Self-Defense for Radicals: A-Z Guide for Subversive Struggle (2010) –Mickey Z.
By Gabriel Ricard
Writer, martial artist and activist Mickey Z. still has that wonderful sense of humor. You could certainly qualify knowing this as good news for the rest of us. It’s not new information to anyone familiar with his books. His 2008 dark-comedy endeavor CPR for Dummies was a brutal, wild story and one of the best social satires to come out in recent memory. It was bleak stuff but proved Z’s talent for story-driven farce. It also showed his effortless skill at putting some of his more enduring interests, martial arts and social activism to good use in his Armageddon-battered-world-gone-mad. Those interests aren’t likely to leave his work anytime soon either. That’s fine. As long as he can utilize those passions and keep the humor running strong, as he does in his pamphlet, Self-Defense for Radicals: A-Z Guide for Subversive Struggle, then none of us has any reason to complain.
The book is very serious in what it promises you. This really is an alphabet of tips and thoughts on how to best stand up for what drives you. This sort of thing is especially useful should someone feel the need to disagree with your opinions by trying to smash you in the head with a brick. Mickey has put his knowledge of physical self-defense to work in his writing before but has really never been quite as brilliant in doing that as he is here. The book is genuinely useful but doesn’t sacrifice Z’s trademark sense of humor or ability to know what his readers are thinking and respond accordingly. If you’ve ever wanted a really intelligent, witty and rather driven man to come over to your house and teach you how to stick up for yourself Self-Defense for Radicals is probably your best bet. Like any good pamphlet, it communicates its wisdom in sharp detail that’s quick to the point but doesn’t skip over anything Z. wants you to know. Good stuff, but it’s much more than just useful information. The best of Mickey Z’s work is able to entertain at the same time, and that’s certainly true here. Throughout his A-Z breakdown of tips and opinions (his entries for L and M are particularly wonderful) Mickey Z. adds just enough extras to give the work his trademark personality. Appropriate quotes from Bruce Lee to Angela Davis are included with several of the entries. They read like thoughts from a friend who really wants to share with you some of the bits of wisdom picked up from everything they’ve seen or done. Those illustrations from Richard Cole don’t hurt the pamphlet’s appeal either.
Everything is laid out in perfect order. There’s no question that Mickey has yet another essential read on his hands. The majority of Self-Defense for Radicals is very clever, funny stuff, but it wouldn’t be Mickey Z. if a little bit of his work didn’t frighten or even seriously piss you off. Mickey Z. succeeds in making these emotions work for the sake of the pamphlet by avoiding a high horse or any kind of soap box. He lets the statistics speak for themselves. His humor, conversational tone keep those statistics in perspective (the world isn’t completely terrible, after all). Those drawings from Richard Cole help, too. All of it makes for a well-rounded trip around Mickey Z’s philosophy, but don’t for a second forget what this work is meant to do. It’s a wake-up call. Self-Defense for Radicals is a strongly worded suggestion to start taking better care of yourself in every facet of life. That sounds aggressive, but it really isn’t meant to choke you on its opinions. It simply suggests and then leaves the rest up to you. If you’ve been looking for something to get you off the couch and out the door you’re in good hands. Chances are you’ll find only frustration in hoping for something more effective than this.