first published in my Patreon newsletter of September 2017, available at Yellow Belt and up.

Book review: Musings on Violence: Martial Arts, Self-Defense, Law Enforcement, Warriorhood by Loren W. Christensen

A few weeks ago, I finished reading Loren Christensen’s latest book: Musings on Violence : Martial Arts, Self-Defense, Law Enforcement, Warriorhood. In it, Loren looks back on the last 50 years of his life and he shares  the lessons he learned. The best way to view this book is as a peek inside Loren life, memories and mind. He takes you on a wild ride of all the things he encountered when it comes to violence. Not just as a law enforcement officer but also as a martial artist.

He shares numerous anecdotes and stories of the adventures he lived through. Some of them are hilarious, others are heartbreaking, with a lot of middle ground between these two extremes. Regardless, they all let you look at different aspects of violence, preparing for it and dealing with the aftermath.

Musings on Violence - Martial Arts, Self-Defense, Law Enforcement, Warriorhood by Loren W Christensen

Loren also shares insights and tips on how you can train for handling the kinds of situations he describes. He offers a truckload of valuable and practical information, all of it hard-earned.

It ranges from how to become faster and develop more flexibility to how you should hit the liver to get the best results. Or how you can control your fear when working as a police officer. These are just a handful of examples; the book is filled with so many more.

I’ve known Loren for over 20 years now, have read all his books, we talked both in person, on the phone and via email too many times to count, and I still learned some new things about him. So I’m pretty confident you will too and the same goes for the information he shares:

There’s just so much of it that you’re bound to pick up a few new tricks and concepts.

 

The book is divided into several sections:

  • Martial arts
  • Self-defense
  • Law enforcement
  • Warriorhood

Each section covers numerous topics and tips and you can just read them all in one go if you like. But in my opinioon, the best way to read his book is like this:

  • First, read all the way through. That’ll help you get an overall sense of the information in this book. You’ll probably latch onto one or two things during each reading session; apply these in your next training session.
  • Then, pick it up on a regular basis and just page through it until you find something that inspires you to take a closer look. Read that part and apply in your training once again.
  • Keep on doing that until you’ve covered everything. There’s so much content in this book, it’ll take a few years…

In short, I highly recommend this book and you buy it right here.

 

Note: This review was first published in my Patreon newsletter of June 2018. To receive the upcoming newsletters, sign up at Yellow Belt level or above right here.

Book review: Meditation for Warriors

It’s been a while since my last book review, so here’s another one: “Meditation for Warriors: Practical Meditation for Cops, Soldiers and Martial Artists” by Loren W. Christensen.

Some background first.

I’ve practiced mediation in one form of another for almost 25 years now. I started very young and practiced it on and off for long periods. Nowadays, it’s a part of my daily routine, even though it doesn’t take up much time anymore. I experimented with many different ways and have now arrived at a hybrid method that works well for me. It was interesting for me to read how “my” method was both similar and different to the ones presented in this book.

Let’s take a look at it now.

 book review meditation for warriors

“Meditation for Warriors” starts with a brief introduction and some information on Loren’s background. This is the kind of thing most people gloss over but I think it’s critical. First, because then you know Loren was a soldier and cop for decades and practices martial arts to this day. So let’s just say he knows what he speaks of. Second, because he explains the purpose of his book clearly: giving you simple, practical, how-to information to help you meditate. So if you’re looking for a long, scientific treatise on meditation or the latest new-age fad, this book isn’t for you.

The next chapters tackle some of the common myths about meditation, why warriors need it and some nuts and bolts. If you have no experience meditating, or you just started, these chapters will definitely help you focus on the methods that yield results quickly. [Read more…]

Book review: When the Fight Goes to the Ground

A while ago, Lori O’Connel sent me her latest book to review. It’s called “When the Fight Goes to the Ground: Jiu-Jitsu Strategies and Tactics for Self-Defense” and has a cool feature: it includes a bonus DVD with video footage of most every technique she explains in the book. This helps you out a lot if you have difficulty learning new techniques or concepts from reading alone. Even more, the book/video combo is ridiculously cheap for the added value you get this way, so definitely a plus right there.

