I recently posted reviews of four books that were either directly or indirectly related to jiu jitsu (see here for details). Today, I am going to review two more. I hope you find them helpful. If you've read any books that you especially liked (or disliked), please post a comment in the discussion thread. I have several more on the shelf I will review in the coming weeks as well! So, stay tuned!
Oliver Staark, Zen Jiu Jitsu: Beyond Rolling (2nd edition, 2012).
This book contains what the author claims is a "30 day program to improve your game 100%." While I am not sure how one might measure improvement to verify this claim (e.g., what would a 100% improvement look like?!), I did find the book to be well-written and illuminating. One of Staark's key suggestions is to purchase and make use of a good grappling dummy. Unfortunately, while I have no doubt that training with a grappling dummy can really help one improve one's game, the goods ones tend to be too expensive, the inexpensive ones seem to be too crappy, and the DIY ones seem too rudimentary. But if you are lucky enough to have a gym with a good grappling dummy or two, then you should definitely take advantage of the opportunity to fine tune your techniques by getting in lots of extra drilling (at your own time and your own pace--which is what I like about Staark's suggestion).
As for the rest of the book--which comes in at just over 120 pages--Staark traverses a lot of material in a short amount of space. From the philosophy and psychology of training to the 30 day program itself, the book contains a lot of useful details and suggestions. Staark's approach to belt progression is quite similar to the framework found in Saulo Ribieiro's seminal Jiu Jitsu University:
- White belt: Survival
- Blue belt: Escapes
- Purple belt: Guard
- Brown belt: Guard passing
- Black belt: Submissions
While I like the underlying concepts here, I have never been at a school that adheres to them. That doesn't mean they shouldn't, of course, it just means that if you want to progress along these lines, it will require you to limit your own focus on the details and techniques befitting your experience level. Moreover, it's important to note that Staark acknowledges that each individual's path will take its own shape and have its own pace and progression. So, he takes this to be a rough guideline of what one's focus should be, in general, at each step of the way from white belt to black belt.
Another helpful suggestion by Staark is that one should keep a jiu jitsu journal. As an educator myself, I couldn't agree more. And yet, I too, have been very inconsistent over the years when it comes to keeping a journal. So, while I don't always practice what Staark preaches here, I am nevertheless convinced that keeping a journal is a very useful way of tracking one's progress, reminding oneself of the techniques one has learned in class, noting one's strengths and weaknesses, etc. Staark offers some nice guidelines for how to keep a useful journal. One of the lessons Staark wants readers to learn is the importance of having a goal or focus before each training session--which makes it easier to keep up with one's progress.
All told, this book contains a number of helpful suggestions concerning how one can and should approach one's training in a thorough, methodical, and mindful way in order to most efficiently progress from one step of the jiu jitsu journey to the next. As such, I think it is a very useful little book which I highly recommend. In the future, I plan to purchase more of Staark's books. If someone has read any of the others, let me know what you thought!
Thadeu Vieira, The Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Way (2014).
This self-published book highlights the importance of doing one's due diligence before making purchases--which I failed to do in this case. Clocking in at a measly 64 pages, this book is lean on useful advice or details. Indeed, a number of pages contain nothing but block quotes from Sun Zu, Miyamoto Musashi, and others. While some of these quotes are intriguing, they are rarely unpacked in useful or insightful ways. That said, there are 10 chapters in all--many of which are only 2-3 pages in length. As such, the book is lean on details (which limits its helpfulness). To be honest, this book doesn't have much going for it. Had I spent more time looking into it before I purchased it, I would have saved some money. Unsurprisingly, it is not a book I recommend. However, Vieira's other book may be more useful--namely, The BJJ Notebook. It certainly seems more substantive based on the table of contents, length, etc. So, if anyone has read a copy, please let me know what you thought! I am always willing to give an author a second chance (if merited)! But as for The Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Way, I suggest you look elsewhere if you're after something useful or entertaining to read about the gentle art. This particular book by Vieira is a bit half-baked.