My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Most martial art streams teach some form of staff fighting and forms. Sometimes there’s rationale given, and at other times it’s simply, “Do this and make it look good.” The value of learning the staff varies from school to school. Joe Varady, award winning martial artists, instructor and accomplished author, has pulled together this 203 page softback manual, “The Art and Science of Staff Fighting: A Complete Instructional Guide” to strengthen the ability of the karateka. It is a how-to handbook that covers bo staff, quarter staff, disarming techniques, and unarmed-against-a-staff.
“The Art and Science of Staff Fighting” takes the learner through nine progressive levels of staff training, beginning with the fundamentals and traveling all the way to the use of a spear, because a spear “is simply a staff equipped with a power multiplier” (159). Clear pictures, directional arrows, stance and foot-placement diagrams, and explanations are all useful and lucid. At the end of six of the chapters are suggested workout regimens to help hone learned skills. There are also plans for building training equipment at home that can have uses beyond staff training. This is truly a how-to book!
The explanations are meant to give the kind of logic a trainee needs to have to become expert in staff fighting. The science (specifically, physics) of using the staff is lined out in bits and pieces from chapter to chapter, and then fully explained in the first appendix penned by Chris Hall. The artfulness is quickly obvious as Varady explains the “why” and “wherefore” of each level. The detail of the material is solid, but not dense. For example, as the author is explaining the importance of targeting, he notes that there are two types of staff strikes, distraction and disablement. Also, the purpose of the strikes is either structural attacks, nerve attacks or a combination of both (25). Without wearing down the reader, Varady explains his point, illustrates it, and then moves to the next level. The book moves at a nice, steady pace.
“The Art and Science of Staff Fighting” is an easy-to-approach, easy-to-use guide, valuable for both instructors and learners. This would make a great addition to a lending library in any martial art school, as well as a good supplement to a personal collection. I highly recommend the book.
Thanks YMAA Publication Center for providing, upon my request, the free copy of “The Art and Science of Staff Training” used for this review. The assessments are mine given without restrictions or requirements (as per Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255).
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