Monday, July 26, 2010

Review: Chinese Martial Arts Training Manuals

Perhaps the single most mysterious endeavour of man is identifying the true history of classical Chinese Martial Arts.
OK, maybe particle physics, gravity and understanding women rate pretty high also.
- But in their book "Chinese Martial Arts Training Manuals - A Historical Survey", Brian Kennedy and Elizabeth Guo have peeled back the veil and peered into the murky legends as well as the actual people and events concerning Chinese Martial Arts.
Kennedy and Guo place significant emphasis on the quality of translation in evaluating ancient training manuals. Interestingly, they suggest some of the most useful and informative resources on the subject come from modern and even (gasp) -Western authors.
Kennedy and Guo painstakingly deconstruct martial myths and piece back together a rational history not only of masters and training manuals, but of the very culture itself. They rely heavily on the few legitimate martial historians of the time, best represented by a man named Tang Hao. Here's an example:

"Tang Hao's commitment to, as he phrased it, "attacking the lineage myths: distinguishing real and fake" is perhaps best demonstrated with his academic work on the origins of Taiji. Regrettably, his myth busting was largely ignored and his calls for a more realistic approach to the historiography of the various Chinese martial arts systems seem to have fallen on deaf ears."

In fact, the authors state that various martial clans plotted to attack Tang Hao, perhaps assassinate him because of his methodology and myth-busting. There is no evidence that ever happened however.
The second part of the book profiles various masters, and the training manuals they produced.
"Chinese Martial Arts Training Manuals" has become a personal favorite of mine. I appreciate the straightforward reporting and the authors opinions.
For people interested in the diversity of Chinese Martial Arts and the history and culture of the time, this is the book for you.

You can find this book and hundreds of other martial arts titles at the website for Blue Snake Books

1 comment:

Bill said...

Hey DR

If you enjoyed CMA Training Manuals, you should also read Jingwu the School that Saved Kung Fu by the same authors some info here

There is too much BS on this topic, so the book put together by Brian and Elizabeth is a big step towards understanding CMA for those not able to read Chinese. I have reproductions of the manuals included in the book and many others; the interpretation and translation of the material is very good.
Regarding Tang Hao, his Shaolin Wudang Kao (Shaolin Wudang Research) as well as many of his other books, are still being used today as a starting point by CMA researches such as Stanley E. Henning, Meir Shahar and even professor Ma Mingda is an admirer of Tang's work.

At a time when people just kept repeating what other have said, without corroborating with primary sources, Tang Hao used very rigorous researching techniques in his books. And he was not shy when it came to criticizing others lack of scholarship.