Book Review: Hard-Won Wisdom, by Alain Burrese

Phil Elmore

Master of Arts
Mar 30, 2002
Reaction score
[Editor's note: This review also appears on my web page.]

If you can't take Alain Burrese aside and offer to buy him a drink in the hopes that he'll tell you some stories at the local bar, reading his Hard-Won Wisdom From the School of Hard Knocks is the next best thing.

Two things will become readily apparent after just a few pages of this book. First, Alain is one of those men who has had the benefit of a loving and wise father, whom it is obvious Alain respects very deeply. Second, Alain is not the man with whom to pick a fight.

I normally discount as bravado someone's tales of his violent past, taking with a few grains of salt those war stories of bar fights and street skirmishes won and lost. From the outset, though, Alain's honest style and earnest desire to impart what he's learned put the reader at ease. The advice Alain offers is the type of common sense that isn't too common. I found myself agreeing as I turned the pages -- and saying to myself, "That's so obvious. Why haven't I been keeping that in mind?"

That's Alain's gift. He has a way of taking those things that should be obvious, but which aren't, for whatever reasons, and beating you gently about the head and neck with them.

The book is divided into four parts. Part 1 includes Alain's introduction, the admonishment that Anyone Can Be Beat, and chapters on legal ramifications as well as the importance of awareness in self-defense.

Part 2 covers Balance; Stance and Footwork; Defense; Using Your Hands; Kicking; Infighting Tools; The Ground; Chokes and Sleepers; Training; and Fitness. As you can see from the chapter titles, this is Alain explaining the physical building blocks of fighting and self-defense.

Part 3, though, is where things get really interesting. Alain offers his insight into everything regarding fighting and self-defense that isn't about the physical aspects -- at least not primarily. Mr. Burrese touches on several very interesting subjects, including the complications that arise regarding women, the differences made by the types of friends one chooses, the dangers of drunks, the use of weapons, clothing considerations, and a variety of other factors.

In Part 4, Alain ties together what he's written by offering some keen insights into the mindsets behind those who fight, those who want to fight, and those who realize they no longer want to fight. Alain's chagrin at his own youthful indiscretions is obvious, and this more than anything lends weight to the lessons he's learned and is trying to share.

Throughout, the book is dotted with fascinating anecdotes from Alain's life. I must admit that it was these I found most interesting, and I caught myself more than once scanning ahead for paragraphs that started with, "This one time..." or "I knew this guy..." or "One night in..." so I could read the best parts before going back to see what the author was trying to illustrate.

The book features an introduction by Marc "Animal" MacYoung, who is obviously impressed with the skills Mr. Burrese possesses. Hard-Won Wisdom is definitely worth buying. Stop by Alain's web site at You won't be disappointed.

Latest Discussions