Book Review: Street Smart
Neil Martin of the blog Urban Samurai recently released a free e-book entitled Street Smart: A Practical Guide to Dealing with Street Violence. Being a fellow e-book type person, I decided to check it out and see what he had to say.
The book is based off of Neil’s training and experience in real life self defense. He takes a pragmatic approach to analyzing violence and how we as law abiding citizens can best prepare ourselves.
Neil starts at the beginning, as it were, and works his way through both basic and complex pieces of street violence. Here is a rough break down of some of the key aspects of the book:
- Self Defense and the Law. The early chapters focus on defining what self defense actually is and how it relates to the law. This is one of the most important areas of study for martial artists as their ability to inflict damage can cause repercussions.
- Attitude, Awareness, Action. Neil explores what he calls the three A’s. These A’s are what he considers to be the most important aspects of analyzing and handling a violent situation.
- Fear and Confrontation. Using personal experience as a guide, Neil explains the role of fear in the human mind and how it can be used as a positive tool instead of negative.
- The Fence. Geoff Thompson, a leader in self defense instruction, has come up with a concept called The Fence. It is a concept that I really believe in, and so does Neil. He explains how to apply it in real life.
- Self Defense Strategies and Techniques. This book isn’t about a long list of specific techniques. However, there are a few key strategies and techniques outlined that are useful in a number of situations. They focus on simplicity and effectiveness.
- Weapon Scenarios. As much as we’d all like combat to be hand-to-hand and even, things tend to work out differently. Neil describes the likelihood of weapon scenarios and how to prepare yourself for the shock of such an event.
- Post Combat Complications. Rarely talked about are the mental effects on a person after a fight. This part of the book helps you to understand what you might expect and how to handle yourself should police get involved.
I definitely enjoyed this book. Neil didn’t get bogged down in a slew of what-if scenarios and techniques. A common problem, especially for traditional stylists, is the in-dojo tendency to practice lots of different techniques in a very controlled environment. This often leads, as Neil points out, to a false sense of security and confidence in ability. Neil’s approach instead explains the unavoidable differences between training and real life, and how to best maximize your training and mindset for real confrontation.
I enjoyed the concrete examples Neil used to illustrate his points. He didn’t rely on hypotheticals, and instead used experience and first/second hand accounts of violent incidences. He establishes good credibility which allows the reader to open up to the concepts he explains.
One thing I thought the book could have used was pictures or more significant structuring to break up the content. The luxury of creating an e-book is that you aren’t bound by the strict standards of old-school books. Pictures and captions could have helped to illustrate some of the concepts he was talking about. Along the same lines, a table of contents at the beginning would have made for easier reference when going back to reread specific sections.
Those are small potatoes though in the broader context of the book. The length was very digestable and the ideas inside were all well researched and valuable.
I would recommend this e-book (it’s free, just sign up for his mailing list) to anyone who feels like they could use a little brush up on street self defense concepts. And if you don’t feel like you could use a little more knowledge, you definitely need to go over and get it.