My first acquaintance with Mark Jennings was back in May 2012 when he popped over to my stand at The Martial Arts Show in Birmingham to introduce himself. We had an interesting chat about the more practical aspects of karate and he happened to mention that he was working on the draft of his first book. Always happy to support aspiring writers, I offered to take a look at his manuscript and a couple of weeks later I received an email from Mark with his work attached.
Not long after this, I encountered a number of technological problems with my office PC that led me to lose a large number of emails contacts (including Mark's) that were waiting to be transferred over to my online mailing list. Taking on the project of building a brand new PC and then enlisting the help of a professional to salvage as much information from the old one, I eventually managed to recover the information I had 'lost'. On subsequent reply to Mark with what were now my belated comments, I found that his draft had already made great progress and was almost ready for publish!
Since then, we've managed to keep in regular contact and a few weeks ago, I received a signed copy of his book through the post inviting my review. So now that the book is available for purchase on Amazon (see the links below), I thought I would share my thoughts here with my website visitors.
The first thing that struck me about the book was the feel of it in my hands. It has clearly been well produced and the quality of the paper, printing and cover design are all very professional. A book feeling significantly heavier than you would imagine always affirms to me the level of quality and left me eager to open up the first page.
Having already read Mark's draft, my initial pass of the book was a quick glance through the chapters to see what major changes had been made. The original draft I'd received also had no images, so I trawled through the pages to see how the pictures were presented. Personally, I think that the book would have benefitted from having more images to help illustrate and supplement what are some very interesting topics, but this is only a very minor comment that is entirely based on my own personal reading preferences - I'm like a big kid at heart and always like a few pictures!
Many people would assume by the tile of this book that the pages contain a host of detailed applications to help support the combative nature of the art. In actual fact, this is not really the main focus of the book. Although the content does offer a selection of Bunkai Ohyo and physical strategies, what Mark manages to achieve instead is in my view much more meaningful. He places greater emphasis on how the traditional lessons and principles from karate may be applied to not only help keep you safe from harm, but also to positively influence your daily habits, make you more 'rounded' person and from a general perspective, allow you to lead a more fulfilling life. This in my opinion, offers a much more holistic definition for the word 'pragmatic' because it relates the study of karate to some of the most common and sometimes life experiences, rather than only those violent encounters that for the vast majority of mindful practitioners occur far less frequently!
Other noteworthy parts of the book share some of Mark's personal experiences and real life stories, which help to better understand the reasons behind his views and opinions. By no means is Mark a martial arts rookie or armchair warrior. we're talking here about a seasoned karate-ka, who has clocked up thirty years in the game and backs this up with many years serving as an active police officer. The fact that he has been able to lean on his experiences in karate to support the more challenging times in his life/work and also to re-assess his approach to the art where relevant makes what he has to say both intriguing and inspiring.
Here's a brief list of just some of the topics covered in the book:
Overall, I very much enjoyed reading Mark's book. He has obviously invested a great deal of effort in aiming to make his final product one of quality and although I couldn't help but notice a few minor spelling and grammar errors along the way, the content is interesting, engaging, useful and entirely relevant to all traditional karate practitioners. Mark's writing style never leaves you bored and the real life examples inject a sense of 'connectivity', proving that the author is indeed a man writing from a genuine place within.
I think that Mark should be very proud of his first book and I hope that the karate world may benefit from more of his work in the near future.
Purchase Mark's Book Below...
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Chris Denwood has been studying martial arts since childhood and specialises in the practical application of karate's traditional principles for civilian self-defence, personal development, life integration and discovery.