Masterclass: Kicking Techniques by Michael Berger
2007 brought Michael R. Berger’s ‘Master Class, Kicking Techniques’ through my letterbox in one of those wonderful postal packages that I love having delivered. Reviewing new books is one of my favourite things to do, and it’s especially pleasing when the book or DVD is really good.
This book, as the title would so clearly suggest, is based solely on kicking, a great opportunity to thoroughly delve into the intricacies of one topic, rather than briefly touching here and there on a wide and broad selection of topics.
Upon the inside of my copy, Michael has signed ‘To Shaun, Each Moment only Once’, a touching sentiment that drew me into the book, and made me all the more eager to read about this project. Berger, who spent much time in Japan training with Senseis Nakayama, Shoji, and Watanabe to name a few, was one of very few foreigners to ever be accepted to train at the infamous Takushoku University, training with Sensei Tsuyama. This vital period of his life, combined with his own vigorous research and training as resulted in the presentation of this book. (Watch out for our interview with Michael Berger coming soon)
In this book, Berger looks at the following kicking techniques:
- Mae Geri
- Mawashi Geri
- Gyaku Mawashi Geri
- Ura Mawashi Geri
- Ushiro Geri
- Yoko Geri Kekomi
- Yoko Geri Keage
- Less frequently used kicks (Mae Geri Kekomi, Otoshi Geri etc)
The set up of the book gives the author an opportunity to thoroughly explore each kick. Each kick has its own chapter, which gives a very organised and structured approach to reading. Furthermore, each chapter is comprised of categories:
- Description (Which naturally provides an initial introduction to the kick, discussing the main points that are important to consider with the kick.)
- Common Mistakes (Which covers the most common errors that appear when practicing the kick) This then naturally leads onto:
- Training Exercise (Exercises to develop the kick, and solve some of the common mistakes)
- Offensive Combinations (Which is further broken down into Direct attacks and Indirect Attacks)
- Defensive Combinations (Which is further broken down into Counterattacks using Maai, and counterattacks using Uke Waza)
This set-up, as I have said, gives Berger the scope to thoroughly delve into each kick, and give them the attention they deserve. Each smaller category, named above, gives interesting details to the kicks. My favourite however is the training exercises category.
In this respect, for me, this is where this book really does become very useful for instructors and eager students alike.
For mawashi geri for example, Berger provides 6 separate training methods to help develop the kick. This, as with the entire book, is excellently and fully demonstrated by Berger who also provides a textual description of the exercise. This is excellent and there are many elements of this book that I have no doubt will come in handy to so many.
There is a very real clarity with this book that is not all too common with technical karate manuals. I often read manuals and find it had to follow the instructions with the photos as the layout is not necessarily easy to follow. This however I have found a dream. It is very easy to follow and this is most definitely a benefit.
Another wonderful aspect of this book is the chapter dealing with the less common kicks in karate, kicks that have been almost forgotten and rarely practiced, which is real shame as they clearly, as Berger demonstrates, have very important part in karate. I wonder why kicks such as Otoshi Geri have been almost left aside, and I would possibly attribute this to the presence of competition, especially in recent times, as they are clearly dangerous. Hopefully, this book will help stir up an interest in these kicks, and bring them into play in the dojo a little more.
Very important in this book, apart from the actual execution of the kick itself, is the application of the kick. This I also found particularly interesting as he provides his own thoughts and insights into how the kicks can and should be applied against an opponent. This, considered with attention to detail, also demonstrates the many dimensions of the kicks, but also the skills of Berger.
Overall this is a superb book that I would definitely recommend. It does a very good job, where many other books fail. It is a beautifully illustrated book that is easy to follow and use with your training.