Swanson, a professor of biology and biomechanics at Salve Regina University, uses his scientific training to help teachers...

Karate Science

DYNAMIC MOVEMENT

Swanson’s debut is a scientific guide to the stances, movements, and techniques of karate.

Swanson, a professor of biology and biomechanics at Salve Regina University, uses his scientific training to help teachers and students better understand the tenets of karate. The many illustrations (ably provided by Nigro) show everything from proper alignment of a striking surface (say, a fist or a foot) to how one’s body should move from the beginning to the end of a thrust. The first part of the book focuses on technique, with sections on stances, thrusting, kicking, striking, and blocking. The guide does more than demonstrate how positions should look; Swanson takes the time to explain how each should feel and which muscle groups should be engaged throughout the process. The second part explains the science behind how our joints and muscles work as well as how the body keeps its balance. This section also includes a brief primer on “the application of kinesiological principles to karate,” which outlines ways to get more force into moves by increasing mass and, crucially, speed. The last section deals with the notion of “internal movement,” essentially a system of muscle retraction and countermoves that aid in perfecting efficient and powerful techniques. While many students mistakenly think of this process as simply hip wiggling, Swanson shows that the process is more focused on intra-abdominal pressure, and he explains how the proper tensioning and contracting of certain muscles are key to quick and powerful movements. Swanson’s writing is clear and informative, and his pure love of the art shines through. This book is not for karate neophytes, and the terms used will be confusing to unfamiliar readers. But for teachers and students who want to not only perfect techniques, but also understand the biology behind them, the book will be an invaluable aid.

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-59439-459-1

Page Count: 216

Publisher: YMAA Publication Center

Review Posted Online: Dec. 13, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017

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A quirky wonder of a book.

WHY FISH DON'T EXIST

A STORY OF LOSS, LOVE, AND THE HIDDEN ORDER OF LIFE

A Peabody Award–winning NPR science reporter chronicles the life of a turn-of-the-century scientist and how her quest led to significant revelations about the meaning of order, chaos, and her own existence.

Miller began doing research on David Starr Jordan (1851-1931) to understand how he had managed to carry on after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroyed his work. A taxonomist who is credited with discovering “a full fifth of fish known to man in his day,” Jordan had amassed an unparalleled collection of ichthyological specimens. Gathering up all the fish he could save, Jordan sewed the nameplates that had been on the destroyed jars directly onto the fish. His perseverance intrigued the author, who also discusses the struggles she underwent after her affair with a woman ended a heterosexual relationship. Born into an upstate New York farm family, Jordan attended Cornell and then became an itinerant scholar and field researcher until he landed at Indiana University, where his first ichthyological collection was destroyed by lightning. In between this catastrophe and others involving family members’ deaths, he reconstructed his collection. Later, he was appointed as the founding president of Stanford, where he evolved into a Machiavellian figure who trampled on colleagues and sang the praises of eugenics. Miller concludes that Jordan displayed the characteristics of someone who relied on “positive illusions” to rebound from disaster and that his stand on eugenics came from a belief in “a divine hierarchy from bacteria to humans that point[ed]…toward better.” Considering recent research that negates biological hierarchies, the author then suggests that Jordan’s beloved taxonomic category—fish—does not exist. Part biography, part science report, and part meditation on how the chaos that caused Miller’s existential misery could also bring self-acceptance and a loving wife, this unique book is an ingenious celebration of diversity and the mysterious order that underlies all existence.

A quirky wonder of a book.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6027-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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Doesn’t dig as deep as it could, but offers a captivating look at the NBA’s greatest era.

WHEN THE GAME WAS OURS

NBA legends Bird and Johnson, fierce rivals during their playing days, team up on a mutual career retrospective.

With megastars LeBron James and Kobe Bryant and international superstars like China’s Yao Ming pushing it to ever-greater heights of popularity today, it’s difficult to imagine the NBA in 1979, when financial problems, drug scandals and racial issues threatened to destroy the fledgling league. Fortunately, that year marked the coming of two young saviors—one a flashy, charismatic African-American and the other a cocky, blond, self-described “hick.” Arriving fresh off a showdown in the NCAA championship game in which Johnson’s Michigan State Spartans defeated Bird’s Indiana State Sycamores—still the highest-rated college basketball game ever—the duo changed the course of history not just for the league, but the sport itself. While the pair’s on-court accomplishments have been exhaustively chronicled, the narrative hook here is unprecedented insight and commentary from the stars themselves on their unique relationship, a compelling mixture of bitter rivalry and mutual admiration. This snapshot of their respective careers delves with varying degrees of depth into the lives of each man and their on- and off-court achievements, including the historic championship games between Johnson’s Lakers and Bird’s Celtics, their trailblazing endorsement deals and Johnson’s stunning announcement in 1991 that he had tested positive for HIV. Ironically, this nostalgic chronicle about the two men who, along with Michael Jordan, turned more fans onto NBA basketball than any other players, will likely appeal primarily to a narrow cross-section of readers: Bird/Magic fans and hardcore hoop-heads.

Doesn’t dig as deep as it could, but offers a captivating look at the NBA’s greatest era.

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-547-22547-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2009

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