BOOK REVIEW by Peter Leitch
Title: Health and Fitness in the Martial Arts
Published: Charles E. Tuttle Co.,Inc.
How often do you find a medical doctor who not only appreciates the martial arts, but is prepared to write a book on the subject? Dr. James Canney is just such an individual and his book is thus a refreshing if not unusual contribution to the vast reserve of martial arts literature. Although the book is intended primarily for instructors and possibly parents of children receiving instruction, others participating in martial arts training will find the book informative.
The book is divided logically into convenient chapters, each dealing with a specific physical system of the body and how they affect and are affected by martial arts training. There is also a chapter on psychology in which the author identifies several important emotional attributes and character traits in the context of martial arts training. The final chapter of the book is on the training of children and is more of an appendix than a chapter.
The first chapter is concerned with nutrition and the digestive system. The author assumes a fair initial understanding of organic chemistry and this may cause problems for those of us with little or no background in the subject. However, grade 13 or equivalent level biology should provide sufficient understanding to grasp the gist of the story.
The second and third chapters deal with respiration and circulation; two closely related subjects. In these chapters the author has included some interesting facts about diseases and special conditions such as asthma, anaemia, haemophilia, heart abnormalities and hypertension, and how they relate to martial arts training. For example, the author emphatically states that haemophiliacs should never be permitted to practise the martial arts!
Chapters four, five and six consider the muscles, skeleton and various joints of the human body. As such, these three chapters contribute the bulk of the book's material and provide information which students and instructors alike will find immediately applicable. The effects of anaerobic training on muscle operation, bone growth and regeneration, flexibility, common injuries to joints, bones and muscles, plus exercises to help speed recovery are but a few of the subjects touched upon.
In chapter seven, the nervous system is described in remarkably comprehensive terms. The author includes an explanation of how our sense of balance works plus some interesting findings regarding the effects of martial arts training on reflex speed.
The eighth chapter deals with the major glands. Diabetes is briefly explained and implications for training described. The sex glands and the use of anabolic steroids are also mentioned in this chapter.
Chapter nine is concerned with the psychology involved with martial arts training. As mentioned above, the author attempts to define several important emotional attributes and their inter-relation with regard to successful training practises. He also cautions instructors on training students having problems controlling aggression or students displaying schizophrenic or psychopathic tendencies.
The final chapter (ten) on training children is really a review of the previous chapters with the obvious special emphasis. This chapter is necessarily both factual and subjective, and some readers may feel that the author's remarks require some additional qualification. The author supports his opinions with believable scenarios and even the results of a survey he managed to conduct!
On the whole, the book is as interesting and enjoyable as it is informative. It costs around $16.00, and at that price is a worthwhile addition to any collection of martial arts books.
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