“The Principles of Unarmed Combat” Book Review

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It’s the fundamentals of fighting that often get dismissed by students as they begin to improve with their technical skills. With so much information being thrown at them, it’s easy to forget basic things, or take them for granted when they become familiar and a part of your muscle memory. The best way to step back from your comfort zone and refresh yourself, while ideally learning a few new moves, is to grab a big fat instructional book and re-educate yourself.

“The Principles of Unarmed Combat” by Mark Jacobs offers you a second glance at those fundamentals of fighting, then expands into so much more. Made up of more than 50 chapters packed into ten distinct sections, this book covers everything from techniques to strategy to the science of combat, but does it succeed in delivering the goods, or does it fail like an undertrained noob in his first ammy fight?

Hit the jump to check out the full review of this book!

Released by Turtle Press, “The Principles of Unarmed Combat” weighs in at a whopping 340 pages, give or take, and is as tall as any of the releases from Victory Belt publishing. The major difference here is cosmetically, since this book does not feature any color photos. In fact, the book has no photos at all, nor does it have any big-name fighters names emblazoned on the book (other than Gene Lebell). Does that automatically make it lose points? Of course not.

As we have seen with other products I have reviewed from authors who might not be tremendously well-known in the MMA world, you should never judge a book by its cover. That might be the biggest detractor of this book, simply in that it comes off looking like a rather dull and plain book. In reality, this is the ultimate textbook for fighting, and does not skimp on information. This single-volume holds as much information as an entire instructional tape series, yet only costs a fraction of one of those aforementioned videos.

In terms of detail and level of instruction, Jacobs writing rivals Bas Rutten’s “Big Book of Combat” series, and even some of the great instructionals from Victory Belt that we have reviewed in the past. This is a technical guidebook to every minute aspect of fighting that you need to know, broken down on a molecular level of scientific detail. Every phase of combat, from closing the distance, to clinching, to what happens when the fight hits the ground, is dissected and collected into this tome.

What differentiates Mark’s book from others is that this is not just a book of punches and kicks and various techniques bound together. It is that, plus the addition of discussion from doctors, physicists, scientists, and other educated people that add even more depth to an already expansive book on fighting.

We are talking explanations of things like why rotating your arm to a certain angle can improve the power of a punch, or why the roundhouse kick is one of the best kicks for fighting, and how to maximize your footwork to increase your prowess in the cage.

As I have been saying, the presentation of the book is a bit lackluster compared to what I have seen from other larger companies, but the instruction is what matters. As you can see from the page on the left, instead of photos of fighters demonstrating the techniques, we have CG rendered people showing off each move. However, there are not a ton of these to look at for reference. In some cases, you can go a few pages without seeing one image (although many other places, you can get a few on each page).

I am a big proponent of visual aids when it comes to fighting, so this book surely could have benefitted from more photos, or at least some color images. On the other hand, the lack of color has also kept the price of this book down to half of the cost of a book from a company like Victory Belt, and in this case, I think it’s more than a fair trade-off.

In his foreward to the book, Gene Lebell sums up the best aspects of it when he wrote, “What you’ll get is probably the only book ever to tell you exactly why things work in martial arts, why they don’t work, how to fix them, and give you clear, simple evidence that what it says here is accurate and true.” Perfect for students of all levels, “The Principles of Unarmed Combat” offers invaluable information for any combat situation, and why techniques will succeed or fail. This is not your typical instruction manual, and is broader for overall fighting rather than just MMA or kickboxing, but it covers everything with equal attention and will have you rethinking your fundamentals within the first few pages.

You can order “The Principles of Unarmed Combat” by Mark Jacobs from Amazon for around $18. At that price, this book is 100% worth it, and, even though we are still very early into 2012, this book is definitely a front-runner for best all-around fighting instructional book for the year!

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