Wild Colonial Boy Preview
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"Dan Docherty is a remarkable man. I first heard of him in the mid-eighties through my interest in martial arts. By the end of the nineties, I had met him and begun training with him. Over the years he has told many stories of how he ended up where he is. My feeling has always been; you should write this down. Now he has. Mr Docherty writes with humour and warmth of his journey from the south Glasgow Alter boy to Hong Kong police inspector and south East Asian full-contact international champion. It is way more than just Dan’s story, it also tells the story of those who helped him along the way. I find it to be deeply interesting and can’t recommend it highly enough."
"Wild Colonial Boy is the long-awaited memoirs of Dan Docherty, the enfant terrible of the British and European taichi scenes over the past several decades. Though the jacket blurb calls it an ‘autobiographic novel’, what makes it ‘novel’ rather than ‘a novel’ is the wealth of first-hand information it gives on the formative years of an internationally acknowledged martial artist. The account covers the author’s upbringing in his native Scotland and his initial training in karate with no less than Yashinao Nanbu himself, his nine years with the Hong Kong police in the 70s and early 80s, his training years with the brilliantly unorthodox Sifu Cheng Tin-hung, and his years as a competitor and fighter for the system in South-East Asia. As we turn page after page of pleasantly couched anecdotes with witty titles, we follow the perspective of a younger Dan through the legendary ‘Fragrant Harbour’ of the 70s, with its colourful bars, notoriously corrupt police, and thriving martial arts scene walking the fine line between what is legal and what is legitimate. Of particular interest to readers versed in martial arts are the details about master Cheng’s training methods – or lack thereof at times! But the best testimony of that legacy is no doubt the success story of this Scottish student who brought the system back with him and made it possibly the most respected fighting school of taichi in Europe in the following years. But that is a story that would call for a next volume."
***** LN - FRANCE
"The book tells the story of the metamorphosis of a catholic Caledonian Lad into a revered martial artist and a professional police officer. The anecdotal style makes an easy read and has an appeal to a wide ranging audience. It begins with tantalizing glimpses into the influences in the author’s formative years that laid the foundations for the tenacity and focus that is apparent throughout. Entertaining and occasionally tragic descriptions of the camaraderie of life in The Hong Kong Police Force makes a stark contrast with accounts of darker sides of the lives of the police officers and citizens. There are inside the door views of martial tai chi together with behind the scenes accounts of training, full-contact fighting, martial school rivalries and the effective application of the art when patrolling the streets of Hong Kong. The final chapters provide the reader with pre tourist views of Beijing, Shaolin and The Wudang Mountains. The book concludes with the author’s return to the homeland and his meeting with his first UK martial student . The reader is left anticipating the development of the emerging international tai chi instructor, scholar and traveller. That’s another story."
***** CH - UK
"I declare an interest: I have been a friend of Dan's for more than 30 years. Yes, I have heard many of these stories of the Hong Kong police force and of martial arts before, but what is new here is the sense of context, the vista of a life. And that adds so much more. Specifically what it adds is an engaging glimpse into a lost world. Dan's story starts with growing up in Glasgow, but the meat of the book is his formative adult years in Hong Kong Police force in the 1970s and early '80s. For many young men of the British Isles since the 1800s, the colonial Far East was a land of experience and adventure; Dan's memories here are decisively part of that story. Most of the current writing about Hong Kong and other colonies is about big issues, global politics, and socio-historical forces. What is missing are the voices of the men and women who went out and actually lived the "ordinary" life of that colonial experience. Filling that gap is part of the value of this book. And it is an honest voice of experience - one of the things that comes across here is the ambivalence of the excitement of exotic adventure, but also the recognition of being part of a foreign occupying force. In that sense this book is a serious contribution to colonial literature. It is an obvious counterpart to Richard Tinkler's memoir of years in Shanghai, "Empire Made Me".
Reading the book was an adventure in itself. It grips the attention so I was able to read the whole thing in one sitting. How many non-fiction books can do that nowadays? That engagement is actually part of the writing style. On the face of it, the writing style is relatively simple, direct and immediate, but as you go into more, you realise that this is subtle and deliberate. He creates vivid pictures of people, places, and events, and puts you there with him. That is no small achievement.
There is a final thing to mention. It is clear even in the writing, that Dan did not come out the the Hong Kong experience unaffected. The episodic structure of the book reminded me of a war memoir, specifically Lee Burkins' "Soldier's Heart". It had the same sense of brief intense moments of action within the extended longeurs of war.
