November 25, 2013

Mark Wileys "Mastering Eskrima Disarms" - Book Review

Dead Turkey day is literally right around the corner and I cannot think of a more appropriate martial art to discuss then the Filipino Martial Arts (FMA) of Eskrima / Arnis / Kali!?  And what better topic then Mark Wiley's latest book; "Mastering Eskrima Disarms?"  A long overdue text on common defensive measures found in all styles and subsystems of the FMA (and really in all martial arts), addressing disarms would seem simple, but when looking at the broader scope of the subject we find it to be much more difficult to organize and pedagogically formulate.  I am grateful that a seasoned researcher such as Mark Wiley tackled this subject, as I consider him the Tom Clancy of FMA writing. 

Mark Wiley is a special kind of duck.  Not only are his research skills top notch, but he has a kind attitude and honest love for the arts that grant him unprecedented access to teachers in all sub-styles of the FMA; something unheard of within a traditionally closed off and paranoid culture.  Without this kind of relationship within the community taking on a book of this scope would be incomplete at best.  Indeed Wiley dedicates the ninth and final chapter of the text to a photo collage of various teachers from a multitude of styles showcasing a number of different disarms.  Just shy of 100 pages these photos collected over years of travel and training throughout the USA and Philippines, are meant to showcase the similarities of each system based on the foundation of principle found across all systems of FMA.  It is brilliant to see old friends such as Dan Medina and GM Remy Presas included, as well as some great shots of the legends! 

Discussing disarms is tricky as many feel they are impossible to pull off in real combat, and Wiley acknowledges this straight away by organizing "Mastering Eskrima Disarms" into two parts and eight chapters.  Discussing assumptions that are dangerous, how to progress in your training, and then guiding the reader through ranges, gates, and positional footwork.  ALL key aspects often overlooked by zealous students who want to train the "cool" disarm!  Another fundamental mistake is the difference between training for edged combat versus bladed combat.  Whereas with one it is completely safe to grab the weapon, but with the other it could be a decisive mistake!  Again Wiley addresses all these issues by laying out foundational principles that are universal. 

Part one of the text is broken into three chapters:
  1. Principles of Effective Disarms 
  2. Supporting Structures (includes joint control concepts as well as modes of engagement)
  3. Grip Release Concepts (arguably the best chapter, encompassing a wide variety of techniques into five fundamental concepts)
I like Marks approach to categorizing as he avoids using style specific terms regarding footwork and the like.  As any practitioner of the FMA knows terms are relative and often confusing.  Within one system one can find five different names for the same technique or footwork pattern, but Mark avoids such pitfalls by employing the KISS principle (Keep It Simple Stupid)!  This is so important when writing a general text that covers techniques found in all martial arts. 

Covering all aspects of weapon engagement as well, Wiley hits the note addressing stick vs. blade, double vs. single, as well as weapon vs. empty hand.  Any student with more then 2 years under their blade will be able to learn these principles and apply their own styles disarms and variations without any trouble.  Wiley has showcased the principles but has avoided trying to become a repository of every single disarm from every single angle!  That would be redundant and distracting. 

One area of discussion missing from this book is that of the clinch and ground grappling.  I confess
this may be a separate subject in the authors mind and thus the exclusion.  But it has been this reviewers limited experience in my 20+ years in the FMA that when dealing with the real threat of a weapon, the bull rush into a clinch of some sorts is VERY common!  This also often leads to the ground.  I would love to hear how  Prof. Wiley would deal with such threats and disarming from the perspective of being nearly smothered.  Again this is less of a criticism and more of question, as Mark may look at this subject in a totally different light (hinting at a book idea Mr. Wiley ;). 

"Mastering Eskrima Disarms" includes over 950 photographs and really these are the only criticisms I have of the otherwise excellent book!  The instructional sequences are pretty clear but can be a bit dark at times, shot in black and white I confess I am never a fan of both parties (demonstrater and demonstratee) being dressed in the same color.  White and black lay better contrast and allow for some depth in photo's such as these.  Though not cost effective, color photo's and/or multiple angles have become the norm in martial art texts and when discussing weapon based arts are almost essential. 

Retailing at $29 (Amazon has it listed under $25), "Mastering Eskrima Disarms" is a must have for any practitioner of the FMA, and really anyone interested in a great text on joint manipulation and weapon engagement.  Wiley addresses the subject honestly and with real world wisdom that is often washed out in the world of weapon work.  This also makes a great gift for the martial artist on your holiday list, so before grabbing the Golok and carving that Turkey take a moment and order this fundamental text! 



You can order "Mastering Eskrima Disarms" by Mark Wiley by clicking here and you will be redirected to Amazon! 

No comments:

Post a Comment