Neal contacted me because of reviews I had written of other martial arts books and asked if I could review his. I gladly granted his request. I took my time ingesting his book because I wanted to make sure I could formulate a balanced review of it, and I came up with exactly that: after reading it, I have two positive and two negative comments about it…although I wouldn’t say they are TRUE negatives. There is one topic where I wish he had gone more in depth, and another where I just have a different opinion than him.
First off, Neal writes the book in a very conversational tone. It’s almost like he is speaking to you the way he would in person, which means he feels free to use “curse” words. I don’t recall ever reading a self-defense/martial arts book where the writer swore in it. To readers with a more conservative bend, this might be offensive; to me it was just different.
The best feature of the book is that Neal talks about the MENTAL preparation needed to defend yourself. This isn’t gone over enough, not in schools or in books. It isn’t enough to be a black belt in tae kwon do; you have to mentally prepare yourself to do damage to another human being. It seems like it would be a no brainer. After all, the person coming at you is trying to do YOU harm, so you would think it’d be easy to hit them, right? Wrong. There is quite a big difference between practicing those techniques in the air and then using them on someone. You have to train your mind as well as your body so that, when the moment of truth comes, you can become MORE aggressive than the jerk who’s attacking you.
Now for the two downsides. There is a brief section on self-defense and law, which I was excited to read because (aside from reading ONE article about this in INSIDE KUNG FU MAGAZINE), I’ve never seen anyone address it. With all the different laws that exist in different countries/states/cities, I knew Neal couldn’t be all-inclusive, but I was hoping for more than what he wrote. This section boils down to an attempt for Neal to state his belief that he doesn’t feel the law can truly tell him what he has to do to defend himself. In an ideal world, this would be true. Unfortunately, our world is not ideal…or we wouldn’t need self-defense in the first place! There IS such a thing as going too far to defend yourself. For example: if a thug corners you in an alley and you knock him to the ground, you are supposed to run away. If you stop to kick him in the temple once the threat has been removed, then YOU will be the one on trial (should the law get involved). I wish Neal had at least given people advice on how they could look up self-defense laws for where they live.
The other negative (which is more just a difference in opinion) relates to Neal’s stance on traditional martial arts schools. Long story short: he feels they are a waste of time. For the most part I can agree, especially if you go to a school where they focus on tournaments, form competitions and training you to break things. (To quote Bruce Lee from ENTER THE DRAGON, “Boards don’t hit back.”) However, there are a lot of schools out there that still teach you how to apply the style in self-defense situations. (When I attended my first wing chun kung fu class, I saw IMMEDIATELY how it could be effective on the street.)
However, as I said, this is just where Neal and I differ in opinion. All in all, this book is a worthwhile read. The section about mental preparation alone is worth the price of admission.