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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Book Review: Martial Arts, Self-Defense and a Whole Lot More: The Best of Wim's Blog, Volume 1

I first heard of Wim Demeere through an interview he did with the (I think now defunct) Warrior Traditions podcast. I liked what he had to say, so I went and found his blog, and have been following it pretty closely ever since. Wim has a very authentic way of writing that I find engaging--he doesn't get preachy, and he's very willing to acknowledge his own limitations--but he's also got a good deal of knowledge and experience, and his posts are often thought provoking, entertaining, or both.

Martial Arts, Self-Defense and a Whole Lot More: The Best of Wim's Blog, Volume 1 is exactly what it says on the tin. It is a collection of posts from Wim's blog, edited and revised for an print format (it's available in paperback as well as on the Kindle). The process of deciding that these posts were "the best" is not made clear, but in this kind of collection, the question is kind of moot. Along with the blog posts, there's also an article from an issue of Black Belt Magazine, and contributions from Mark Mireles, Kris Wilder, Alain Burrese, Rory Miller, Marc MacYoung, and Loren Christensen.

However Wim went about selecting these articles, he made some good choices; there is a lot of solid, thought-provoking information in this collection. I say "thought-provoking" quite deliberately. These are not articles on "how to punch harder in five minutes" or "ten secrets to kicking success". Just about everything in here requires you to put a little bit of skull sweat into it in order to get the most use out of it. Even some of more "actionable" articles, like the "How to learn techniques from a video" series, still require you to put a bit of effort in. If you are looking for simple, easy checklists, look elsewhere.

On the flip side, if you are looking for some information that could really improve your martial arts training and thinking, there's a lot in here. Because this is a collection of disparate articles, I have a hard time imagining someone from any martial art reading this and not getting something out of it. Again, the title says it clearly: there is stuff on martial arts, self-defense, and a whole lot more.

The book does suffer a bit from the weakness inherent to many anthologies; while Wim returns to certain themes in his writing, there's no overarching theme to the book. The first three articles, for example, are "How to piss off your training partner", "How to avoid shoulder injuries in the martial arts", and "How to learn techniques from a video". There's no particular connection between those three (unless you've pissed of your training partner by injuring his shoulder with a technique you learned from a video). If you're reading this book through, cover to cover, you may feel like the author is jumping around a bit.

But in the end, reading this book cover to cover is probably not the best way to get value out of it. This is the kind of book that you might read through once, but then go back and revisit certain pieces or articles to think about them more deeply. It reminds me of Dan John's Never Let Go in that respect. One read through probably isn't enough.

Regardless of the martial art you practice, or how much practice you have, you can learn something from this. Honestly, you could probably keep revisiting it for a long time. The Kindle price, at three dollars, is an absolute steal, and even the paperback price is worth it. Check this one out.

[A personal request: if this review induced you to buy this book, please click on the link below to do it. Yes, I get some small fraction of profit off of you doing so, but hey, I convinced you to buy the book...that should mean something, right?]

1 comment:

Wim Demeere said...

Thanks for the great review. I just want to touch on a couple of the excellent points you made. Here goes:
- I selected the articles based on their popularity on my blog. Meaning, I checked the number of unique visitors per article and selected the top ones for every month in a two year period. Those are included and updated in the book.
- The overall theme of the book is in the title: MA, SD and a whole lot more. These two topics are connected to a bunch of other things in the articles. That's mainly what I write about. I didn't have any other overall theme in mind. I saw this book more as a practical way for people to read the most popular articles I wrote, having them all in one place for easy access instead of having to go through page after page on my blog. To make it worth their while, I updated several articles and added the guest posts by other experts.
- There is a loose structure to the book: the first articles are "How-to" guides. Then there are a bunch of articles focusing (more or less) on teaching. Next up is Combat Sports (like MMA) and primarily their link to self-defense. The final section before the guest posts is a mix of training advice and some random musings.
I considered mentioning this structure explicitly in the book but eventually decided against it. Primarily because there is sometimes considerable overlap between all these categories in any given article.

I think you hit the nail on the head re. not reading it cover to cover. IMHO, you can get more out of it by reading an article and then seeing if you can apply the information to your own training. At least, that's the way I would hope people read this book.

Thanks again for your review.

Take care,