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Chinese Martial Arts Training Manuals: A Historical Survey Paperback – January 8, 2008
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"This book provides considerable information on Chinese martial arts history, particularly of the Republican era, its personages, and manuals not previously available in English. It also covers topics, including those related to Shaolin Monastery and Taoism, in a down to earth, common sense manner.... Overall, Chinese Martial Arts Training Manuals successfully achieves the author’s purpose, expressed in the epilogue: '[To serve] as an informative and interesting introduction to this rich facet of Chinese martial art culture.'"—Stanley E. Henning, China Review International
About the Author
Brian L. Kennedy, an attorney, has practiced Chinese martial arts since 1976 and has recently begun studying Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. His previous books, which appeared in Chinese, include Witness Examination Skills, the official reference for Taiwan’s prosecutors and trial judges, and Legal Ethics.
Elizabeth Nai-Jia Guo is a professional translator living in Taiwan. She is a practitioner of qi gong and hatha yoga. She has translated a wide range of books into Chinese including titles on church architecture, the history of science, and criminal law. Guo and Kennedy co-author a regular column for Classical Fighting Arts magazine.
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Top customer reviews
The second half is an overview of noteworthy authors from the Ming Dynasty up until the 1950s. In most cases this includes a quick assessment of the historical accuracy of their materials.
The book reads more like a collection of notes than a professional academic book on the subject material. It was useful to me for determining future lines of research. I know which texts I'll be looking for in second-hand bookshops in Taiwan.
More disapointedly was the lack of attention paid to southern Chinese systems compared to the Northern/Internal systems. Only a mere 2 pages or so are given to Hung Gar's Lam Sai Wing, the only representation of the southern Chinese martial arts in the whole book.
In over 1,000 years, the Chinese have produced a lot of manuals. The range is enormous and the quality is wildly valuable. The subject isn't helped by the profuse mythology and legend that has grown up around the Chinese arts in the same time period.
Kennedy and his co-author do a good job of separating legend from fact and showing how trends developed in the manuals.
If you find books about martial arts, and the history of their development, intrinsically interesting, then this is your book.
* (There is one exception: The off-hand revelation at the very end of the last page regarding the hand techniques of western boxing. I was stunned!)
There are so many factual errors in the book that it would literally take several pages to point them out. But let me just correct a few...Firstly, Mr Kennedy states that there were no spiritual or religious aspects to historical martial arts. That is simply not true; many styles (Bagua, Tai Chi, Shaolin, and Wudang to name but a few) had or have spiritual or religious teachings. Mr Kennedy then goes on to say that "internal" martial art styles don't have any external movements and they are called "internal" because you can't see the practicioner moving. I had to chuckle when I read that! Anyone with even basic knowledge of internal styles like Tai Chi, Bagua, 5 Animals 5 Elements of Hung Gar, etc. knows that an "internal" style has many of the same movements as "external" styles. The primary difference between the two is that spiritual and mental self development is more prevalent in internal styles (which as I mentioned previously the author claims didn't exist at all) but in reality both internal and external styles are very similar.
Another glaring falsehood is the author's statements that a.) martial arts are not part of American culture, b.) modern kung fu practicioners aren't studying the "real" kung fu, and c.) modern martial arts are useless on the streets. Truly, there seems to be no end to the author's ignorance or naivete (I couldn't figure out which was the case). Martial arts have been a huge part of American culture since the 60's. Perhaps Mr Kennedy has never heard of Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, Ed Parker, Ralph Castro, Robert Trias, Dan Inosanto, Moses Powell and many others during the Golden Age of martial arts in the USA? Martial arts tournaments were huge in the 70's, with many of the larger tournaments having as many attendants as rock concerts today. During the 80's there was the whole Ninja and Karate Kid boom and martial arts became even further entrenched in American culture. You could find a karate, judo or kung fu school on almost every corner back then. Even today, with the UFC, MMA, and martial arts movie stars like Jackie Chan, Chuck Norris, Steven Seagal, Van Damme, et al. martial arts is still big in the US.
I would invite the author to come and show me what "real" kung fu training is, so I can see how it's done. Until then, I will continue to train in my teachers have taught me (and if I wanted to name drop, you'd have no doubt they are "real"). As for me, I've privately trained a couple of the Arizona Cardinals, law enforcement and martial artists of other styles and they would all vouch for how real and hardcore my training is.
As for his assumption that modern martial artists don't practice anything useful on the streets, I almost felt like I was reading a literary equivalent of an internet troll post. There are many, many martial artists of all styles that have successfully used their training in self defense situations (myself included). And, lest anyone forget, every technique used in the UFC/MMA has its basis in a traditional style. And if you don't think those techniques work on the street, look online for the Roger Huerta street fight video, or walk up to Bas Rutten, Nick Diaz, Hickson Gracie (or pretty much anyone in the Gracie clan), all of whom used traditional and "MMA" in street defense situations, and try to attack them. Let me know how that works out for you.
Those are just a few of the glaring inaccuracies; like I said there are enough to almost fill a book of corrections. The obvious inability of the author to seperate personal bias/opinion from fact, lack of sources, etc. just comes off very unprofessional. The only I'm giving it 2 stars is for the excellent historical photos, which are really the only redeeming thing about this book.