Monday, 23 March 2015

Review of "Combative Elbow Strikes" by Jeff Rosser

Combative Elbow Strikes;

A Guide to Strikes, Blocks, Locks and Take Downs

Review By Ørjan Nilsen
Originally published in the January issue of Totally Taekwondo Magazine


Those who follow Totally Taekwondo Magazine loyally every month have probably read Jeff Rosser`s brilliant article series regarding elbow strikes and just how much more you can get out of them using the same movement as the basic elbow strikes. I was so impressed by that article series that when I heard that he was going to publish a whole book I asked him if I could get the chance to do a review for Totally Taekwondo Magazine and an interview. The interview was published in the last issue of the magazine, I have been “living” in his book for several weeks now trying out the applications, scrutinizing every word and I must say that this is a must have book for any Taekwondo or Karate student. So if you were wondering if I recommend the book or not I guess you do not have to read much further, but if you want to know the “why” you definitely should.

I have close to a 100 Martial Art books in my “library” at the time of writing and one thing that really bugs me is how few of those books actually contribute something new. A huge percentage of the books published on Taekwondo is a rehash of the same material and if you are lucky the authors have worded the same content in a slightly new way. There are exceptions of course and a great number of those authors who contribute something new to the table also write for Totally Taekwondo Magazine.

So the first question I asked myself when I started writing this review is: Does the book contribute something new or is it just more of the same? Jeff writes about something that although contained in our art it is so often overlooked that you can easily find black belt holders argue that it is not even a part of Taekwondo. The title of the book (and this review) gives it away from the start, namely elbow strikes. The elbow strikes (and the other possibilities) are the round elbow strike, the downward elbow strike, upward elbow strike, target elbow strike and the outward elbow strike.

In mainstream Taekwondo literature elbow strikes are treated as pretty straight forward “anyone can do this” attitude and the explanations and examples of applications are very limited. Jeff goes deeply into the possibilities we have when looking at the elbow strikes. Not limiting himself only to the “obvious” strikes he also goes on and shows how the same movements can be used defensively, offensively, as grappling or even take downs. The elbow strikes movements are not sophisticated and do not rely on fine motor skills so they lend themselves well into the “will work with little practice” class of techniques.

Not only does Jeff demonstrate the different usages for the elbows in combat but he also demonstrates its usages from different positions. This is often overlooked in mainstream taekwondo literature but being able to use your skills in many different environments was a key skill for the legendary pioneers of Taekwondo. For instance he demonstrates a common elbow strike from standing position, and then how to apply the strike from the ground in a mount position and then from the guard position.

Another testament to showcase his knowledge in this field is how many small “nuggets of wisdom” that are scattered around in the book. Just small details in the text like “When executing this elbow strike, it is important that you keep your palm facing downward in order to increase the speed of the elbow strike by relaxing the shoulder” (the round elbow strike). Small things like that are vitally important but often you do not get this kind of “wisdom” in the short explanations in the mainstream Taekwondo literature.

The writing style that Jeff uses is very straight forward and clear. I am not a native English speaker myself (I am Norwegian) and I can safely say that reading the book was not a great challenge for my “school English”. The pictures that illustrate the techniques are not in color but they are crisp and clear and perhaps most importantly they are actually of a decent size. I do not know how many of the books I have read that were very well written and good, but that had very small pictures that made the details hard to see. Taekwondo (or martial arts in general) are very dynamic so if you are going to use a book as a reference you need a decent size picture of good quality coupled with clear instructions in the text. Luckily Jeff provides both.

In the introduction of this review I wrote that I had “lived” in the book for quite some time now. There is a reason for that, and that is that I tried out almost all the applications in the book with various partners. They were very easy to incorporate, they were very effective (the reason I did not get through all was that I ran out of victims partners. But I did get through most of it. I judge applications very harshly because Taekwondo is what I have to defend myself with if I am so unlucky that I will need it one day. I do not want to find out too late that what I had practiced did not work. The criteria I use for judging the applications from bad to good I got from Bill Burgar`s book “5 years 1 Kata” and it can be seen in the review I did on the Taegeuk Cipher DVD`s that was published in Totally Taekwondo Magazine issue 58. There are many criteria but suffice to say in this review, the applications in this book scored very high on pretty much all of them. That is also probably the reason why I ran out of victims partners as well.


Overall I do not think that anyone buying this book would regret it. The text, the pictures, the content is all very good, and unlike the vast majority of books on the market regarding Taekwondo this book contributes something new and fresh to the table instead of being a rehash of all that has come before. I highly recommend it as a reference to elbow strikes and the possibilities the movements contain, and also as a reference on “how to do” the elbow strikes. The basic elbow strikes are included with descriptions in most mainstream Taekwondo literature (including but not limited to the Kukkiwon Textbook), but the detail on how to properly execute them, how to generate power and speed and last but not least how to apply them from different positions truly does make this book a well worth read. 


I learned from doing an interview with Jeff that he is planning on writing at least one more book this time focusing on Taekwondo forms and how to apply the movements contained within them so I for one am going to keep an eye out and getting every book he writes. But at the same time this book has raised the bar pretty high as it is.
I do have an interview with him as well so stay tuned :-)

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