There is a also a more philosophical theme to the book, examining how the spiritual aspects of martial arts came about and how the craft benefits physical wellbeing. However, as Jamie Clubb points out, the primary purpose of martial arts, and the reason they were created, is to disable an opponent. This was their purpose long before the Shaolin Temple and Buddhism came into the picture and started to use martial arts in their teachings.
Those of you who can remember the TV series Kung Foo, starring David Carradine, may come to see the character for what he was: just a hippie, not a true practitioner of martial arts. That is my inference, by the way. Jamie Clubb makes no reference to Carradine or the TV show.
Another aspect to this is Tai Chi Chuan. It is well known as an exercise regime with a strong spiritual element attached and there are many places that run classes. But if you look at it realistically it's just a martial art slowed down so that pensioners can do it without hurting themselves. The "focusing of the chi" bit that is talked about was all added later.
So who is Jamie Clubb and what are his credentials for writing a book such as this? He came from a circus family and in the past has been involved in wrestling promotion. His major interest is in what he calls mixed martial arts (MMA); what has become better known (for the wrong reasons) as cage fighting or ultimate fighting. He runs a martial arts academy in Coventry and has written a number of articles for martial arts magazines.
In the foreword to the book Geoff Thompson gives considerable credence to Clubb’s writing on the subject. If you don’t know who Geoff Thompson is, and I didn’t before reading this book, he is a 7th Dan practitioner of martial arts recognised by the British Combat Association, as well as being a stunt man and screen writer.
This book is mainly a collection of Jamie Clubb’s articles written for magazines. It isn’t a “how to” book as you can’t learn martial arts from a book, but it discusses various topics that come under the martial arts heading. The articles are grouped together under four main headings: Martial Mutterings, which are the more philosophical discussions; martial arts for self-protection; martial arts for fitness and physical training. The third section is martial arts for children. I single this out because it is supported by anti-bullying experts.
As Jamie points out, practitioners of martial arts in competition perform under strict rules. Each one knows in advance that they are going to be in combat, each is ready for the other and each knows how to counter any move that the other makes. This makes for a very artificial scenario compared to a street conflict. There the environment is very different. There only one person may know how to attack the other person, or how to defend. The combatants don’t fight by rules and very often the attack will be unexpected. It is the exploration of this and how martial arts can help the individual that I found interesting about this book.
We have all seen the TV demonstrations where a martial arts instructor gives a student a rubber knife, turns his back and invites the student to attack him. There is no escaping the fact that the instructor is prepared for the attack and is also prepared to counter it. In real life the very opposite applies. I’m sure the instructor would still be capable of defending himself if a similar thing were to happen in the street, but the student finding himself in that situation might not be and Jamie Clubb addresses this sort of issue.
Jamie breaks martial arts for street combat down into very simple terms. Martial arts can help you to do one of two things: get close to your attacker and limit his ability to do you harm, or give you time to put distance between you and your attacker. I think I prefer the latter approach, but with advancing years I’m not as fast as I used to be and perhaps I should now be paying more attention to the former approach.
Overall I found this book extremely engaging. The writing is kept at the level of the layman and as I read I felt extremely confident that I was in the hands of someone who knew what he was talking about.
As it is based on magazine articles the book isn’t intended to be read in the same way as one would read a novel. The problem with such books is that, often, if you have read an article and you put the book down you may not feel any motivation to pick it up again. This is not a problem I had with Jamie Clubb’s book. There is such a lot to cover that I found myself wanting to know more. Bearing in mind that until now I have had no real interest in martial arts and you can start to see the significance of that. It is an interesting subject tackled in an interesting way.
I would particularly recommend this book to people with children who may be concerned about bullying. It is an ever present danger in our schools despite efforts to eradicate it. A well prepared child may develop tactics to counter bullying without becoming a bully themselves.
To find out more about Mordred's Victory by Jamie Clubb please click Here
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WHERE’S MY STEAK DINNER?
With so much having been said about Jeremy Clarkson over recent weeks I felt it would be remiss of me to ignore the subject completely. He is one of those people who divides opinion: you either love him or you hate him.
The left wing hate him because he says things that they don’t like and he has a platform on which to say them. The left are not a tolerant group of people so there are no surprises there. Many in the media have expressed their dislike of Jeremy and I suspect this is triggered by envy for the shed loads of money that he earns and which they don’t. For the rest of us he’s TV's version of marmite.
I have to admit that I’m not a regular viewer of Top Gear and think about Mr Clarkson about as often as I think about the origins of the universe, which is to say not very often.
It must not be forgotten, however, that Jeremy Clarkson is a creation of TV. Take a look at some of his earlier Top Gear programmes on YouTube and he is nothing like the figure we now see on TV. All of what we see on Top Gear has been created for our entertainment, and that includes the apparent gaffs that Mr Clarkson makes. Top Gear is as fake as a £5 Rolex.
I am reminded of a story from a couple of years ago when the Top Gear team were doing some sort of stunt on the River Thames. The tabloids carried a story of how the team had soaked a group of diners enjoying lunch at a riverside restaurant. It emerged a couple of days later that the restaurant had been hired for the day by Top Gear and the “diners” were all extras, also hired for the day. The original story had been planted in the press to create publicity for that week’s show. Fast forward to Argentina 2014 and do you still think that fracas over the number plates was real? I certainly don’t.
Remember Jeremy and the “N” word scandal not so long ago. Everyone forgets that he was reading from a piece of paper that he had been handed. When he reached the offending word he mumbles, looks up and says that he couldn’t read out what was written. The whole clip was leaked, but it’s Jeremy who had to apologise, even though he wasn’t the cause of the racist word being used. Another fake? Or had Jeremy been deliberately set up? One can only wonder.
A million people have signed a petition for Top Gear to return with Clarkson at the wheel (pun intended). Will it happen? Well, if I were Clarkson I’d be in serious talks with competing TV channels right now. I suspect that he may be. If he goes what are the chances of Richard Hammond and James May going with him? Quite strong. You don’t break up a winning team if you can avoid it. By the same score keeping May and Hammond on Top Gear and introducing a new third wheel is not guaranteed to succeed so it would be a high risk strategy for the BBC. But of course they need the ratings the programme generates and they need the revenue it earns even more. What a dilemma for them.
I don’t know what happened between Clarkson and his producer. I wasn’t there and I don’t really care. However, I don’t think it was a set up this time. Senior TV executives are now involved and I can’t see them getting involved in a publicity stunt of that sort. However, it may signal the end of Top Gear as we know it, or at least as you know it. I hardly know it at all.
Environmentalists are preparing the bunting. Petrolheads will be checking their Sky subscriptions to see if they will be able to view whatever Clarkson does next. I’ll be watching something a little bit less artificial; maybe a silk flower. If you are wondering what to do with that hour that used to be filled by Top Gear why not try a book? I would recommend one of mine but modesty forbids.
Next week I ask whether the Labour Party might not be skating on thin ice when they attack the Tories over zero hours contracts. Let me give you a taster:
On BBC’s Question Time on Thursday 19th March Chuka Umunna, Labour shadow Business Secretary, said that there were 1.5 million people in the UK employed on zero hours contracts. The Office of National Statistics, whose figures he had just said Labour always uses, quotes 675,000 people on that type of contract. That’s less than half. He either made a huge mistake or told a big fat lie and one that I could expose with just three clicks of my computer mouse. I also ask why Labour didn’t end zero hours contracts when they had the chance - and yes, they did have the chance prior to the 2010 General Election.
Join me next week for the full story.