Sunday, August 14, 2016

Review of "Striking Distance"

I readily admit that I know next to nothing about the sport of martial arts. When this book was offered to me by the University of Nebraska Press, I was hoping to learn a little more about the sport and Bruce Lee beyond what Hollywood portrayed. This book did that and so much more.  Here is my review of "Striking Distance."

“Striking Distance: Bruce Lee & The Dawn of Martial Arts in America” by Charles Russo

Martial arts, history, teaching

Publish date:
July 1, 2016

232 pages

4 ½ of 5 stars (excellent)

When one thinks of Bruce Lee, one usually thinks of Hollywood and the movies that the martial arts superstar made that became hits in the United States. However, Lee was much more than just an actor – he was a key figure in bringing the sport of martial arts to mainstream American and making them popular. How Lee assisted some of the pioneers of the sport in the San Francisco is the subject of this well written book by Charles Russo.

This book should be considered a biography, as only a short period of Lee’s life is covered, an approximately five-year period in the early 1960’s. Nor should the book be considered a complete history or a guide to the sport as the book concentrates on the sport as taught and participated in the San Francisco area.  But for the information that is written about, this book tells a complete picture and also lets the reader learn about some of the early pioneers of the sport. 

Drawing upon extensive research and numerous interviews, the reader will learn about the teachings of various forms of martial arts.  From the more popular and familiar forms like tai chi and ju jitsu and also some of the lesser known types as well.  Pioneers such as T.Y.Wong, James Yim Lee (not related to Bruce) and Master Choy Kam Man are introduced to the reader.

Bruce Lee’s adventure from being a dancing instructor to an eager martial arts student to a champion in various tourneys is also well documented and a fascinating journey. Not only did Lee participate in martial arts, but he was also a boxer – a sport with a strong connection to martial arts for both training and performance as Russo frequently mentions. 

Having little interest in either the sport of martial arts or the story of Bruce Lee before reading this book, it is one that any reader who is interested in any form of the sport should read.  Enthusiasts will enjoy the detailed stories about the sport in the Bay area and novices like me will learn a lot as well. 

I wish to thank University of Nebraska Press for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

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