Category Archives: Reviews

Rumble Roller

This is a sensible review of an interesting product:

I think everyone writing on this blog is a big foam roller user, and I know that in St Louis we generally graduate up to using harder rollers and things like softballs to get into the hip rotators. But this looks like it would be a useful intensifier too.

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Linked Article: Practice Instruction and Skill Acquisition in Soccer: Challenging Traditions

The link below is a must-read for instructors of any fighting art or sport. Simply replace “soccer” with karate/Judo/MMA etc. and be leave your assumptions at the keyboard.  Of particular interest are “Myths 1-5,” which seem to be standard in the so-called traditional martial arts, yet are not shown to actually improve a learner’s ability to learn a skill and to parameterize (adapt to new/changing conditions) it as needed in relation to performance environments and action outcomes. In fact, common practices such as endless, detailed feedback, blocked repetition and authoritarian instructional styles actually degrade skill learning.

The floor is open for discussion…

Practice Instruction and Skill Acquisition in Soccer: Challenging Traditions

Linked Article: Rifles for Home Defense

James over at the Hellinahandbasket blog often posts very informative discussions on the merits of handguns vs. rifles and shotguns for home and personal defense. Below is a link to his latest look at this topic, which contains some excellent information about the velocity of handgun and rifle rounds and their ability to penetrate the walls of a typical home:

Rifles for Home Defense

Book Review: Michael P. Ghiglieri's The Dark Side of Man: Tracing the Origins of Male Violence”

The Dark Side of Man: Tracing the Origins of Violence
by Michael P. Ghiglieri
Published 1999 by Perseus Books, Reading Massachusetts
ISBN 073820076x

Michael Ghiglieri served in Vietnam and went on to study primatology. Both his combat experience, and his time spent observing chimpanzee troops in the wild inform this dark and deeply troubling work.

This is a wide ranging book and Ghiglieri does not shy away from criticizing people he believes harm our understanding of violence by portraying a world they wish existed, instead of the one that we in fact live in. He is impatient with what he describes as feminist accounts of rape (rape as power), liberal accounts of violence (blaming society rather than the criminal), gun control laws, and socialism. He supports the death penalty by arguing that lex talonis (eye for an eye retributive justice) is both justified and effective at reducing violence in societies. Ghiglieri describes the reproductive advantages of aggression, rape, murder, war and genocide. He seeks to demonstrate why the advantages realized by aggressive, violent males (in all species of the great apes) inevitably lead to magnification of these traits in populations. He is not prepared to let men get by with this sort of behavior however, he devotes the end of his book to a discussion of cooperation and retributive justice as means of inhibiting violence.

Whether or not one shares Ghiglieri’s social or political views, his theory of justice, or believes that his description of violence is accurate or adequately portrayed; this book demands more than comfortable cliches and responses based on naive Rousseauian views of human nature. I recommend this book to anyone interested in deepening their understanding of violence.

Thoughts After Reading Lieutenant Colonel Dave Grossman's Book “On Killing”

On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society

Published 1995, 1996 in Canada by Little Brown and Company

isbn 0316330000-Hard cover

isbn 0316330116-Paperback

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.

Sometimes I find the referencing of military science and literature by practitioners of the gendai budo a little off-putting; sort of “Vanilla Ice wanna be” like. I probably run the risk of putting myself in this category with this article.

Reading this book I was struck by three areas of potential relevance to the karate or martial arts practitioner:

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Book Review: "The Gift of Fear"

The Gift of Fear

by Gavin de Becker

ISBN 10: 0440508835

Do yourself a favor and read this book. I have probably read hundreds of self defense and martial arts related books over the years and only a few stand out for me. This is one of them (although it is not in fact either a MA or a SD book).

The information this book provides regarding assessing threats, responding to your intuitive fears (without resorting to ridiculous claims based on phony mysticism or telepathy), the utility of restraining orders, and so much more is extraordinarily useful. I will be recommending it to all my karate students.  I think it will go further towards keeping them safe than years and years worth of technical training, or reading stacks of martial arts related books.

Last year our group at Washington University hosted an extraordinary seminar by Ellis Amdur called “Grace Under Fire” that dealt with deescalation skills for people facing conflict. The book reminded me of the seminar a great deal, not so much in terms of the content but in the maturity with which the subject of violence was treated.

There have been periods in my life that have been extremely scary and violent. Some of the incidents during those periods still haunt me. The straight forward manor in which de Becker describes even the most horrific crimes  left me feeling less anxious (which seems counterintuitive). The author is not a scare monger,  he carefully distinguishes healthy fear which we should take heed of,  from unhelpful worry.

Link: Listing of historical Karate figures

Visit this page for a concise listing of notable Okinawan karate figures. The information is brief but accurate, includes information on some rather lesser known figures, and there are links to a very useful appendix of Ryukyuan feudal social rankings.