As martial artists we often get bogged down in details. Techniques, training, research…it’s all very technical and thick.
Every now and then it’s fun to explore the ‘what ifs’ of martial arts. Luckily, for those times, we have authors like Sarah Gerdes and novels like Chambers.
Chambers is a martial arts mystery whereupon two teens are thrust into their father’s world of unusual artifacts, double crosses, and historical intrigue.
When Ms. Gerdes asked me if I might be interested in giving the book a read, I was happy to agree. The martial arts world is filled with spiritual and magical possibilities if we give ourselves permission to enjoy them (if only from time to time). When I found out that this book was interlaced with historical flavor from 15th Century China (an area and time not my specialty), I knew I’d be able to enjoy the read.
The story begins…
with two protagonists, Cage and Mia, who are a brother/sister team. They are both teens and exhibit some classic American qualities. Cage is a fiery martial arts student who is fairly confident in his own greatness. Mia is a very self-assured soccer player, aware of her budding attractiveness but often underplaying it.
The two find themselves mixed up in a scuffle between their dad and his boss, and before they realize the scope of their situation, they find themselves transported to a distant time and place – Ming Dynasty China, face to face with the 14 year old emporer.
As you can imagine, there is significant “fish out of water” elements to the story as the youngsters attempt to find their dad and save him (without altering history).
This book is good for…
any martial artist who wants to let imagination take over. The story is threaded with tidbits of real history and real training (the author is a martial artist herself), but for the most part raw action and magic rule the day. Cage exhibits skills well beyond his years and commands some intriguing powers as the story develops.
I think the best readership for this book is the teenage bracket, although adults (like myself) can certainly enjoy it. The mindsets and situations faced would speak most clearly to a teenager, especially one who is starting a martial art and is experiencing all the vast possibilities and unknown benefits that comes with it. Romances, conflict, and martial encounters (often with large groups of baddies) keep the pages turning and the story progressing.
The good news is…
if you like this book, there will be more to come. Ms. Gerdes plans to create a total of 5 novels in the series, following the adventures of Cage and Mia as they attempt to unravel the mysteries of their father’s research. Furthermore, Chambers has been optioned by Warp Entertainment and producer Lucas Foster with plans to adapt the book into a movie. Certainly the scale and far-off-setting of the story will translate well onto the silver screen.
Right now Chambers is available via Kindle (which you can use on any Kindle ereader or PC via the free Kindle software), Nook from Barnes and Noble, and for Apple products. The price is extremely manageable at $2.99 a copy.
Do you remember vinyl records? Scratch that, do you remember cds? On a cd or record you had a finite number of songs carefully constructed and placed just so. When done right, the cd represented a few separate works of art which came together to form a grander piece of art. While the actual number of songs was limited, they were worth revisited over and over again in order to explore the creator’s vision.
I feel that The Karate Code was built using this kind of “traditional” model.
Jesse Enkamp, author of KarateByJesse.com, set out many months ago to create something he felt was missing from the pantheon of martial texts. He knew there were plenty of books on technique, kata, self defense, etc etc, but didn’t think anyone was getting to the heart of karate. That’s why he went about contacting some of the most senior sensei in the world to ask them a simple question: what does karate mean to you…and why?
The result is an intriguing collection of thoughts by individuals such as Takayoshi Nagamine, Teruyuki Okazaki, Hirokazu Kanazawa, Yoshio Kuba, and more. They each express their beliefs in a succinct, creative way that leaves the reader with plenty to ponder.
Jut like the aforementioned record or cd, this book is a collection of thoughts that go by all too quickly. You can read the whole thing in one sitting. Despite that, the return value is significant and you’ll find yourself flipping through the pages to sneak another look at a line that won’t let go of your imagination.
I’m not big on cities. Being in close proximity to nature has always been important to me (as evidenced by the design of this blog).
But living as close to Philadelphia as I do, I would be remiss to miss out on Chinatown so I recently took a trip down with some of my family.
Among Philly’s many sectors (Old City, Fishtown, etc), Chinatown is a very authentic and sizable chunk. While it’s impossible to replicate real immersion in a foreign country, Chinatown provides the sounds, sights, and smells (both good and bad) of the culture.
The first landmark worth noting is the front gate as you approach the main market strip. It is beautifully adorned and kept in nice condition. We didn’t stop and marvel for too long though as it was 103 degrees out and we wanted to find a nice market or store that featured air conditioning.
Littered amongst the more pedestrian buildings were a few that captured my attention.
These buildings, while historic, were certainly wearing their age. I would have loved access to explore them but there is little doubt the interiors were rough at best, unsafe at worst. A shame because even with some decay they were far more impactful than the typical city row homes.
One of our main stops for the day was The Bazaar, a deep reaching variety shop that features everything from tourist gifts to traditional instruments. The Bazaar was easily the biggest physical location I’ve ever been in dedicated specifically to Asian goods.
I had to exercise extreme self control to avoid spending a bundle. There were so many interesting scrolls, kimonos, pieces of art, and oddities that it was tough to walk passed any aisle without a second look. It was also a pleasure spotting the curiously out of place items that made it onto the shelves (such as the complete Mr. Bean collection).
Chinatown had a lot of those little quirks that you hope and expect to find. For example, one candy store was running an excellent special on their floor:
I chose to go in the Pocky direction, but the floor was tempting too.
As we sampled various shops and bakeries I couldn’t help but notice the steadfast street venders. Even out in the 100+ weather there were merchants with various forms of clothes, fish, produce, and undergarments. Basically everything you could need during your day. I chose not to indulge in the street fish though as we were headed to our primary restaurant destination.
The eatery on our radar was an unassuming facility located underneath a convention center overpass (not exactly prime real estate). Nevertheless, we had heard from a reliable Philly resource that this was a hidden treasure.
What the Dim Sum Garden lacked in flash it made up for in selection and speedy service. Traditionally, Dim Sum dishes are served by an attendant who wheels out multiple bamboo baskets with varying food items. You then take what appeals to you and are charged at the end. In fact, Dim Sum began as an exercise in tea tasting at roadside inns. Once the Chinese realized it was also pleasurable to snack while tasting tea, the destiny and development of Dim Sum was set.
Our food arrived with much less fanfare. The workings of the restaurant resembled that of a standard Chinese sit-down/take-out, except with a noticeably different kind of menu and procedure. As we ordered our Dim Sum items (such as pork and crab dumpling, steamed shrimp dumpling, etc), they came out in roughly 4-5 minute intervals. Before we knew it we had a whole sampling of delicious dishes in front of us and were enjoying it quite thoroughly.
We took a gamble heading into Chinatown during a prolonged heat wave, but we decided it was worth the trouble in order to enjoy the spirit of the neighborhood. If you ever find yourself in Philly, you could definitely do worse than a visit to Chinatown (no really, you could do a lot worse so don’t wander around).