A REVIEW OF DAN ANDERSON'S BOOK
FILIPINO MARTIAL ARTS:
THE CORE BASICS, STRUCTURE & ESSENTIALS
Review by Barry McConnell
Thousands of books have been published on how to punch, kick, block and throw your opponent. In 1981 the release of American Freestyle Karate: A Guide to Sparring broke new ground. Here was a book about concepts and principles, not just mechanics. Every serious martial artist I’ve ever met has a worn, dog-eared copy of this book on his shelf. It was the undisputed best book ever written on the subject of core martial art concepts.
The newly released Filipino Martial Arts: The Core Basics, Structure & Essentials addresses the need for a book that explains fundamental ideas in a way that both the beginning student and the experienced teacher can use. Although written for the Filipino Martial Arts (FMA), this book transcends systems and styles and goes to the heart of what makes martial arts work. A quick glance at some of the topics covered: Monitoring, Structure, Timing, Alignment, Movement, Leveraging, Ambidexterity, and Spontaneity; tells you there’s something different going on here. These are not the province of FMA alone, these are Universal concepts. These are topics to be studied again and again, gleaning deeper insight every time you do. This book gives you a path to follow.
This is a big book at 328 pages. It contains literally thousands of photos demonstrating in detail each concept or idea Dan is trying to get across. If it stopped there, this would still be a tremendous tool. But Dan has included two DVDs with 3 ½ hours of video footage to go along with the book. Every concept you see in the still pictures you also see in live action video. This gives you the best of both worlds, a detailed photograph you can use to compare your own posture to, and the action video to see how a sequence flows. Dan has raised the bar on what to expect from a martial arts book in future.
If you’re looking for a book on FMA techniques or a training curriculum this is not the book. This book is for the FMA practitioner who wants to understand the core principles behind the techniques. For example, in talking about leveraging, Dan shows disarming techniques for each of the 12 standard angles of attack. The particular disarming techniques shown are there to illustrate ways of creating or increasing leverage and act as a platform for understanding where leverage comes from and how to best use it. Certainly, any FMA practitioner will improve their disarming ability but this book will not contain an encyclopedia of disarms. Just like an onion, this book opens the reader to layer upon layer of understanding as you explore the concepts and apply them to your own practice. That understanding is what makes this book transcend just FMA. The material on structure and alignment will make you a better karateka, hapkidoin, kenpoist or kung fu stylist every bit as well as making you a better arnisador.
Professor Presas was well known for describing Modern Arnis as “The Art Within Your Art.” What Dan has done is show you exactly what he meant. This book belongs in the critical essentials library of every martial artist.