Saturday, November 10, 2007

'Muay Thai Unleashed' - Erich Krauss & Glen Cordoza

Like most old guys, I got interested in the martial arts when I saw the seventies and eighties action movies with the likes of Chuck Norris and Bruce Lee. Sometimes, after a few drinks, I might even admit to watching Jean Claude Van Damme's movies. It's one of the reasons I quit drinking.

Those old movies conentrated very heavily on striking arts, and that's where I got my start. Throughout my teens, I was quite a competent karateka - winning my share of medals in knockdown tournaments. Later, I was a successful amateur boxer.

But the grappling bug got me and I forgot the striking arts - figuratively and practically. Then, I started in MMA. I had to get my striking up to par. I began getting my hands and feet ready to fight again. Years out of the ring had blunted my striking senses, so I went looking for resources to help me out.

One of the better resources I've come across in my quest for better striking is 'Muay Thai Unleashed' by Erich Krauss and Glen Cordoza. The book is published by McGraw-Hill and pre-dates Victory Belt - the authors' new publisher. My copy came by way of Budo Videos, who deserve a wrap for their continuing excellent service.

Now, I'm no Thai Boxer. Anyone who knows me can attest to that fact. My first MMA match was against a Muay Thai exponent (I still cringe when I think about the flogging I got there). So, any help I can get combatting the Muay Thai game is helpful. 'Muay Thai Unleashed' is the perfect book for me. It's probably also the perfect book for any beginner to the sport or a more experienced martial artist who wants to learn a little of what the Thais have to offer.

What I like about this book is the writing. Erich Krauss is obviously an experienced writer. He manages to explain the sport at a level the more experienced martial artist can appreciate without being too dry for the rank beginner.

The book doesn't dwell on Muay Thai's rich history. This is a training book, after all. Chapter one opens with a very brief synopsis of that history before beginning a description of the training methods of Muay Thai. Initially, this is done very broadly by peering into the life of a young boxer training in one of Thailand's many camps. The chapter then fleshes out the equipment of the individual and the gym, dispensing some great advice into the bargain. It then goes on to describe some of the philosophies of both physical and mental training aspects.

Chapter two covers stances and footwork. This chapter is a simple one with some great insights on movement and some good drills for improving your footwork. It leads well into chapter three, which covers the attacking weapons of Muay Thai. Let me say this. Despite having been a fringe fan of Muay Thai competition for many years, I had no idea of the of the sophistication of the twechniques. And this is a book aimed at the beginner to intermediate fighter. This chapter has helped me break down the differences between the way the Thais do things compared to where my game is. I've found a couple of great improvements right there.

Chapter four deals with the defensive techniques. Starting with the Muay Thai "patented" leg checking and progressing into counters for the attacking techniques. Chapter five deals with pad work and combinations and will help the beginner understand how the pads work (an interesting read in itself) and why the combinations work as they do.Finally, chapter six introduces the reader to the simple, yet effective strength and conditioning work of Muay Thai. It culminates with a review of a professional fighter's program that makes me feel more than a little bit lazy when I'm coming up to a fight.

The book's photos are in black and white, but that doesn't hurt the production at all. The photos are clear and feature technique demonstrated by very proficient Muay Thai stylists. I kind of wanted to see more photos to help me understand things. However, this book isn't meant to replace an instructor. To that end, the photography is spot on.

Ultimately, the book is aimed at the beginner to intermediate Muay Thai stylist. If, however, you're more like me, you might be a more experienced martial artist looking for better ways to do things and hints that will prevent you getting smacked around. If you fit into either of these groups, I highly recommend this book.

It's very informative without being dry and simple without being babyish. Most of all, the passion of the authors shows through.

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