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Martial Arts America
A Western Approach to Eastern Arts

Bob Orlando

This book is definitely not going to be popular with everyone -- and it will be especially unpopular with those who are involved in the commercialization of the martial arts and self-defense.

With characteristic perception, Bob Orlando bursts the bubble that surrounds the mystic and mysticism of martial arts, its cults and its cliques. In other words, exactly the nonsense you are going to run into if you study the martial arts in Western cultures.

Orlando probably says it best himself: "My purpose ... is to examine Eastern martial art training practices and philosophies, consider their origins and appraise their relevance to the American student.

"In this examination, there are no sacred cows. No topic is taboo."

A classic example of his clear and thought-provoking analysis can be found in his chapter on "Yellow Pages Masters." Orlando demonstrates his point with a clever satire of an ad for "Mon Key Dung's Martial Arts Academy" in which he pulls wording from actual martial art ads from one city's yellow pages to glorify "Supreme Grand Master and Professor Mon Key Dung."  Howlingly funny, this spoof is an irreverent look at the rank inflation and marketing tactics of today's martial arts world. Yet, when collected in one place, the outrageousness of claims of mastery made by those trying to get you to enroll becomes blatantly clear. And it should make you think before you pull out your checkbook.

Though he skewers sacred cows, Orlando does so rationally, logically and dispassionately, providing a thought-provoking volume on the westernization of martial arts that should be required reading for all martial artists, students and instructors alike.
 Martial Arts America: A Western Approach to Eastern Arts (Frog, Ltd.) 1997, 182 pages,  ISBN 1-883319-67-6

Softcover, Item# BMMAmerica
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Reviews of Martial Arts America include:

Have you ever done a technique and known in your heart of hearts it was highly impractical? Have you ever guiltily wondered about some of the promotion, rank, and respectability games some martial artists play? Have you ever felt torn between ancient methods and recent technology? Bob Orlando broaches many of these unspoken topics which affect martial artists today.

While this book does not tear down and dismiss altogether the traditional methods of training, Orlando offers insights into many of the concepts and practices traditionalists (including myself) have been wrestling with for a long time. Moreover, Orlando serves up these topics with good humor, and does not pretend to be feeding his readers any absolute answer. As a long time student and teacher of the martial arts, I found these views helpful and long overdue (in print, at least). It is nice to know there are others out there who often wonder about and question our "sacred cows", and it is good to see someone who can do this without the snobbishness of some so-called "modern" martial arts practitioners.

Orlando's background includes Chinese Kenpo-Karate, Kung fu under Al Dacascos, and Chinese Kuntao and Indonesian Pentjak Silat under master teacher William de Thours. Here is a quote which I really liked: "Rank[...] is excess baggage. It becomes a hindrance to learning because everyone expects that you already know everything". -- C.J. Hardman, San Diego, California


Martial Arts America: A Western Approach To Eastern Arts by Bob Orlando (martial arts expert and founder of the Je-du-to School of Martial Arts, Denver Colorado) is a solid, insightful, "user friendly" presentation of how martial arts are taught in America today ranging from self-defense, to sport, to the different challenges in training male and female students, to what a black belt really means. A superbly presented background book and very highly recommended reading for anyone contemplating a martial arts program, Martial Arts America warns seekers of self-defense about what to search for and what to look out for when seeking a suitable school. If you are contemplating learning the martial arts in a formal program of instruction, begin your search with a careful reading of Bob Orlando's Martial Arts America. -- Midwest Book Review


This book is not the best book on my shelf--it would be if it were ever on my shelf, but I loan it out every chance I get.

I particularly appreciated Bob's willingness to state the "obvious" (in hindsight) in print without regard to who will take exception. Like the boy in "The Emperor's New Clothes," he has the rare wisdom of being willing to look foolish by asking the obvious, forbidden, necessary questions. The discussion of punching and blocking in Karate and similar arts is only the most obvious example.

Instead of telling you what is in the book, let me tell what it has done for me as someone of no great skill who has trained in several arts and been satisfied with none of them. (A lot of us, unfortunately, fall in this category.) More than anything else I have ever seen or read, this book helped me to:

(1) Analyze and understand what I do and do not want from a martial art, and who might offer it. Anyone who has studied several arts here and there, as I have, knows the frustration of not being able to be an "intelligent consumer." This alone is worth far more than the cost of the book (probably less than half the cost of a month of lessons anywhere). I agree with another reviewer; if you are thinking of taking lessons but don't know exactly what you want already, BUY THIS BOOK NOW. It takes time and experience to discover the right art and teacher. It is a great help to borrow some of Bob's time and experience before you start spending your own.

(2) Maintain motivation to train. You can't wait to train until you find the ideal art. I find it encouraging to know that even if my best local opportunity to train is not what I would prefer, there are other things out there if I have patience. Perspective is a valuable thing, particularly if it helps you take advantage of the opportunities you have rather than waiting for ones that you don't.

(3) Appreciate arts that are not necessarily for me. Once you know what you want personally, you can stop trying to make other arts something they are not but instead enjoy what they are. As well as being a generally humane attitude, this also helps with Point 2. And, after all, I may discover I like them more than I thought.

I have minor criticisms, but what they are does not matter. What does matter is that you read it for yourself and find your own. That's ultimately the point of the book; rational inquiry and debate in the best Western tradition. Bob asks "why?" and "can you prove it?" constantly and encourages us to do the same. It is a shame that we need the encouragement so much. -- Dustin Laurence, California


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