Thursday, 4 April 2013

A Fighter's Heart (Book Review)

Great, another book written by a Harvard kid trying to be on the cutting edge of a growing industry.” That was the first thought to enter my mind when I read the blurb; in that split second I had already figured out that this story would be nothing more than a cursory view and less that accurate view of the combat styles I loved so much. Nevertheless, the apparent lack of any real literature surrounding the aspect of combat, especially MMA and the new breed of combat sports, led me to take another moment to read some of the reviews provided to me by the Oracle, AKA Amazon Reviews. I was actually shocked to see a unanimous 5 star rating for this book. I assured myself it was still just a bunch of critics who probably had never been involved with martial arts in any remit. In any case, trying to back up my own assumption I ordered the book, eager to be disappointed.

What transpired was actually shocking. I was captivated from the very first page. Starting off as a lost graduate, pretty much like most of us, Sam ended up landing a job on a yacht which saw him travel the world and alight in Australia where his real martial arts journey began. From the outset, he tries to define what it is that he aims to achieve; he essentially wants to see if he can truly defend himself in a physical altercation. This is a strange feeling which most people who have ever entered a fighting gym or wanted to step into a ring/cage have probably battled with. It’s the constant sense of fear and worry that if it came down to it, could you protect yourself and your loved ones? Seems like a pretty basic feeling when you put it on paper, but in reality it’s a behemoth of an emotion to contend with. It seems like throughout his time travelling the world over the span of 7 years, training with the toughest guys on the planet, Sheridan makes the avid realisation that instead of this being a mere physical obstacle, it’s also a mental and spiritual obstacle which he must overcome.

To my delight, it became more of a memoir of a man’s journey discovering himself through fighting rather than simply his journey through the world of fighting- two very different things. It also did not fail in its authenticity. Like I stated before, I assumed, quite wrongly and foolishly, that this book would be a mere observational account of the art of combat and not really give any real insights. Instead, the raw truth is laid out bare for all to see. The harsh reality of sacrifice, blood, sweat, physical and mental endurance is never comprised simply to bring some Hollywood style action to the book. From the injuries which stopped Sam partaking in two fights, to the ego crushing defeat felt  on your first few times sparing in the gym, this book will resonate with not only fighters and lovers of the sport, but also those who are passionate about anything.  

Sheridan goes a long way to portray many of the fighters in the light which they should be portrayed in. Not one of a crazed cage fighter or menace to society, but rather, intelligent and charismatic human beings who have made choice to devote their lives to a craft and an art form. In many ways his analysis of fighting is scientific insofar as he deconstructs a lot of the stereotypes and the universal concepts which drive humans into combat. This is where the book truly shines in my opinion, as he explores the concept of ‘gameness’ and how this is actually universal across genders, occupations, race and status.

Sam leaves you thinking about struggle, commitment and victory in the broader context wondering what the place of ‘gameness’ is in today’s society of hypochondriacs. This book will truly shock you and hopefully provide you with a new perspective on a very much misunderstood part of society. 

By Viren Samani (@VirenSamani1)  

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