Book Review: How Sachin Destroyed My Life by Vikram Sathaye

How Sachin Destroyed my Life – Now, that is a very brave title for a book released in India, where the name Sachin is synonymous with GOD. But Vikram surely got 50% of the attention and hype that is very much required for a non-fiction work with that title.

There were many books on cricketers and especially Sachin. People have spoken at length about his technique, temperament, character and his special hundreds. But Vikram offered a rare perspective. I cannot think of many cricket humorists and stand-up comedians other than Vikram Sathaye and Andy Zaltzman. In a way, the book voices the feelings of the entire male population of India. Sachin, in fact destroyed many lives. At some point or the other, Sachin played a part in our personal and professional lives. Vikram touches upon those aspects wonderfully. He just captures exactly what we, as the cricket mad population, went through watching Sachin grow from strength to strength. He, in fact, balances the feelings wonderfully. He laces each sentence with wit and humour. The moment you think he is hurting the Sachin fan in you, he makes you laugh out loud with those witty punch lines. The fact that he has not played the game at the highest level makes us perceive him as one of us – a common cricket fan. The fact that he lived the dream of every Indian cricket fan, without being a cricketer himself, gives us a sense of hope. The initial chapters focus very much on the struggles of Vikram as he tries to perceive his cricket dream. These chapters provide enough justification to the first half of the book’s title. You sympathize with Vikram all the way and you wish he was as successful at cricket as Sachin. When he does cross paths with his idol incidentally, you wish you were Vikram. His success story emphasizes the role of destiny in one’s life.

The most touching part of the book is the story of Mane Kaka, the team’s masseur. These are the people we never get to know. These are the people who take care of our heroes. It’s a great story and it ought to be told. Vikram should be lauded for introducing us to Mane kaka. In a way, I think both Vikram and Mane Kaka treaded the same path. If Mane Kaka’s was the most touching aspect of the book, the references to Virender Sehwag were heart warming. Sehwag is one of a kind player. He has a natural style and aura to his batting and character. Vikram dedicates a chapter to Sledging and it was great to learn how Sehwag reacted to Michael Clarke sledging Sachin. These are the aspects of the game a common cricket fan craves for. There are many such anecdotes in Vikram’s book. He touches up on some rarely discussed aspects as well in a serious tone. Commentators with a non-cricketing background were one such topic. He explains how difficult it is for a commentator or a presenter with no background of professional cricket, to survive in the cricket world.

The book is a wonderful read and it leaves you craving for more. Well done Vikram. You are now a Sachin for many, in your own right.

New Book Reveals Evolution of Bruce Lee’s Formless Form

Before I read this book, I only knew that Bruce Lee had been a martial arts movie star. I had never seen one of his films or read anything about him. I had no idea what a fascinating person he was-not only was he a great athlete, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover what an incredible artist and philosopher he was. In fact, “artist” better defines him than “athlete,” in my opinion, because as Tommy Gong shows in “Bruce Lee: The Evolution of a Martial Artist,” Bruce Lee was devoted to his art, constantly studying form and learning how to improve it, seeking to make it the formless form that could never become stagnant by making it adhere to hard principles.

Gong retells Bruce Lee’s life story by focusing on his development of his own form, Jeet Kune Do. Gong explores the three primary periods of Lee’s development and teaching while living in Oakland, Seattle, and Los Angeles at different times in his life. By interviewing Lee’s former students, Gong found significant differences in what they were taught. The result is a new understanding of Lee’s methods and the evolution of his formless form of Jeet Kune Do, and a close look at the philosophical beliefs Lee held about martial arts and about life itself.

Anyone already familiar with Lee and his martial arts will find all the details needed here to take that understanding to a new level, including the curriculums Lee gave his students, the influences on Lee, and his own thoughts and desires to develop his art. Gong states that the book’s purpose is to answer the question, “What drove him [Lee] to modify his techniques and training methods, influencing his direction and development as a martial artist?”

What I found most amazing about this book is that while it could be used to understand and improve one’s own technique, complete with photos of various moves and stances, more importantly, it reveals Lee’s philosophy behind creating Jeet Kune Do and his refusal to capitalize upon creating a form that could be taught in a franchise of schools because he knew the students would suffer as a result. Lee insisted on personally teaching Jeet Kune Do to his students, and he did not expect them to follow his methods exactly but to use what they could and develop their own skills according to what worked best for each one. Among the many numerous quotes in the book from Lee about the development of Jeet Kune Do, Lee states, “Man, the living creature, the creating individual, is always more important than any established style,” and “The function of Jeet Kune Do is to liberate, not to bind.” Gong adds, “He encouraged followers to blaze their own paths in their personal development and excellence in martial arts, to have faith and trust in themselves when taking directions that might even stray off the Bruce Lee path.”

