A handbook about handling conflict from both a physical and philosophical perspective.
“Finding any semblance of common ground, accepting what comes and dealing with it calmly and dispassionately requires quite a bit of discipline,” Stephens writes in his nonfiction debut, which “comes from contentment with oneself first.” A strong flavor of Eastern martial culture, reflected in this quote, runs throughout the book, which refers often to such legendary military philosophers as Sun Tzu and the swordsman Miyamoto Musashi (1584-1645), author of The Book of Five Rings. But although Stephens spends time talking about spiritual power and mindfulness, the book is predominantly concerned with managing physical violence, either in controlled circumstances, such as a martial arts dojo, or in the chaos of the street. Overall, he’s an excellent guide to the realities of such conflict, presenting his principles in clear, sharp prose. Readers who deal regularly with physical altercations—such as war veterans or school guidance counselors—will particularly find a great deal of value in these pages. While outlining 12 crucial elements for securing any kind of victory, Stephens effectively emphasizes core concepts rather than specific tactics: “Sure, specialized skill and technique is important,” he writes. “But it is foundational principles that win any fight regardless of scale or context.” He peppers his text with anecdotes and the examples of a wide array of famous fighters throughout history, from famed actor and martial artist Bruce Lee to Brazilian jujitsu fighter Royce Gracie, who was known for “almost always beating much larger opponents.” Stephens also regularly broadens the backdrop of his study to include large-scale military conflicts, always to illustrate points about the necessity of clear thinking in any kind of fight and about the economical use of force.
A clear and strongly worded fighting manual in the long tradition of Sun Tzu.