Ah, bar fights! Nothing is more fun than going on some viral video site and watching two people who might be part of the Darwin Awards drunkenly slapping each other around to our amusement. In reality, not all bar fights end in hilarious fashion, or with Roger Huerta knocking you out, and some can get very dangerous, very fast. This led to James Porco, a certified ninjitsu instructor and former professional wrestler who also bounced in many bars and nightclubs for over 16 years, to write his own instructional on self-defense in these settings. Together with Tuttle Publishing, “Bar-Jutsu: The American Art of Bar Fighting” was born into a 120 page softcover book that teaches you, the average bar-hound, how to handle any volatile situation in one of these seedy environments.
Full disclosure – this book is not as ludicrous as it sounds, even though it clearly does not take itself too seriously. Porco is light-hearted and talks to you like he has known you for years, right from the very first sentence of this book. It might be hard to take this book seriously, especially with how the tone is set from the get-go, but I can assure you that this is more serious than your initial response. Even the names of the chapters seem like jokes and do not often reveal what to expect when you read them, but a quick flip through the pages will show you that this book essentially gives you an insurance policy in the form of easily applicable defense techniques to both drunk and sober attackers in closed-quarters and tight space environments.
The book covers what to do when you initially pushed or grabbed by an attacker, put up against a wall or are fighting in a very small space, defenses against strikes, and disarming an opponent. There is nothing too fancy about anything in this book, everything is extremely practical and easy to execute. With Porco’s background in Ninjitsu, the goal is often to quickly incapacitate and control your opponent without doing unnecessary damage (although as a Ninja, I feel like he might throw in a kill-shot or two in real life, but who knows).
Beyond the physical part of fighting, “Bar-Jutsu” also goes in detail on how to diffuse a fight before it happens, by not antagonizing someone, knowing how to talk your way out of a situation safely, and even just saying “Sorry”, which surprisingly can end a lot of potential conflicts before they even get started. All of this is exposited in a succinct 120 pages that makes for an easy and enjoyable read. Combined with the witty remarks and color photos makes for a fun experience that does not require the reader to know any martial arts whatsoever. No takedowns, no guard passes, just blocks, simple escapes, and simple grapple or control holds. The beauty is in the simplicity, and to me, that is a big positive sell point for this book.
Often times, I review very technical manuals on martial arts, and I love reading those. But that kind of book is not good for every situation, and this particular product is not intended just for the budding fighter or martial artist. You can get this for anyone, and it should work for anyone since it is nearly a fool-proof system of easy to do (and easy to remember) techniques. The book does suggest you practice, and you should, but it does not necessarily require dumping tons of time into taking BJJ or Muay Thai classes. This is where things do become complicated for a potential buyer.
An experienced martial artist would not really need “Bar-Jutsu”, but someone who has not done too much of that before should get a lot more mileage out of it. Unfortunately, a lot of customers might see the moves and think they are not flashy enough, but I think combined with the levity of the writing, readers should be able to get into the book and absorb the info the way it was meant to be.
You can order Bar-jutsu: The American Art of Bar Fighting on Amazon.com for around $10, and I say it is worth getting for someone. Even though it may appear at first glance to be a frivolous novelty book, it is far from it. The best comparision I can make is an obvious one – if you enjoyed Bas Rutten’s Lethal Streetfighting DVD, or the snippets of it that are on Youtube, you will love the tone of this book. If you are already a serious martial artist, you might not have as much use out of it as a beginner or an average joe, but on that level, you can enjoy it purely for the humor and the practical advice & techniques. It is a tough sell in a small marketplace, so mileage may vary, but I liked this book and if you give it a chance, you might find it useful too.