Lee understood that martial arts was about far more than physical fighting. He stated, “To me, at least the way that I teach it, all types of knowledge ultimately mean self-knowledge. So, there are people coming in and asking me to teach them not so much how to defend themselves or how to do somebody in. Rather, they want to learn to express themselves through some movement, be it anger, be it determination or whatever. So, in other words, they’re paying me to show them, in combative form, the art of expressing the human body.”

More than an athlete, movie star, or artist, Lee was also a philosopher. He was an adamant believer in positive thinking and even wrote poetry with a positive message to it. He believed in the spiritual side of his art, stating, “Jeet Kune Do, ultimately, is not a matter of petty technique but of highly developed personal spirituality and physique. It is not a question of developing what has already been developed but of recovering what has been left behind. These things have been with us, in us, all the time and have never been lost or distorted except by our misguided manipulation of them. JKD is not a matter of technology but of spiritual insight and training.”

After reading “Bruce Lee: The Evolution of a Martial Artist,” I am now an admirer of Lee. I have a great respect for not only his physical but his intellectual prowess. He devoted himself to his art, reading everything he could from books on fencing and wrestling to Chinese philosophy and self-help books. He was more than a martial artist; he was a liberator of man. In a 1971 article in “Black Belt” magazine, he stated, “we must recognize the incontrovertible fact that regardless of their many colorful origins (by a wise, mysterious monk, by a special messenger in a dream, or in a holy revelation) styles are created by men. A style should never be considered gospel truth, the laws and principles of which can never be violated. Man, the living, creating individual, is always more important than any established style.”

Now I understand why Bruce Lee became an icon and remains a household name forty years after his death. It’s not because he was a great martial artist, not because he had a great physique but because he had an inquisitive mind and a great soul that allowed him to achieve that great skill and physique, and to create a legacy that will live on for generations to come.

Anyone who is a Bruce Lee fan will love this book as well for its numerous photographs and anecdotes about Bruce Lee. It is a great testament to a great man, and I feel like my life has been enriched by having read it.

Book Review Crescent Kick

Crescent Kick is the fourth book of the Achieving Kicking Excellence series by Shawn Kovacich. Just as he did with the other volumes of the series, Kovacich attacked the instruction of the crescent kick with meticulous detail and thoroughness.

This book is the most detailed written description you will find on executing the crescent kick, and should be included in any martial artist’s book collection who incorporates kicking into his or her training. This is not a book you just sit down and read cover to cover for enjoyment. It is a resource text to be studied and referred to at various times during your training or teaching. Yes teaching! I think instructors will learn tips on how to teach the crescent kick by reading this manual.

The most valuable sections of this book are the chapters that teach the basics of the crescent kick and then the variations. The variations Kovacich covers include: Step-Back Crescent Kick, Back Spin Crescent Kick, Hop/Slide Forward Crescent Kick, Hop/Slide Backward Crescent Kick, Front Leg Crescent Kick, Switch Crescent Kick, Off-Setting Crescent Kick, Butterfly Crescent Kick, and the Back Spin Crescent Kick. The chapters do have some repetition, but this enables the book to be more easily used as a reference tool, since you can pick the book up and review any of the kicks without having to refer back to different chapters. Kovacich uses plentiful photographs and illustrations to demonstrate all aspects of the kick, striking angles, foot placement, and the arc of the kick. As I mentioned, he attacks this with meticulous detail and you will not find a more complete written account of the crescent kick anywhere.

The chapters on strength, speed, and power are the weakest chapters of the book. While it is nice that Kovacich included a bit on these topics, the real strength of this book is with the detailed instruction of the kick itself. There are many other resources out there that cover strength, speed, and power in more detail and depth than Kovaich does here. The good thing is he introduces these concepts and any good martial artist will further his or her study of these to incorporate into their training with different resources.

The trouble shooting guide offers some good tips to better your kicking, and Kovacich also includes a short chapter on crescent kick applications.

If you want in-depth instruction on the crescent kick and ten of its main variations, this book with over 200 pages of text, photographs, and illustrations is a must have addition to your martial art library. It is an excellent resource for any martial artist regardless of style.