Book review: Filipino Combat Systems by Mark Edward CodyJuly 4, 2009
So, I promised a less-positive book review, and here it is. The book is Filipino Combat Systems by Mark Edward Cody. It is “an introduction to Filipino Combat Systems and…an introduction to the core concepts that are found within this system.” (quote taken from the introduction, emphasis theirs). It is presented in the form of a list of techniques, principles, and concepts, each with accompanying images and descriptions.
The quote in the previous paragraph illustrates my first issue with this book. The overuse of boldface, italics, and exclamation points immediately makes the text feel amateurish. A sample paragraph (I literally just opened the book at random and chose the first short paragraph I came across):
All knowledge is power. The more knowledge you possess, the more power you possess!
By overusing emphasis in this way, the (rare) instances where the text actually deserves emphasis are completely lost. The effect is like a mid-90s web page, with fonts and colors thrown in more or less at random – it makes the text feel like a ransom note.
Typological issues aside, the list-form presentation feels random, as if the author sat down and brainstormed a whole bunch of topics he wanted to talk about, and then just discussed each one in order. There’s no unifying framework around the sections to hold them together, and so even the most fundamental principles are given equal treatment with niche applications. For example, the last few sections in the table of contents are: “The Kris”, “The Sarong“, “The Basics of Self Defense”, “The Expandable Baton”, and “The Future of the Martial Arts”. What’s the theme there?
On the positive side, when the book is discussing mechanical principles and techniques, the images are clear and effective. If you can ignore the unpolished presentation, there is good information in the text, though you will have to dig some in order to find it. This is not a book for beginners – it’s more of a reference manual for someone who already has a relatively good grasp of martial principles, and just wants to see how they’re applied in the Filipino arts.
Overall, I can’t recommend this book for pretty much anybody. It’s too disorganized and technical to be a good teaching manual for a novice, and too shallow to be a useful reference for an expert. It’s worth glancing through in the bookstore if you get a chance, but I wouldn’t buy it again.