Our First Giveaway! “Dukkha: Unloaded” By Loren W. Christensen

Thanks to the generosity of YMAA Publishing Center, I am offering a copy of Loren W. Christensen’s new book, “Dukkha: Unloaded” as a joint giveaway on this and my book review blog, “Bert’s Book Review Blog“. You can read my review of this outstanding book here.

All you, my dear reader, have to do to enter is one of the following:

  • Share this page on your blog, Facebook, Twitter, or the social media outlet of your choice.
  • Comment on this blog with your favorite martial arts fiction.

That’s it. I’ll keep track of the entries, and on August 15th I’ll draw a winner and notify them so I can ship the book to them.

So share this page or comment below with your favorite martial arts fiction, and good luck to everyone! For that matter, if you want to share and note your favorite martial arts fiction at that time, that’s even better. 🙂

Happy sharing and commenting!

Review: “Dukkha: Unloaded” By Loren W. Christensen

I received a copy of this book from YMAA Publishing Center in exchange for an honest read and review. Although it was provided to me at no cost, I am under no obligation to provide a positive review.

That said, YMAA is essentially just keeping a junkie addicted with what they’re giving me. Here I am, a martial artist, who respects the author for his real-world martial arts training advice, and they are offering me the third book in this series, having already provided me with the first two books? Yeah, please!

As noted in previous reviews of “Dukkha: The Suffering” and “Dukkha: Reverb”, I am a fan of the characters Christensen has created, especially Sam Reeves. Authors are always told “Write what you know.”, and Christensen takes this advice literally. He is a martial arts instructor, Vietnam veteran (Tip of the cap to all vets), and a retired law enforcement officer. Not surprisingly, Reeves takes on all those roles, although his LEO career is still active. This allows Christensen to breathe life and depth into his protagonist in a way that many authors can only dream of.

But it doesn’t stop there. Christensen has also created believable characters in Reeves’s and “sister” Mai as well as their father Samuel. Granted, a lot of what Samuel does can be perceived as superhuman, but hey, we all have to have goals, right?

OK, enough about all that, let’s get to the book.

As if you can’t already tell, I loved this book. It’s great to see the author still has some new ideas and circumstances to throw his protagonists into. He’s certainly not a one trick pony. While Sam was in Vietnam visiting family and making a dent in the human trafficking there, some hate crimes started cropping up around Portland. Just as Sam returns, the victims are Mark, Sam’s boss who also happens to be gay, and Mark’s partner. While Sam certainly would have wanted to stop the crimes, it suddenly became very personal.

Things are complicated enough for Sam without one minor detail: while in Vietnam he realized he never wanted to carry or fire a gun again. So now he has to track down the people responsible for these violent hate crimes, and he only has his bare hands, and whatever improvised weapon he can find, to assist him.

Of course, every well-rounded novel needs a little romance, and Christensen doesn’t disappoint. Naturally the biggest emotional tension is between Sam and Mai, the latter beginning the novel still in Vietnam. Will they continue to grow together, or will the distance make them drift?

So yeah, I really enjoyed this novel. Hearing even more books are in the works makes me nearly, yeah, I’ll admit it, giddy. It’s so refreshing to read a novel with genuine action scenes that I can picture while still maintaining the realism only a season veteran of violence can bring to the page.

If you haven’t read the first two books in the series, stop now, go get them, and read them. Then read this one. You won’t regret it.

Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)

Bullying Can Be A Good Thing*

Now wait, put down the torches and pitchforks and hear me out.

Make no mistake about it, bullying is a real problem, both physical and emotional as well as the cyber variety. As a martial arts instructor, I dedicate a lot of my time to preventing bullying, by reaching both the bullied and the bullies themselves. It has to stop, or at least make sure the consequences are real enough to discourage it.

That said, we all have our reasons for doing martial arts. Some start because they love the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and they just never looked back. Their interests and reasons for continuing may evolve, but their reason for starting remains.

Or perhaps they start for the health benefits. A good martial arts class should be both physically, emotionally and spiritually challenging. It should be hard work, or what’s the point?

Speaking of spiritual reasons, there are those who start martial arts for the internal benefits. Not just seated meditation and the Eastern-based perspectives on martial arts, but the self-improvement aspect. We all hope to each day become a better person than we were the day before, and martial arts is a wonderful way to achieve that goal.

