The Hustler – Sword play and the art of tactical thinking is a beautiful book written by Maija Soderholm. A lot of the book focuses on deception in combat, and it’s funny because this book slipped onto the market quietly, and just how good it was has spread by word of mouth among the FMA community that already knew of Maija and her work. I hope this review will change that and open the book to more martial artists from different backgrounds.
First things first, why would a book on Sword play and the art of tactical thinking be of interest, to say a boxer or any other empty hand martial artist? The answer lays within the context of a swordfight; the sword is relatively unique in the weapons world because it was solely designed for one thing only, to kill the enemy. Most other weapons, such as the spear or knife, have many different uses outside the fighting context, but the sword has a single-use. If you make a mistake in a swordfight, you’re probably going to take a cut, and that’s going to be hard to come back from. Hard to come back from in this context probably means death.
Facing off against an adversary where you both have swords combined with the relevant skill is probably one of the scariest moments in close combat; you have to strike cleanly without being stuck, high skill indeed.
Hit without being hit.
Since 1984 if you joined my boxing club, you would have heard the following advice on the first night and repeated after that, mouth closed, chin down and hands up. They were followed by train to hit without being hit. A fist in the face may not be quite as lethal as a sword strike, but it has the potential to be. It makes sense to learn how a swordsman tactically deals with the combat challenges they face, how they cross no man’s land, how they make clean cuts or stabs and how they get out to safety. You can then transfer that skill to your empty hand, or other weapons work.
This book is so good Maija does a great job of introducing the reader to the fight; there is a real cross over here for all of us. Further chapters include why and how we fight. Strategy, an introduction to the game, how to play that game, and how to train it.
All laid out with easy to read and clear logical sub-sections on deception, leading and reading an opponent. Maija has done a lot of thinking for the reader, and she spells it out in a progressive, exciting manner.
This book is a must-read for all my training partners, and I would recommend it to all of you.
If you choose not to buy this book, please don’t complain to me when your training partner does and uses deception to put three feet of steel through your gizzard or a fist through your nose bone.
Take the hint because, as my Dad used to say, “There is no such thing as second place”!