A Fighter's Heart: One Man's Journey Through the World of Fighting Paperback – Jan 21 2008
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Sheridan joined the merchant marines after high school, eventually graduated from Harvard, and worked his way to Australia on a yacht. There, in 1999, he decided to indulge his fascination with fighting, hoping to test himself and explore what has become a mostly sublimated aspect of masculinity. After some months of training in Australia, he moved to Bangkok to train with a legendary Muay Thai (kickboxing) champion. That experience--and his first professional bout--expanded into a multiyear odyssey in which he trained with Olympic boxers, Brazilian jujitsu champions, and Ultimate Fighting combatants. The magic in his account is in the telling detail--not only about how he suffers, trains, and fights but also about his reactions to his surroundings; the way, for example, he finds himself gradually becoming indifferent to the street orphans of Brazil, desensitized by their very omnipresence. It isn't Sheridan's toughness or fearlessness that makes this an involving excursion into a shadow world; it's his ability to re-create the textures of those shadows and to make us care about his oddly quixotic journey. Wes Lukowsky
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
'[An] excellent book.' -BoxingScene.comSee all Product Description
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On the surface, Mr. Sheridan doesn't appear to be the fighting type. He grew up in a relatively stable family situation, attended Harvard, and likes to write. But he clearly wanted more excitement from life than cranking out human interest articles at the local bistro. Instead, he joined the Merchant Marines, got into wilderness firefighting, and along the way was bit hard by the fighting bug.
To indulge and understand his compulsion, the author traveled the world to try his mettle in various full-contact martial arts: Muay Thai in Thailand, MMA in Iowa, jiu-jitsu in Brazil, and boxing in California. In addition to testing himself in these potentially harmful venues, he also wanted to seek out other seasoned fighters and trainers for mentoring and instruction. He even checked out animal fighting and action movie stunt work to broaden his perspectives. Finally, Mr. Sheridan concludes his book with an analysis of why humans fight.
I found his detours into the more obscure aspects of fighting quite interesting. For example, he briefly explores the internal arts by studying under a Tai Chi master and engaging in Buddhist meditation at a Thai retreat center. These segues rewarded him with a greater understanding of body mechanics and a sharper mental focus. He even discovered commonalities between the various martial arts, such as the relationship between shadow boxing and kata. Mr. Sheridan's foray into stunt work for actor Paul Walker to understand the lure of action movies was also intriguing. And I enjoyed meeting the many fighters, teachers, and other colorful personalities he encountered.
Despite its superb insights, "A Fighter's Heart" suffers from two shortcomings. First, Mr. Sheridan kept getting injured, so he didn't engage in formal competition very much. Indeed, his physical limitations often relegated him to the role of observer and hanger-on. Also, his journey into the seamy world of dog and chicken fighting was an unwelcome diversion. The sweetest pet I ever owned was a pit bull, and I hate to see them tear each other up for money. To be fair, he made some interesting observations about this darker form of fighting. But I could've lived without it.
"A Fighter's Heart" is not only a fascinating look into various martial arts (and a good travelogue to boot), it's also a window of understanding into why otherwise sane individuals try to hurt each other. After reading this book, I'm more aware of the internal motivations and external forces that drive me towards karate, boxing (and even motorcycle riding). I recommend it to anyone who's curious about his or her own compulsion to face off against someone in the ring.
"A Figher's Heart" is memorable, inspiring, and instructive. He points out - being a fighter is all about figuring our who you are, what works for you. It's interesting how that idea comes up again and again throughout the book, whether he is training in Asia or in Brazil. By studying seemingly unrelated arts - Muay Thai, wrestling, boxing, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Chi Gun, the author discovers surprising parallels.
I found it very interesting to read about the psychological aspects of professional fighting. The author covers a wide range of topics - from intreviewing a boxer who had killed his opponent in the ring and how it affected him, to his own experience of preparing for a fight. If you haven't ever made a conscious decision to face crippling injury or even death before - this book will tell you exactly what it feels like, to step into the ring. If you have - it will make you want to buy this guy a beer. The part where he talks about an old injury - that kept haunting him, and maade him unable to continue a fight - almost made me cry.
The author doesn't stop there - he talks about dealing defeat, violence, dog fights, feeling alive, celebrity. This is the kind of book that makes you forget about your stupid day job and your cubicle, and makes you realize how good it is to be a man.
The first was an ugly chapter on dog fighting. Despite trying to draw comparisons between man and dog, it doesnt work at all. (In my own opinion, dog fighting seems more for those who dont have the courage to fight themselves.)
The second chapter with no ryhme or reason is the meandering narrative on being extras in a B movie with Miletich's crew. Thoughout it was obvious that Sheridan was searching for some way to end this book.
I would suggest that the author heal up and head back to Brazil or Thailand and get the experiences necessary to conclude this book without more references to Joyce Carol Oates. (The chapter on jiu jitsu was particularly brief since the author managed to get arm-barred by a white belt and disabled to the point of no longer being able to train?)
I've never understood what makes a fighter tick. Why would someone want to take life and limb into a ring with just the goal of beating someone up? Mr. Sheridan can't answer that question for everyone, but he comes closer than most. It provides a bit of background and understanding for the famous Muhammad Ali quote:
'Champions aren't made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them-a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have last-minute stamina, they have to be a little faster, they have to have the skill and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.'
Well, now I understand a little better, but I still don't want to go down the road he took.