Personally, I started because my older son Zak had been doing it for several months, and it seemed like something pretty cool to do. I had messed with some of the concepts and weapons in junior high when my brother was into the whole seventies ninja craze, so I had a vague understanding of what it was all about. Never did I believe I would be doing it fifteen years later for the teaching. There’s just something about seeing the light go on with a student and knowing that illumination may one day save their life.

I was bullied a lot in junior high in particular because I was a short and scrawny (those who know me, quit laughing) nerd / geek who just didn’t fit in. I’d rather read a book than play football or roughhouse with my friends. I didn’t have the self-confidence to stand up for myself, and the bullies knew it. But I was never offered martial arts as a solution.

Which brings us back to the subject of this post. What about those who start martial arts because they are being bullied? Let’s see a show of hands out there among the instructors. How many of you started because you were being bullied? You hopefully built up self-confidence and the certain essence about you that will discourage bullies simply by the way you carry yourself. It’s a good thing.

And now, who knows how many years later, you’re teaching others, helping them to avoid being bullies or being bullied. Making a difference in their lives day-in and day-out.

And you would have never made a difference in their lives if you hadn’t been bullied yourself.

See, bullying can be a good thing. No, it’s not acceptable in any way, shape or form. But sometimes a phoenix rises from the ashes and makes a difference for future generations.

Review: “Dukkha: Reverb” By Loren W. Christensen

Through NetGalleyYMAA Publishing Center was nice enough to provide me with a copy of this eGalley for the purposes of reading and reviewing it. Although it was provided to me at no cost, I am under no obligation to give a positive review.

If you are unfamiliar with the Sam Reeves series, as this is the second book, please check out my review of “Dukkha: The Suffering” here.

Sam Reeves is a police officer who also happens to be a martial arts instructor. In the first book, he found his long lost father Samuel, who he thought had died during the Vietnam War. He also was introduced to Mai, who he was strongly attracted to, eventually and thankfully finding out she is indeed not his sister. Both are well-versed in martial arts like Sam, which comes in handy throughout the book.

Much mayhem and violence ensues, much of it instigated by Lai Van Tan, a Vietnamese crime lord who heavy-hands all those around him, including Samuel’s jewelry shops in Saigon. Lai Van Tan’s son dies during a conflict with Samuel, and this sets the obviously unstable criminal off even more. The book ends following some horrific events at Portland State University, with Samuel and Mai returning to Vietnam.

This book takes off with Sam heading to Vietnam to meet his family several months after the events of the first book. On the flight he encounters Bobby, a sixteen year-old Vietnamese-American travelling alone, presumably under the auspices of meeting his family in Vietnam. Bobby happens to be a black belt in taekwon-do and looks up to Sam for his martial arts experience, once he realizes who Sam is.

Once in Vietnam, things really pick up for Sam. He meets Mai’s mother Kim, who is ill with tuberculosis, Mai’s sisters, and a whole bevy of Vietnam vets who fought for either North or South Vietnam. Samuel has taken them under his wing and even provided a home for them, for reasons that are revealed throughout the book.

The most engaging and comical vet is Tex Nyugen, a legless student of Samuel’s, as well as part of his security staff. Tex is a fan of American western movies, thus his nickname. He also provides much of the comic relief, often in a deadpan manner. Once while talking to Bobby, he comments that he saw Bobby practicing his kicks, and he was much better at it than Tex. 🙂

We are also introduced to Samuel’s sifu, an elderly man with almost mystical abilities, including the ability to feel disruptions in someone’s chi and tweak it to help them rest or feel better. Of course, his speed is incredible, as you would expect, putting even Samuel and Sam to shame.

Our heroes eventually learn Lai Van Tan is involved in a sex-trafficking business with young girls, and our heroes set out to put an end to it. Along the way, they are hampered by Vietnamese police and politics as well as Lai Van Tan’s power and influence among those in power. It’s also revealed that Bobby is in fact a runaway from his parents in California, contrary to what he told Sam on the airplane.

Will Sam, Samuel, Mai and friends be able to stop or even slow down Lai Van Tan? Can they help out some of the girls being held in preparation for their introduction into the sex trade? Will Bobby sort out the conflicts with his parents? Will Sam and Mai ever get a chance to further their budding romance?

Much like the first book in the series, this one keeps up a pace that makes the Energizer Bunny want to take a siesta. There’s always something going on, and it keeps the book moving along, making it a fast read for the size of the book.

Christensen kept true to his characters in the book, showing Sam continuing to fight his demons while also growing as a character. It’s also nice to see Samuel and Mai as fallible characters, even with all their upsides.

