Tuesday, February 3, 2009

cookbooks versus cooking books.


What is the difference? A cookbook teaches you recipes, but doesn't necessarily give you the background, how to match the food with a proper wine or other dishes, or explain certain terms.

A cooking book, however should be about the art of cooking. How boiling versus braising changes the flavor of the meat, how certain flavors compliment and enhance each other, and more. Once you know how to cook, a recipe may serve as a roadmap, but you may change things around or mix recipes to get your desired result.

You may try this with a recipe, but without the proper background, your results may range from ineffective to disastrous.

I feel the same way about books and videos on martial arts. Too many materials claim to be cooking books, but are nothing more than recipes!

Are you following my metaphor?

Many videos claim to teach an art, but are really just giving you a taste of the flavor. Usually this is delivered in a set of one-steps or a form. I already need to keep track of 90 one-steps and I have committed over 30 forms to memory. I'm not sure I can handle many more.

Every once in awhile, I find a video which does this for me. The best example I can think of are the Comtech knife fighting videos. They give you the essence and help you incorporate the concepts into your current skill set.

I recently purchased a video on Jang bong (long staff) fundamentals by a certain famous TKD master. Perhaps that was my first mistake as TKD is not necessarily renowned for bongsul. What I got was a tape showing several very unimaginative exercises, one steps and a couple fancy forms. Needless to say, I'm disappointed.

In a final comparison, I've always found the cookbooks with super sexy pictures of food to be the least useful. Same with MA videos: the higher the production values, the more fluff. The best videos seem to be of someone who is in their studio and mounts a camera in the corner.

In that respect, I really enjoy YouTube, because people are sharing their passions and the videos tend to be far better information that what is for sale out there. Incidentally, as more and more bloggers are sharing their recipes online, I no longer feel compelled to buy bad cookbooks either.

(On a side note, if someone knows of a good video showing examples of staff partner work that breaks the mold of the same ol stationary tapping drills, I'd greatly appreciate it.)

(On another side note, I hope my Shotokan friends do not take my use of the Best Karate text as inflammatory. The Best Karate series are some of the best cookbooks on the market, but that is all they are: a guide to the JKA standard. They don't teach you a darn thing about the essence of Shotokan, but they weren't intending to either.)
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