July 22, 2024

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Martial Arts Book Review: Zen Combat by Jay Gluck

Martial Arts Book Review: Zen Combat by Jay Gluck

Being the author of several books on the martial arts and fighting, I am always looking for books of exceptional quality to add to my library. If I have a book in my library, it’s definitely worth owning. One such book is Jay Gluck’s, “Zen Combat.”

This is a very well written book and one that I don’t believe is in print anymore. The copy I have I ended up finding in an old book store several years ago. This book gives you some outstanding information on the history of primarily the Japanese martial arts and their philosophy.

1. The Bull Story; Masutatsu “Mas” Oyama and Kyokushin-kai Karate:

This section covers a lot of, although brief, biography of Masutatsu “Mas” Oyama and how he came to learn the art of Karate. Included in this biography are stories about his training style or technique, his first U.S. tour in the early 1950’s, which was also the first time that the art of Karate had been demonstrated in the U.S. There is also a story about how Mas and the author visited with another famous Karate master, Gogen “Cat” Yamaguchi.

This section of the book concludes with some basic information from Mas on training techniques and methods, etiquette and principles of karate, descriptions on various punches, blocks and kicks, kata or forms with Heian or Pinan Nidan being described and illustrated. There is also a very good section on belt rank and the importance of it.

Of particular note, there is a terrific section on how to form a proper Shuto or knifehand strike, and on how to condition your hands for delivering powerful blows.

2. Why the Zen of Zen Combat; Martial Arts Philosophy:

This section is primarily devoted to the early history of the martial arts and their philosophy, and how Zen compliments them. This is really a very good although brief section on the history of martial arts.

3. Kendo; The Way of the Sword:

In this section, the author talks briefly about Miyamoto Musashi who was Japan’s greatest samurai swordsman. In addition to Musashi, he also talks about the art of Kendo and the samurai sword, and the basic techniques that are used when yielding a samurai sword. These techniques include; the proper grip, en-garde, touché, and the I-ai or “quick draw.”

The rest of this particular section is devoted to various weapons used by the samurai such as; the naginata, bo staff, spears, etc.

4. Kyudo; The Way of Archery:

This section starts out with a brief history of the bow in Japanese history and then quickly dives right in to how Zen became incorporated with Japanese archery and why it is still practiced that way even today.

The author gives a very detailed explanation on the equipment, ritual, and techniques associated with Japanese archery. This is a very thorough and well presented, yet basic, analysis of this very impressive art form.

5. Dancing; Dervishes of Strength:

We begin this section with a trip to Iran and its traditional dance at their House of Strength. This was very informative and was totally new to me, although the ideas expressed weren’t. The author also discusses the importance of dance and music to the martial arts if one truly wants to master them.

There is a terrific section included here that deals with how to breath and training your body through the use of certain breathing techniques. It also has a section devoted to the purifying of the body through the use of “cold training.” This section finishes with a brief history on the art of ninjitsu.

6. Aiki; Luke: 4-28:

This is perhaps the best section in this book and covers the art of Aikido and its master, Morihei Ueshiba. This section is quite detailed and recounts several exploits of the Aikido master. It also briefly explains some of the techniques and principles associated with this amazing art form.

This book was originally written and printed back in the early 1960’s, and therefore I don’t know if it is still available or not. You may have to get on the internet, or search your local used book stores to find it, but if you do, definitely pick it up. You won’t regret it.