Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Book Review

Climbing Mountains and Eating Punches by Adam Chan

Disclaimer: Adam and I recently exchanged books and he's already posted a positive review of mine (T'ai-Chi For Geniuses~A Practice Companion For The Genius In Everyone).

This is a book written by a martial artist for marital artists, but for the imaginative reader, or for people interested in common sense self defense, or for people who are interested in training, regardless of the discipline, there is much here that can be applied to other areas of life besides fighting.

The book is a series of essays, notes and observations documenting Adam Chan's development as a martial artist and his search for pragmatic, real world self defense skills. This is the driving theme of not only this book, but of his practice and teaching as well. No matter what the technique, style or lineage, the questions Adam keeps asking are: Will this work in the real word of unexpected, emotionally or criminally driven, no rules street fighting? Will it work against opponents who really want to harm or kill you and not just practice sparring?

Relentless in his search for real world effectiveness, he is also humble and always learning. This is not a book by an overly confident, strutting, macho, "I can take anyone down.", kind of guy. With equal emphasis on "Martial" as well as "Art", Adam explores the world of training, drills, techniques, styles and principles, trying to distill the essence and true meaning of the words "self defense". Written in an easy going and very conversational style, which might take a few pages to get used to, the reader is quickly welcomed into the author's genuine and sincere desire to penetrate the veils of "the best style" or "the best method" and get to what works. I found this refreshing. So many martial arts books are about what the author has nailed down and not about seeing the "art" part of the picture, the part that's beyond particular forms and styles, the part that's always growing, changing and evolving.

Through his stories about growing up in difficult family and social situations, being drawn to martial arts first as a survival necessity and later as a self-revealing and self-developement art, and finally to his reluctant role as teacher, Adam shares his journey with a sincere desire to help all people avoid becoming victims of not only physical violence, but of dogma and narrow minded-ness as well. This book is about keeping an open and yet critically discerning mind when pursuing any kind of physical training.

In my own practice of T'ai-Chi I like to make a distinction between martial training and combat training, with the former being training in martial principles for personal development and general balance skills, and the latter being about being able to use those principles in real world fighting. While I am firmly on the "martial" side of what I would call the "martial/combat" divide, I like to get as close to that line as I can without risking injury. This means, in part, mentally, and with intention, exploring hypothetical situations and scenarios, to get as much of a feel for real life encounters as I can without crossing that line. Watching videos of real fighting can help inform my mind and body, but so can reading books like "Climbing Mountains And Eating Punches". I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and feeling like I was in the company of a good man, doing his best to do good work.

For more about Adam and his book, please visit:

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