Read this book. And encourage the author to write volume 2"
***** AP from UK.
"Ostensibly, the autobiographical book is first a brief description of the author's childhood and adolescence in Glasgow which is then followed by an account of his time in Hong Kong including the Royal Hong Kong Police, his relationship with tai chi and his sifu Cheng Tin-hung, and his full-contact fights. That overview does not, however, do justice to the book.
Personally, to my shame, I'm not an avid reader. I will discard most books after the first chapter or two. Rarely, I find an author who I can "get along with" and then I will actively seek out almost everything they have written. Dan Docherty's writings have generally fallen into that latter category. He has a talent for deftly blending the gravely serious with humour, and life's trivialities with wisdom. So I was looking forward to reading Wild Colonial Boy, and I was not disappointed.
This year has been demanding in many respects. Wild Colonial Boy was perfectly timed: it afforded a brief moment of respite, taking a journey vicariously through a unique period in Hong Kong and within environments that very few of us would ever have experienced personally. There is a sense of a genuine commitment to providing an accurate and faithful account of events, and of trying to convey the world there as it actually was and not an interpretation thereof. The author is also honest and open of his own internal processing of events and how he navigated some very fraught situations.
On the technical side, the book is arranged as a series of short, sometimes very short, chapters. The only times I've met Dan Docherty in person were at workshops and my impression in those contexts was that he rarely said more than was strictly necessary, sometimes marginally less than that. There are some sections of the book that I felt followed that style and could have benefited from some expansion. Similarly, there are some short snippets in the book that, at least on a first reading, don't appear to have much purpose... perhaps it's that 'linkage' again.
As he said though, it's easy being a critic.
Anyway, I would certainly recommend the book to others and indeed have already done so."
***** PM - USA.
"Excellent read. Highly recommended"
***** DC - AUSTRALIA
"Wild Colonial Boy is the latest book by Dan Docherty, teacher, author and an influential figure in the European Tai Chi Chuan community. Dan's latest book is a departure from the usual subject of Tai Chi Chuan and has written an autobiographical novel. Unless you're a student of Dan's, few know about his background and his career in the Royal Hong Kong Police. Some of this has been briefly mentioned in previous books and magazine articles.
The book starts off with Dan's account of his childhood growing up in Glasgow. We then follow beginnings of a long journey in martial arts, starting with Karate. After university, we follow Dan's time in the Royal Hong Kong Police, where we learn of his colourful experiences as a police inspector and training under his master the late Cheng Ting Hung. The comradery, conflicts, the arrests and the objectives met are also mentioned. After almost a decade in Hong Kong, Dan then left the Royal Hong Kong Police and returned to Britain.
I have found Wild Colonial Boy to be a very interesting, entertaining and easy to read. It is satisfactory on a number of levels. If you're a fan of old Hong Kong and what life was like back then or cop stories, then this book is for you. I could relate to Wild Colonial Boy on many levels. Back in the late 70's I lived along Canton Road with my grandparents, which was only a few blocks from Argyle Street, where Dan once trained. Those days I remember well. Life back then was quite colourful, people worked harder and Hong Kong was a different place to how it is now. We Hongkongers often speak of the collective memory regarding old Hong Kong, but it is nice to read a Westerner's perspective. From Dan's account of his training, one can see that it was not easy. The countless hours invested and balancing that with the duties of being a police inspector. I rather enjoyed the accounts on police work and life in the Royal Hong Kong Police. The scenes were described vividly and whilst reading those chapters, they reminded me of scenes from numerous films I've seen. If you're familiar with the Hong Kong cop and gangster genres, then you'll understand what I mean. Wild Colonial Boy is about eating bitter and embracing the lessons that life throws at you, without which one could never succeed. Thank you Dan."
***** JT - UK
"Having known Dan Docherty largely from afar for more than 25 yrs, it was marvellous to string all the bits of story and rumour together. In-person there is never enough time for more than a snippet or two. A larger than life personality fleshed out for readers to see. Dan is both well-read and well trained so it was a pleasure to read about the roots that helped make the man. This is a well put together novelistic journey from Glasgow to Hong Kong and beyond and back to London. There are good stories and plenty for those interested in the making of a great no-nonsense martial artist. Having seen photos of Dan both in the 'white silk pyjamas' and now a kilt... I guess I can rest in peace."
**** KN - CANADA