February 2023 Book Survey Part 1


 Welcome to the February 2023 book survey, part one. I decided to break this month's survey into three posts. This is the first, and the others will follow shortly.


In February 2023, I (Richard) continued my reading plan. This month I surveyed grappling/striking/power, exotic arts, and kicking. This post covers grappling/striking/power.

The Sambo Encyclopedia: Comprehensive Throws, Holds, and Submission Techniques For All Grappling Styles, Steve Scott, 2015/2019

I bought a print version of The Sambo Encyclopedia, but there is also a Kindle edition. My copy is a 8 1/2 inches by 10 7/8 inches paperback with 332 black and white pages. There appears to be a 2015 edition, as well as a 2006 book called Championship Sambo

I am a big fan of Mr. Scott's approach to all grappling arts, including judo and sambo. In this text, his coverage of technique starts with essentials on page 20. 

The pages could use a better layout. Some wasted space means the photos could be bigger. 

The advantage of the digital edition is that you can zoom in as needed. Here are some example photos:

The book does a nice job capturing uke in the art of throwing tori:

There are so few solid books on sambo in English that this one is a no-brainer purchase for anyone interested in the art.

Sumo for Mixed Martial Arts: Winning Clinches, Takedowns, & Tactics, Andrew Zerling, 2016

My copy of Sumo for Mixed Martial Arts is a 7 1/4 inches by 9 3/8 inches paperback with 163 black and white pages. Similar to sambo, there are few books in English available. When I saw this title in the local book store, I had to buy it. There is also a Kindle edition available. 

Steve Scott and Stephen Kesting wrote forewords for this book.

This title offers a nice overview of sumo as a sport and art. The format isn't that big, but the photos are still clear enough to depict the large muscle motions of the techniques. 

As with the previous title, the digital edition allows the reader to zoom in to see details.

I liked this book and applaud the author for bringing sumo to the MMA and grappling communities.

Championship Fighting: Explosive Punching and Aggressive Defense, Jack Demspey, 1950/2015

Jack Dempsey (1895-1983) published Championship Fighting in 1950. Unlike most older books, it's tough to find a digital copy of the original at a site like the Internet Archive. The version at the Internet Archive is a reformatted edition, although it preserves the illustrations.

I bought a 2015 faithful reprint which is a 5 1/2 inches by 8 3/8 inches paperback with 208 black and white pages. There is also a Kindle edition available.

Mr. Dempsey is an important boxer in his own right, but I was particularly interested in what influence he had on Bruce Lee. Those familiar with Mr. Lee's work will see the Dempsey connections.

Mr. Dempsey presents his art on p 11: "[T]he purpose of boxing lessons is to teach a fellow to defend himself with his fists, not to point him toward amateur or professional competition with boxing gloves."

I liked the book's "artsy" 1940s/1950s-style line drawings. 

There was way more material on blocking, deflection, and evading than I expected.

This book belongs in every martial artist's library. Let me know what you think of the Kindle edition if you buy it.

The Book of Martial Power, Steven J. Pearlman, 2006

My copy of The Book of Martial Power is a large 8 1/2 inches by 10 7/8 inches paperback with 240 black and white pages. I bought it because it seemed to apply to all martial arts.

The book offers 70 "principles," which is just too many. They are grouped by theory, however, with topics like physiokinetics, technique, philosophy, and so on. 

I loved the large format, but some pages with only text have a ton of blank space. Here is a sample spread from an eBay auction:

This was unfortunately the weakest title in this collection, but it's worth a page-through at the book store.

Principles, Analysis, and Application of Effortless Combat Throws, Tim Cartmell, 2013

My copy of Effortless Combat Throws is a paperback measuring 8 inches by 10 inches with 190 black and white pages. My edition lists 2013 as the publication date. Online, I've seen references to 1998, 2005, and 2006, so I'm not sure exactly how old this book might be.

Mr. Cartmell is famous for integration kung fu with BJJ and judo. His book is a big format title with ok layout and organization. There are only three chapters, but there is plenty of content. 

Despite the large format, I wish the pictures were larger and clearer, with perhaps 4 per page and not 6 per page. Also, when uke and tori both wear dark clothing, against a dark mat, it's tough to discern details.

Here's a sample page layout from an eBay auction:

This is a neat cross-discipline look at throwing.

Medieval Wrestling: Modern Practice of a 15th-Century Art, Jessica Finley, 2014

My copy of Medieval Wrestling is a paperback measuring 7 inches by 10 inches, with 168 black and white pages. My notes capture my reaction -- "there is SO MUCH in this book!" It relies on Christian Tobler's In St. George's Name, surveyed here in December, as the source for the "von Danzig" wrestling content.

This ringen material derives from Master Ott, the "baptized Jew," who liked died in 1452, and his Codex 44 A 8 manuscript. 

Prior to techniques, Ms. Finley offers great background and context. The techniques occupy pages 40-142. I loved the reprints of classic illustrations. There is also a wonderful reproduction of a wrestling concordance composed by Ranier Welle. The book also includes drills and a bibliography.

Here are a couple page images from the publisher:

I just love this book. It demonstrates that medieval wrestling and throwing was just as sophisticated as anything developed in Asia or elsewhere.


Every title except Martial Power is a great buy. My personal favorite is probably Medieval Wrestling, as it is a great example of the intersection of Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) scholarship and practice.

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  1. I have a paperback version of Jack Dempsey's book, and I really like it! He was from the generation of boxers who started fighting barefisted so his comments are more relevant for other martial artists.


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