Here’s a short promotional video with some additional info from Lori herself:

This already gives you a good idea of what the book is all about.

That said, here’s the review:

When the Fight Goes to the Ground: Jiu-Jitsu Strategies and Tactics for Self-Defense

The book is very in-depth and covers many different aspects of the ground game focused on self-defense. It starts in the first chapter with information that gives you a basic understanding of using your ground game for self-defense  instead of MMA or BJJ competitions. Lori covers how to stay safe, which strategies to use and so on.

In the following chapters she covers basics such as bodyshifting and control along with attacking vital targets like the eyes, nose, throat, ears, etc. The typical targets you are not allowed to go for in MMA competitions. She also spends time showing how to do breakfalls on concrete, which is a crucial element for effective street self-defense. No matter how well you can fall in the dojo on mats, that doesn’t mean you can do so on the street pavement. So you should definitely spend some time actually practicing these techniques.

From then on, the book is all about techniques. It starts with defending from the ground against a standing attacker. This is perhaps the most difficult scenario as you have limited mobility and options whereas the attacker has complete freedom of movement. Lori shows many different basic techniques to defend yourself there and hopefully get back up quickly.

Following chapters cover topics like: [Read more…]

Book review: Ender’s Game

I promised this a while ago so here’s my book review of Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. I also added a link to this book on my resources page. You can find lots more useful stuff there that I both like and use personally, so check it out if you like.

 

Introduction

Before I start, there are a couple things I need to mention. First of all, I listened to the audio version and it was pretty good. If you prefer audio over paper or e-books, you’ll probably like this one too as the production quality is great. The added benefit is that you get an extra piece spoken by the author himself, explaining why he wrote the book, why he refused so many movie deals and more. Well worth it and partly the reason why I write this review.

book review ender's game

Click the image to buy Ender’s Game.

Second, this is a relatively old book as it was first published as a novel in 1985. This shows in certain regards and apparently, the author updated the book in 1991 to make it more relevant to modern times.  But don’t let this stop you from reading it; there’s nothing in the book that is too closely related to the past that it might hinder the story. On the contrary, in many ways it is still relevant today, perhaps even more so than back then. I won’t go into that here to avoid spoilers.

Third, this is a science-fiction book. If you’re a fan of the genre, you’ll already know about it as it’s one of the classics. If you’re not, consider it anyway. The sci-fi stuff is done well and also not as intrusive as in other books. Once you accept the basic premise, you don’t have to do lots of leaps of the imagination to follow the story. Some authors mess up in this genre, thinking they can get  away with anything. Orson Scott Card didn’t, he got it right and placed the characters, their motivations and thinking, their evolution from children into warriors, all this comes first. So don’t let the genre scare you off either.

 

That said, a quick word about the story:

Ender Wiggin is born sometime in our future in an Earth at war: humankind has started exploring the universe and encountered an alien race that attacked them, starting a series of wars. Earth cleans up it’s act and starts working together on a global scale to avoid being annihilated. They set up a special program to find the brightest children and send these off to military school in the hopes of finding the one who can lead them to victory.

Ender is one of those children and the book follows him on his journey. I can’t really say more without giving too much away so I’ll leave it at that.

 

The relevance to self-defense training

Like I mentioned in my post about The Walking Dead and Self-Defense, I like to use examples from movies to illustrate concepts that are valuable in real life. To a degree, you can do the same things with books with the only real difficulty being the need for the other person to actually read the whole book. As this takes a lot longer than watching a movie, I can’t always convince people to do so. No big deal, I just have to find another movie reference then…

Anyway, why am I so enthusiastic about this book? [Read more…]