September 1, 2009

Book Review - "Me, Chi and Bruce Lee"

My good friend Mark passed along Brian Preston's "Me, Chi and Bruce Lee: Adventures in Martial Arts" for some light hearted reading on my vacation. Preston is by no means a professional martial artist but decided to try some of it out in his late 30's in an effort to get in shape and have some fun, and the result is quite a humorous ride through one mans search for "real" martial arts.

Preston is a fellow NW-er (living on Vancouver Island) and begins his search with a local cat who teaches Shaolin Kung Fu and Taiji. As his interest piques Brian finds himself travelling to China, struggling to get a press pass for a UFC fight, following Jeff Monson around as he prepares for one of his UFC fights, as well as going to BFE British Columbia to train with Royce Gracie.

Self depreciating throughout, Preston pulls no punches when evaluating his own shortcomings in regards to training (or lack thereof) and the interesting cast of characters he meets on his path. Packed with humor this book requires no previous experience, nor interest, in the martial arts and ends up being a fun, funny read.

Along the way Preston inadvertently touches on a subject that is subject to argument throughout the Chinese martial realm, that being the prowess and efficacy of the Chinese Martial Arts. Meeting up with Jarek Szymanski (a Polish born martial artist living for the past decade or more in northern China), Preston really pushes the issues of how realistic the philosophical theory, and much of the training methodology found in the Chinese Martial Arts (CMA) really are. Seemingly without an agenda Preston sheds some much needed light on a subject that many CMA teachers shy away from. This is the problem in CMA, no one wants to face reality and step up to challenge "tradition." Unfortunately the art and culture suffer because of peoples unwillingness to evolve in their training methods and approach.

Everything from overweight Shaolin "masters" commenting on Royce Gracie's fighting prowess, to 60 year old ladies handing Preston his ass, this book is a great fun read for martial artists and wanna be's alike. For a good laugh and an interesting perspective from an objective point of view pick up Preston's book "Me, Chi and Bruce Lee."


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