I will start off with the “bad” things about this book. I am doing this because people usually put the bad things at the end of the review and leave the reader with a final impression that is negative.
Firstly, this book, other than the cover illustration contains no illustrations. It is true that a picture tells a thousand words and there are a few points in the book when a diagram would have clarified things enormously. In defence of the book, such illustrations would greatly add to the cost. They are not easy to produce and line drawings in particular are time consuming and hence expensive to have commissioned. Fortunately, Mr LaFond provides links to YouTube clips demonstrating the techniques and explanations contained in the book. A very sensible compromise.
Secondly the book has been compiled from numerous articles that Mr LaFond has previously published on his blog and the writing contains some grammar and spelling mistakes. Occasionally some sentences need reading a few times to understand what the author is trying to say. If you are a Grammar Nazi, you will hate this book but to dismiss it on this basis is a mistake. It could have done with a review by an editor before publishing but again, that would add to the cost. The glitches are minor and do not detract from the overall good impression the book made on me.
OK, now for the positive things about the book. This book is very modestly priced and is pure lean meat with no fat or woffle. It does not “explain” the history of stick fighting (hint – mankind has been bashing each other over the head with thigh bones, sticks and suchlike for a few million years). There are no oriental Dojos claiming to have invented the style and Mr LaFond does not attempt to waste time, effort and paper on claiming such history. He has devoted the book to telling you what to do and how to do it in clear and straightforward language. His expertise shows through with many references to avoiding injury and strains caused by moving incorrectly, poor defence or overextending the body to building up the stamina and strength needed by the student. Very, very few books will safeguard the reader with such advice. Clearly Mr LaFond has been there, got the T shirt and has developed a deep understanding of the subject matter and it shows throughout the book. For the safeguards and injury prevention alone, it is worth its modest cost.
Mr LaFond also describes the injuries and accidents that he has suffered with a dark humour which again is refreshing in such a book. It adds to his credibility and demonstrates that he is not an “All talk and chalk” instructor who never makes a mistake. He is, in essence, saying “learn from my mistakes”.
This is a “doing” book. You COULD read it like a novel but would not leave you with much understanding of the techniques or skills explained in the book. Read a chapter or part of a chapter, get on your feet and go through the exercises explained and described to learn how to stick fight. In this way, some of the techniques that seem confusing at first become self-explanatory and understandable.
There is a glossary to explain what the various terms mean that he uses throughout the book and a training syllabus to take the reader from beginner to advanced which follows the development of the skills in the chapters of the books to assist the reader in a progression of skills, stamina and strength. This is useful so that the reader does not try to take on too much at once or attempt techniques that need to build on a foundation of basic techniques to cause the reader to become discouraged and/or injured.
There are a series of discussions (questions and answers) taken from the comments on Mr LaFond's blog after the main body of the work and these are valuable because they expand on the main body of the book. The book simply and clearly lays out instructions to achieve proficiency in the techniques and the questions and answer discussions, if inserted into the relevant chapters, would tend to break the flow of the material. However, the questions are exactly what a student would ask in a formal class and provide an enjoyable and insightful supplement to understand the techniques and put them into context.
His discussions of real duels and injuries make for interesting if somewhat grim reading. However, this is a combat activity and he does not pull punches or try to varnish the truth of what happens when hard stick meets flesh and bone. The hard practicality shines through and if this shocks you, take up chess as an intellectual activity. This is a martial art, not a sport.
Mr LaFond's dry sense of humour shows through and there are a few laugh out loud moments which again shows that he takes the subject seriously but can laugh at himself. This is an extremely rare quality that is missing from the other deadly earnest martial arts books I have read.
One very minor quibble I have is the title. Mr LaFond seems to have written the book for stick fighting competition. I would agree with his assessment that this would take you (if it was a formal martial art) to 1st Dan level (or first black belt) and he says, quite correctly that you still have a way to go before having the skills to compete at high level. I cannot disagree but if you read and practice what he has laid out in this manual and achieved a reasonable proficiency, you will likely be devastating on the street against any adversary that was not armed with a firearm. Which is why I bought it in the first place.
So, for its modest price it packs a lot of real world practical experience into its covers. It is readable and with the YouTube videos to supplement the written material and illustrate the techniques in real time plus the discussions from the blog comments, it is one of the few books I can recommend unreservedly.