There were very few names in the early days of no-holds-barred combat that were universal, and Ken Shamrock was one of them. The first King of Pancrase in Japan and inaugural UFC Super Fight Champion, early UFC events were often headlined with Ken, and his name and star power grew when he jumped ship to join the WWF. However, Ken’s story has not been one of pure success, but one marred with all sorts of obstacles, and this is where the story begins in Tuttle Publishing’s “Beyond the Lion’s Den” book.
Co-written by Erich Krauss, who also worked on various instructional books and DVD’s with Randy Couture, Matt Lindland, Anderson Silva, and Lyoto Machida to name a few, Shamrock’s book is the direct sequel to Ken’s first book, Inside the Lion’s Den. Shamrock gives us a succinct recap of the events leading up to where the first book ended, which includes some new stories about fighting in Japan and his incident with the Nasty Boys, and brings us up to speed with his fight at the Ultimate Ultimate 2 and explains why he initially left the UFC, what happened during his time off from MMA and entered the WWF, and how the time on the road led to the birth of many of those problems.
Ultimately, it was the traveling around to pro-wrestle that fed the feud between Ken and Frank, his break-up with his dad, the fall of the Lion’s Den, and Ken’s problems with alcoholism. The book also covers his time in Pride and his fights against Kazuyuki Fujita and Don Frye, and his return to the UFC with his first fight with Tito Ortiz and rematch with Kimo Leopoldo. Since this particular book came out in 2005, we will have to wait for a third book to give us the rest of the story after this, but it was great to read the continuing story of Ken after his first book ended.
As opposed to Ken’s first book, which was 80% autobiography and maybe 20% techniques, this book is quote the opposite, with over 200 pages of techniques. It’s a very diverse book that covers striking, submissions, takedowns, guard passes, clinch fighting, using the cage fence or wall in a fight, and combination tecniques that many fans will recognize as moves that Ken had done in his own fights. My favorite has to be the sunset flip into the hammer lock (AKA the Northern Lights Suplex into Kimura that Ken did to Matt Hume during the first King of Pancrase tournament). There are also a ton of moves that we have never seen Ken do (dude, he does an omoplata in this book!), but it was refreshing to see this variety of techniques in a book, especially when you do consider that this book is nine years old now.
The techniques are well-written and easy to understand, and surprised me with how detailed they were, as well as with the selection of maneuvers. Krauss was surely a big part of that, and his efforts paid off as he went on to do some amazing books that would come out in the next few years. The team of Shamrock and Krauss was an excellent pairing, and gave us a very complete book about Ken Shamrock and building a complete MMA arsenal.
Overall, I really liked this book, and that is without wearing nostalgia glasses. Sure, the Ken Shamrock we know and love today is a very different one, who has seen better days, but at least is on the mend and working on himself. The Ken from this book is one in progress, working to achieve what he has done today, which to me, was peace of mind. That might be one of the best things about this book, is seeing where he is today and where his journey has taken him. The book itself stands out, and if you are a fan of old school MMA, this is the book for you. Newer fans to the sport might not be as interested, but the techniques will certainly catch your interest.
You can order Beyond the Lion’s Den: The Life, The Fights, The Techniques from Amazon.com for around $22, and is a good value for a good book that is filled with info. I suggest getting the first book as well, since it is only $7 these days, to complete the set. Ken has always been a polarizing part of MMA, and as a fan of the early days of MMA/ NHB fighting, I am happy that I finally got this book in my own library and can add more great stories to my knowledge of the game.