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John W. Hurley is considered a world expert on the subject of traditional Irish martial arts. A trailblazing publisher, his maverick Caravat Press paved the way for other Western Martial Artists who have since ventured into the world of publishing. Hurley was awarded a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and is an experienced graphic artist and videographer.
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
John W. Hurley was born in Newark, NJ to an Irish immigrant father and American born mother. He is the author of "Irish Gangs And Stick-Fighting," "Shillelagh: The Irish Fighting Stick," "The Shillelagh Makers Handbook" and "Fighting Irish: The Art Of Irish Stick-Fighting." Hurley is considered the world's foremost authority on the history, traditions and culture of traditional Irish martial arts, having researched the subject for over twenty five years. He is also a practitioner of Irish stick/shillelagh-fighting. Hurley is a regular consultant to the media on the subject of Irish stick-fighting and martial arts. For queries he can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
A very comprehensive history book. The development of our modern concept of the Irish fighting stick is well time-lined (sometimes too well). The cultural history was highly informative and the strongest force in the book. However, those looking for "martial" value won't find it here. This is, and reads like, a historical tour of the subject.
Mr. Hurley has compiled the most thorough history of the Irish martial arts to date. I am a second-degree black belt in Filipino stick fighting and was raised in the Irish heritage district of Buffalo, NY. I had never heard of Irish martial arts until I came across these books. They are research based not technique. You won't learn to fight by reading this but you will discover a deep and rich martial tradition that has been suppressed for generations.
The Irish were renowned around the globe as warriors. When they emigrated to the USA the derogatory stereotype of the drunken fighting Irishman became the popular perception. This book restores the dignity and honor of a proud culture that developed a martial tradition the equal of the samurai code.
Shillelagh: The Irish Fighting Stick should be required reading for any student of Celtic traditions.
However, I suspect that whoever said that never saw the cover of this particular book. Because then there probably would have been some qualifier, like "Never judge a book by its cover, unless that book is Shillelagh by John Hurley, because that book is every bit as totally awesome as its cover might lead you to believe."
I mean, consider the attention to detail in this lovingly rendered Donnybrook. Look at the pure glee on the face of the lout in the blue coat or the total agony of the gentleman being trampled underfoot at the bottom of the composition. This artist has captured the entire range of human emotion in a single four color panel. It's like an ABC Sports intro in book cover form.
And look at the flying top hat in the background! Was it just knocked off somebody's head? Perhaps with a shillelagh? Or is this a sly tip of the surrealist cap to Magritte?
If they sold a poster version of this cover, I would hang it above my breakfast nook in a heartbeat. I would look on it and reflect on happier times in the old country and wonder at the artistry of this unknown, Guinness-swilling Caravaggio.
The book itself is pretty good. I learned a lot about fighting sticks.
Some reviewers seemed to expect this book to be a how to manual of shillelagh fighting technique. Its not and doesn't claim to be in the description, though it does contain the complete shillelagh technique excerpt from Donald Walker's "Defensive Exercises", written in 1840. It also includes Walker's excellent "advertisment" or preface to his work, which sums up human nature and society in a few paragraphs as well as I have ever read.
What it is is a compelling history of the use of the shillelagh in 18th and 19th century Irish faction fighting. Sometimes faction fighting was sport, in which case the shillelagh was the only weapon used. More often faction fighting seems to have been earnest combat, and the shillelagh was just one of many weapons used to maim and kill the enemy.
The author quotes copiously from his primary sources, and that is not a bad thing. It allows the reader to decide if he agrees with the conclusions the author draws from those sources. I didn't always but that didn't detract from my enjoyment of the book at all, at all ( as the Irish used to say ). For instance the author attributed the decline of shillelagh use to the rise of Irish republicanism whereas I would think firearms would be the more obvious culprit.
As pride in his Irish heritage and perhaps even his own last name seemed to be the motivation for the work, I was keen to find flaws in what must surely be the product of an amateur. The writing is excellent and a pleasure to read, the knowledge of Irish history broad and detailed, the treatment evenhanded and not particualry Irish-centric ( the author is well aware of and mentions how Ireland fit into pan-European events ).Read more ›
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The author has done an exceptional job of dissecting a host of primary sources relating to the remarkable history of the Irish fighting stick, and tracing both its roots and its cultural signifcance throughout the course of various periods of Irish history. This often-overlooked aspect of Irish martial culture finally gets the full scholarly treatment it deserves here in Mr. Hurley's astonishingly thorough tour de force. The book has already established itself as the standard text on the subject. "Shillelagh" is an exhaustive, thrilling and detailed account of the fighting stick that was a symbol of Irish courage and resistance, as well as a practical weapon with which the Irish displayed their martial arts ability.
Any serious student of Irish history has to read this book. Five stars.
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For the non Irish this is a wealth of good honesty history with a look at how the oppressed can fight back.Great writing and some great ways to look at stick fighting (for those that have not stuck together the pages of Black Belt Mag over the last 30+ years.)Really this is a wonderful read by a good writer and teacher.Look forward to the next part!
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