Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Book Review: A Fighter's Heart

One of the fastest growing sub-genres in sports writing is that of Martial Arts, particularly, Mixed Martial Arts. Thanks to television shows like the Ultimate Fighter and feature films like Redbelt. There are books on how to roll, how to train, the importance of a good striking game, and, of course, the biographies of fighters like Chuck Liddell and Matt Hughes.

However, the book that stands head and shoulders above the rest is A Fighter's Heart by Sam Sheridan.

A Fighter's Heart is a memoir that details Sheridan's involvement and growing understanding of professional fighting. His story begins in Australia, where he takes up Muay Thai kickboxing as a way of staying fit and spending his considerable savings earned from being a ship's mate aboard a private yacht. He moves from Australia to the fabled Fairtex gym in Thailand, and then on to training with Pat Miletich in the American Midwest, he practices Brazilian Jiu-Jitsiu with Brazilian Top Team in Rio, trains with an Olympic boxer in Oakland, tries tai chi in New York City with a master and even goes to Myanmar to see dog and cock fighting; throughout the journey he reflects on fighting and why it fascinates us.

It is these reflections that make the book. There are already countless books on how to train, how to fight, which strategies are the best, all of that. Sheridan's book covers some of that, but really, it explores why we fight. Of particular interest is the concept of "gameness". Our fascination with the ability to keep fighting, past the thresholds of pain and logic. It's a fascinating concept, and Sheridan does a great job of exploring it.

Honestly, I didn't know what to expect when I began reading this book, but after skimming the first chapter while at the World's Biggest Bookstore, I was intrigued. Sheridan's writing is engaging, and definitely a page-turner, a rarity in the world of fighter's autobiographies that are too often ghost-written and/or uninspired. He drew me in with his story, and his reflections on the value of gameness have stuck with me.

This is a book that would appeal to fight fans and novices alike. Highly recommended.

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