Plimpton-esque journey into the international world of professional fighting, with painful results.
Give first-time author Sheridan some credit. Not content to savor the joys of kickboxing, jiu-jitsu, pro boxing and other martial arts from the cheap seats, he climbed through the ropes himself, enduring grueling training sessions and living Spartan-like alongside his fellow fighters. In Thailand, he sampled the joys of Muay Thai, in which fighters may both punch and kick. He trained in Iowa at the country's leading martial-arts center. In Brazil, he tackled the art of jiu-jitsu. In Oakland, he tried his hand at pro boxing. Not surprisingly, he ended up with as many lumps as insights. Although he was victorious in his first kickboxing bout, he got battered and bloodied in his second, then was forced to bow out of several other fights due to a torn rotator cuff and a recurring rib injury. Sheridan actually fought less than three rounds in six years of “research,” so in that sense, the book leaves the reader feeling shortchanged. He provides some interesting insights into the various fighting disciplines, introducing a score of colorful fighters, trainers and hangers-on. But he also includes too many tedious digressions. Sheridan studied tai chi at a Manhattan clinic; meditated with Buddhist monks in the mountains of Thailand; attended disgusting dogfights and cockfights in the Philippines, then worked as an extra on a B-grade prison film shot in Mexico. He tries gamely to draw parallels between these other pursuits and actual fighting, but it feels like padding. Oft-repeated platitudes about “courage” and “inner strength” don't help.
Sheridan seems sincerely interested in testing his physical limits, but after his early injuries, neither he nor his book ever regain momentum—or the reader’s interest.