My favorite part of the book had to be the fight in a collapsing tunnel near the climax of the book. Christensen noted on his Facebook page that he had to keep stepping outside for fresh air while writing it, and I can see why. I could feel my heart rate quickening while reading it, and I was just the reader. It was very well done by the author, bringing forth the tension of the moment and the emotions of the characters outstandingly.

I am hoping Christensen continues with this series for some time. I can see lots of potential with it, as much of it so far has been about the past, and there are lots of possibilities in the future, with Samuel and his relationship with Sam, Sam’s relationship with Mai, and even possibly Bobby as a future student of Sam’s.

This book is perfect for anyone who loves fact-paced action thrillers, even moreso if you have an interest in LEOs, veterans or martial arts. The author is all of the above, which leads to a level of depth and authenticity that can’t be brought by someone just doing research.

Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)

Review: “From Creation To Unification” By Stuart Anslow

First, a note for the sake of full disclosure. As the author worked on finalizing this book, I shared with him a similar report I had written as my thesis when testing for 1st degree black belt. We Battleshipped back and forth about various factual and stylistic questions after he had read my report. He was even so kind to include me in the acknowledgements and bibliography.

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While I consider Mr. Anslow a friend, and I might have contributed in this book in some small way, I am not obligated to give the book a positive review. Just as I would expect him to provide constructive criticism of my writing or taekwon-do technique, I will do the same for this book. I certainly can’t be critical of his taekwon-do technique since he outranks me. 🙂

That said, let’s get to the brass tacks of this review.

Taekwon-do practitioners who perform the Ch’ang Hon patterns or, as is the case with my school, a derivation of them due to various splits over the years will be familiar with the pattern set that goes from Chon-Ji through Tong-Il. As students, we are expected to learn the meanings as put forth by General Choi Hong-Hi in the ITF Encyclopedia. Often after a student gives a correct meaning during class or testing, I will ask them, “Correct, but what does that mean?” This is my way of telling the students they need to do more than just rote memorization of the meanings. It’s no different than learning how to perform a pattern correctly but not understand the applications of the various techniques.

As noted at the outset, when I tested for 1st degree black belt in 2002, my thesis was a 97 page (what, you complain about a two page report for your belt testings? :)) history of the patterns from Chon-Ji through Kwang-Gae (at that time the highest pattern I knew). I had started at blue belt with Joong-Gun, as I found his life and patriotism fascinating. It continued until black belt, when I went back and did histories for the patterns prior to blue belt.

That said, I might have more insight than the average person when it comes to analyzing this book my Mr. Anslow. And, without a doubt, I was not disappointed.

He provides detailed information about each of the 25 patterns from the ITF curriculum (including both Juche and Ko-Dang, for those expecting 24) as well as the six GTF patterns created by Grandmaster Park Jung-Tae prior to his death in 2002. Included as part of of each pattern is a listing of the definition as put forth by Gen. Choi, even if it is incorrect (such as the birth year of Do-San Ahn Chang-Ho), then Mr. Anslow proceeds to dissect and analyze the meaning, determining, if possible, the reason behind the number of moves in the pattern.

Mr. Anslow also provides much detail about the history behind the person or concept for which the pattern was named, supplying many pictures about the people involved and giving very detail footnotes. These footnotes naturally tie to an extensive bibliography at the end of the book.

The author is also not shy about pointing out errors in the original meanings, not in an effort to discredit or demean Gen. Choi, but rather point out that Gen. Choi was first and foremost a solider and martial artist, not a historian. Consequently, it’s not unheard of that some facts may not be as accurate as at first glance.

Overall, I am very impressed with this book. Mr. Anslow has been doing research on this for decades, and it shows. I can also know from personal interactions with him that if he was not able to validate as factual something he ran across, he excluded it from the book rather than risking the integrity of the book. There are some stylistic things that annoyed me, but those have no bearing on the overall quality of the book. Naturally, I did find a couple of items that I believe are factually incorrect, which is inevitable in a first edition. If those due bear out to be inaccuracies, I have no doubt the author will make every effort to correct them prior to the next edition.

Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)

Starting Point For Bunkai / Applications

Since one of my favorite areas of interest in martial arts is studying the various applications of techniques, I figured I would start this with a link the bar-none best site regarding the application of techniques.

The leader in the field is Iain Abernethy Sensei, and his page can be found here. There you will find many links to videos, articles, etc. He also has some DVDs for sale which are very good.

He also travels around doing seminars, and I can’t recommend them highly enough.