Review: “From Creation To Unification” By Stuart Anslow


First, a note for the sake of full disclosure. As the author worked on finalizing this book, I shared with him a similar report I had written as my thesis when testing for 1st degree black belt. We Battleshipped back and forth about various factual and stylistic questions after he had read my report. He was even so kind to include me in the acknowledgements and bibliography.

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While I consider Mr. Anslow a friend, and I might have contributed in this book in some small way, I am not obligated to give the book a positive review. Just as I would expect him to provide constructive criticism of my writing or taekwon-do technique, I will do the same for this book. I certainly can’t be critical of his taekwon-do technique since he outranks me. 🙂

That said, let’s get to the brass tacks of this review.

Taekwon-do practitioners who perform the Ch’ang Hon patterns or, as is the case with my school, a derivation of them due to various splits over the years will be familiar with the pattern set that goes from Chon-Ji through Tong-Il. As students, we are expected to learn the meanings as put forth by General Choi Hong-Hi in the ITF Encyclopedia. Often after a student gives a correct meaning during class or testing, I will ask them, “Correct, but what does that mean?” This is my way of telling the students they need to do more than just rote memorization of the meanings. It’s no different than learning how to perform a pattern correctly but not understand the applications of the various techniques.

As noted at the outset, when I tested for 1st degree black belt in 2002, my thesis was a 97 page (what, you complain about a two page report for your belt testings? :)) history of the patterns from Chon-Ji through Kwang-Gae (at that time the highest pattern I knew). I had started at blue belt with Joong-Gun, as I found his life and patriotism fascinating. It continued until black belt, when I went back and did histories for the patterns prior to blue belt.

That said, I might have more insight than the average person when it comes to analyzing this book my Mr. Anslow. And, without a doubt, I was not disappointed.

He provides detailed information about each of the 25 patterns from the ITF curriculum (including both Juche and Ko-Dang, for those expecting 24) as well as the six GTF patterns created by Grandmaster Park Jung-Tae prior to his death in 2002. Included as part of of each pattern is a listing of the definition as put forth by Gen. Choi, even if it is incorrect (such as the birth year of Do-San Ahn Chang-Ho), then Mr. Anslow proceeds to dissect and analyze the meaning, determining, if possible, the reason behind the number of moves in the pattern.

Mr. Anslow also provides much detail about the history behind the person or concept for which the pattern was named, supplying many pictures about the people involved and giving very detail footnotes. These footnotes naturally tie to an extensive bibliography at the end of the book.

The author is also not shy about pointing out errors in the original meanings, not in an effort to discredit or demean Gen. Choi, but rather point out that Gen. Choi was first and foremost a solider and martial artist, not a historian. Consequently, it’s not unheard of that some facts may not be as accurate as at first glance.

Overall, I am very impressed with this book. Mr. Anslow has been doing research on this for decades, and it shows. I can also know from personal interactions with him that if he was not able to validate as factual something he ran across, he excluded it from the book rather than risking the integrity of the book. There are some stylistic things that annoyed me, but those have no bearing on the overall quality of the book. Naturally, I did find a couple of items that I believe are factually incorrect, which is inevitable in a first edition. If those due bear out to be inaccuracies, I have no doubt the author will make every effort to correct them prior to the next edition.

Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)

Review: “Grimm & Grimmer Volume 1” And “Grimm & Grimmer, Volume 2”, Edited By Theresa Derwin


I’m going to combine both of these in one review since they are very similar and share the same editor and publisher.

I actually tracked these down because a friend of mine, Matthew Sylvester, wrote one of the stories in Volume Two. They both looked enticing, and the price was right, so I grabbed both volumes.

The premise for both books are the same: the original tales as told by the Brothers Grimm were a lot darker than the sterilized versions we see in Disney movies now. Prospective authors were tasked with writing stories which returned to the stories of old, telling stories that were either harsher, more stark or even, in a couple of cases, simply a little off-kilter.

I must say these stories deliver. Having a warped sense of humor myself and a having grown up watching Fractured Fairy Tales as a kid, most of these were right up my alley.

My favorites from Volume One were “Building The Dream” by Lynda Collins and “Pork, Hammy And Chop” by William Meikle.

Collins’ story is told from the perspective of the person responsible for the building of various structures in fairy tales, most notably, the tower in the story of Rapunzel. Fans of fairy tales of all sorts will love subtle references to other characters in her story. While more humorous than dark, it’s still quite entertaining.

The yarn Meikle spins for us is a retelling of the story of The Three Pigs. And, oh yeah, the Big Bad Wolf is actually a zombie. Twisted and hilarious, this one was absolutely one I wish I had thought of telling. Outstanding.

In Volume Two, my favorites were “One Hundred Lost Years” by Jennifer Loring and “Death’s Messengers” by Matthew Sylvester.

“One Hundred” is a mishmosh of a couple of stories, primarily that of Sleeping Beauty. Loring takes the tack of trying to find out why Sleeping Beauty was in such a slumber, the resulting direction definitely a dark path.

As I mentioned in the opening portion of this review, I was turned onto these books by my friendship with Matthew Sylvester, so I feel obligated to note that calling his story one of my favorites is not just glad-handing a fellow author to help promote his work.

I found “Death’s Messengers” quite original, being the story of the Grim Reaper told in a futuristic / sci-fi world. In this world, the Grim Reaper is actually one of many individuals, enhanced by combat suits which aid them in attack, defense and healing, who are contracted to eliminate people when their time is due. The story takes a twist when the Messenger’s primary hit unknowingly saves the Messenger’s life following an unplanned battle. Where the story goes from there is what gives it its depth.

Overall, the tales by Loring and Sylvester aside, I found Volume Two less original than Volume One. But both still contain quality writing.

Rating:

5 stars (out of 5) for Volume One

4 stars (out of 5) for Volume Two