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Sunday, September 5, 2010

A Fighter's Heart: One Man's Journey Through the World of Fighting

A Fighter's Heart: One Man's Journey Through the World of Fighting
Sam Sheridan

A Fighter's Heart has spent years on my "I need to read this" shelf without me ever actually reading it. Having finally done so, I'm very glad I did.

A Fighter's Heart is the story of Sam Sheridan's exploration into what it is that makes competitive fighters tick. Along the way, he explores Muay Thai, Boxing, Brazilian Juijitsu, Mixed Martial Arts, and (of all things) Tai Chi. He also explores dog and cock fighting, spends some time in a Buddhist monastery, and does a little bit of stunt fighting work. At each stage, he comes back to the same burning question "why is it that people like doing this stuff, anyway?".

Some of the fun of this book is just the travelogue aspect of it; Sheridan literally travels the world, meeting all kinds of strange and fun people, and his writing style gives the whole book an air of easy conversation. But it also contains some serious introspection into the mind of what drives some people to jump into confined spaces and try to beat each other up for no particularly apparent reason.

The only thing I didn't like about this book was, predictably, the section on dogfighting. While Sheridan does an admirable job of trying to find something good and noble in the activity, I just can't get behind it. Despite his best efforts, I will continue to view people who fight dogs as scum--if they are that invested in testing their gameness, they can get into the ring or on the mat themselves. Having someone (or something) else fight for you by proxy does not prove anything.

While combat athletes will doubtless enjoy this book (and find a lot of themselves in it), those are not the first people I would recommend it to. Instead, I would recommend it to those people who are close to combat athletes, but cannot, for the life of them, make sense of why they do what they do. For those trying to figure it out, Sheridan's book may offer some insight.

Overall, I really enjoy this one. If you have any interest in combat sport, it's worth the read.

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