Iron Ball, Wooden Staff, and Empty Hands: Understanding Structure, Flow, and Maneuver in Martial Arts
Caylor Adkins
Trade Paper, 276 pages
Published by Pine Winds Press
Publication date: 2011
ISBN: 9780937663134

Caylor Adkins has over 50 years of rigorous training with a bias for studying realistic combat. He has always sought broadly based sources of martial arts understanding for himself and his students beyond his original training in Shotokan Karate. His criterion is that the ideas really work. Some of the sources in the book include:
* Ball and staff forms from Chinese masters
* Western boxing
* Russian Systema empty arm techniques
* Stick work from Balintawak Cuentada Escrima
* Experts in body structure and connection: medical physiologists, external martial arts styles, Ida Rolf structural integration, and Lu Wen Wei's four-center (tantien) model
* Chi flow models from internal martial arts styles

The goal of the book is to transmit Adkins' martial arts understanding to improve the technique and combat ability of his readers. He uses basic techniques, forms, and combat drills in three complementary modalities (iron ball, wooden staff, and empty hands) to explain:
* Structure: integrating the whole body and spirit to hit harder with less wasted power
* Flow: using breathing, chi, and movement initiators to move quickly and efficiently
* Maneuver: defeating a dangerous opponent by understanding focus, critical edge, disruptive techniques, and centering

About the Author:

Early in his martial arts career he was President of Shotokan Karate of America, National Chairman of the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) karate committee (1975-1977), and first vice president of World Union of Karate-do Organizations (1975-1977). He contributed many technical articles to Black Belt and Karate Illustrated magazines in the 1960s and 1970s.

During the last 30 years he has concentrated on searching a wide range of martial arts to find how each contributes to effective combat, and in turn to a more thorough understanding of self, energy flow through the body, and connection to opponents.


Caylor Adkins treats us to far more than a synthesis of complementary aspects of several martial arts ... he illustrates the synergy between internal and external karate in a way that has not been transmitted to date.

Starting his study of Shotokan Karate in the mid-1950s with Ohshima Sensei, the first traditional karate instructor in America, Caylor represents the first generation of karate practitioners in the New World. This book represents Caylor's exploration over the past 50+ years into the history of martial arts to uncover the secrets of effective techniques.

In fact, this book could be summarized as a life- long journey to learn how to hit harder without power.

Although Caylor has avoided fame, he is deeply respected by many leading martial artists. Returning to Japan with Sensei Tsutomu Ohshima's Shotokan Karate of America members in 1967, the Japanese press announced the return (from his visit in 1961) of the American marital artist with the budo spirit. His students attest to his classes; which are demanding, inspirational, and traditional, but above all realistic and innovative.

I believe that Mr. Adkins is one of a few martial arts geniuses living today. Everything in this book has been thoroughly tested for effectiveness and value through decades of serious practice and application. He presents concepts and applications in a clear, conversational style. As I did, you'll find yourself "stuck" on a sentence or paragraph with the urge to try out what he has described. This is a unique dissertation, dense with information for those with an open mind and passion for the truth in martial arts. We are lucky to have it.

Ron Thom
President, Shotokan Karate of America

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