Book review: “Training and Fighting Skills” by Benny “The Jet” Urquidez
Benny “The Jet” Urquidez is somewhat of a legend in the USA. He is one of the pioneers of full-contact fighting and to his credit, one of the first to fight with leg-kicks. He started his study of the martial arts at the age of 8 and had a successful competitive career in the traditional (non-contact) Karate tournaments. Full-contact fighting emerged in the USA in 1974 and Benny switched to this type of competition. He continued to have a long and prosperous career with many world champion titles, before retiring as a professional fighter. He has also worked in motion pictures as an actor, fight choreographer and trainer of actors.
Here’s an old fight of his:
This book is actually quite old (first published in 1981) but is still sold today. It was one of the first books on full-contact fighting I bought and at the time, my impression was largely positive. These days, I have a more nuanced opinion, which I’ll explain in a bit.
The book is divided into 4 major chapters:
The first one deals with attributes like speed, power, timing, target areas and strategy. The format is a series of questions that Benny replies to. That’s where the age of the book starts to show. Some of the information is incomplete, at best:
Q:What is the difference between power and strength? A: People who have power are not necessarily strong. Strength comes internally. Power comes from outside of the body.
Ehm… Alllllrighty then, as Jim Carrey would say. The last sentence leaves me wondering what the author is talking about. If power comes from outside of the body, then where exactly does it come from?
Another example is a comment by Benny on free-weight workouts:
“Barbells build outer strength and bulk, which could have a tendency to shorten your reach.”
Without getting into the “outer strength” theory, I must say that the myth concerning the negative effects on martial arts performance caused by weight-training has been proved just that: a myth. Any professional athlete today uses weights to enhance his performance. The benefits have been demonstrated over and over again. The problem is not the weights but inappropriate training: too many martial artists follow training programs meant for body-builders. This does decrease their potential, though it is not due to weight-training in itself but lack of correct training protocol.
The second chapters concerns nutrition, conditioning, impact and balance. The book keeps the same Q&A format but illustrations of techniques and exercises are added.
Once again, science has made huge progress since this book first appeared and much of the information is flawed. Claiming that two meals a day are enough for a competitive fighter is outrageous these days. This is simply not enough to get by, let alone the drop in metabolic rate.
Some of the conditioning and stretching techniques are simply dangerous. E.g.: Sit-ups while siting on a chair with a partner holding your legs or pushing on the upper back to make you stretch harder. These exercises are an accident waiting to happen. On the other hand, the part about impact is rather interesting. Instead of mentioning some physics laws, Mr. Urquidez talks about the different types of impact and the importance of conditioning the body to receive impact. Even though I do not agree with all the conclusion he presents, there is useful information there.
The third chapter is about the fighting techniques: Offense, defense and combinations. The techniques Benny shows are presented through photographs with additional comments. The problem with books is that it is very difficult to recreate a technique by using this method. So I feel it is only fair to give some credit to the author. Nevertheless, the way he shows certain techniques leaves me doubting about their effectiveness. For instance, when he fires of a high lead sidekick, steps back and strikes with a low kick followed by a spinning heel kick, I wonder how many practitioners, other than Benny, could manage to pull them off against a resisting opponent. I have seen fighters try these type of combinations and have had opponents throw them at me, but the results were almost always disappointing.
Many of the techniques seem to be included to show off the capabilities of the author. They may work for him, but you might find less complicated techniques more efficient for you.
The last chapter consists of only a couple of pages with some general advice and background information on the author. Much of the rules Benny presents are very valid and can serve all fighters. However, some of the fighting tips he gives are presented as laws instead of options. They are useful in some situations but not in others. Strategy is too complex to summarize in a few sentences.
The main problem with “Training and Fighting skills” is that it is outdated. Much of the content has been disproved and is of little use. On top of that, some of the fighting techniques are presented in such a way that they seem unusable in a full-contact tournament. This may be a deliberate choice to accentuate certain aspects of the technique (foot placement, hip rotation,etc.) but if this were the case, a simple explanation could have cleared up the confusion.
If you are starting out and need solid information on full-contact fighting, let this book pass you by. There is better material out there. If you are a fan of Benny Urquidez, by all means, buy the book. You will get some nice pictures of him and some information about him as to him as a person.
The structure of the different topics is well balanced with black & white pictures to show the techniques. The quality of the pictures is not that impressive, but they are large enough to show all the necessary details.
Buy it here: