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Jingwu: The School that Transformed Kung Fu Paperback – June 15, 2010
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—Tim Cartmell, translator of A Study of Taijiquan by Sun Lutang and The Method of Chinese Wrestling by Tong Zhongyi
“A spectacular contribution to filling the gap in early twentieth-century Chinese martial arts and cultural history.”
—Stanley Henning, Chinese martial arts historian
“This book should be required reading for anyone who is studying a Chinese martial art. Traditional martial artists of the Japanese and Korean varieties will also find this book worth reading, as well as those who are interested in Eastern or Chinese history and culture.”
“I really enjoyed reading [Jingwu] and would definitely recommend to all readers who are interested in finding out more about the cultural context of Chinese martial arts during the Republican period through the lens of the Jing wu organization.”
—Be not defeated by the Rain
About the Author
Elizabeth Nai Jia Guo is a professional translator specializing in law, religious studies, and martial arts. She lives in Tapei, Taiwan.
Mr. Kennedy and Ms. Guo both write on a regular basis for Classical Fighting Arts magazine and Kung Fu Tai Chi magazine, and have co-authored three published books, including Chinese Martial Arts Training Manuals: A Historical Survey, published by Blue Snake Books.
- Publisher : Blue Snake Books; Illustrated edition (June 15, 2010)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 168 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1583942424
- ISBN-13 : 978-1583942420
- Item Weight : 9.1 ounces
- Dimensions : 6 x 0.42 x 8.98 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #2,224,121 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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It is mostly based on the 10th Anniversary Issue published in 1919 by Jing Wu itself, with some additional commentary and analysis by the authors. Besides martial arts the book provides information on some of the other activities promoted by the Jing Wu organization, such as literary activities, gymnastics, track and field, western sports and photography, in an effort to create well rounded individuals. There is a wealth of pictures of the men's, women's and children's programmes. There is also a short piece on Chen Shichao, head of the Women's Jingwu programme. (Whom I have to admit I now have a bit of a crush on after reading about her in the book). Indeed this philosophy has carried over into modern day Chinese society where parents are very keen to have their kids learn violin and piano, sports and swimming as well as take additional tutorials in many extra-cirricular activities outside of school.
The stated purpose of the book is to highlight the role of how Jing Wu helped to adapt the role of martial arts and keep it relevant in a rapidly modernizing society. Indeed the full title of the book is "Jingwu - The School that transformed Kung Fu" and in that way provides food for thought for the cultural relevance of martial arts in our times, especially now that the PRC is heavily pushing the sports version of Wushu. In many ways it can be read in conjunction with books such as "Marrow of the Nation: A History of Sport and Physical Culture in Republican China by Andrew D. Morris" and "Yoga Body" by Mark Singleton which discusses the role of modernization of yoga in India in response to western influences, as another aspect of how traditional cultures grappled with the influence of the West and modernization.
If I had to make some criticisms of the book, I would argue that it is not academic enough. For instance in the first chapter, the history of the Republican period is simplified into warlords, Japanese and Central government, glossing over many of the nuances and constraints both the Central government and the warlords were working under. Indeed some of the warlords had a strong role in promoting the martial arts as a means of training their armies and as a personal interest. The New Cultural Movement which is of immense importance in the modernization of China is also glossed over and reads somewhat like a wikipedia entry. However, the authors aims are to introduce the background in an easily digestible way for a lay reader, which I believe to have succeeded.
Also sometimes certain assertions are made rather matter of fact. For instance Jing Wu is shown to be the first martial arts school where you could openly sign up. However the authors mention, " in fairness there were other martial arts groups in China who were doing the same kind of things that Jingwu was doing. But these other groups, for a variety of reasons, were all short lived and not particularly influential." I would have liked more analysis as to why Jing Wu succeeded where others failed.
Similarly, for the role of women, "...with some rare exceptions, martial arts were for men only. The Jingwu attempted to reverse this reality and place women's programmes on an equal footing with men's." The fact that there were women's programmes did not necessarily mean that the social mores would have permitted them to flourish (see Saudi Arabia in our own time). Some additional analysis on the changing role of women and influential ideas would also have been helpful in this section.
Finally there are certain areas where I feel the authors give up too easily, for instance p.29, "It is hard to say precisely how much twenty thousand yuan in 1915 would equal in modern US dollars". Many history books on Republican China have tentative conversion rates.
p.31 "It is impossible to divine what exactly the Jing Wu founders or members thought of foreigners". An analysis of popular writings (besides Jing Wu or private letters) may shed some light on this or possible interviews of members who are still alive in China, who may be in their 80s and 90s. There many Jing Wu Hong Kong publications on Jing Wu history that I believe may have shed some light on this topic. Also the Penang chapter of Jing Wu has preserved many historical documents in their archives as Huo Yuan Jia's son eventually settled there.
p. 41 "It is hard, if not impossible to assess the state of physical health of the Chinese people during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries" The book, "The China Study" by Thomas Campbell II provides details of many of the more backward provinces of China, which may provide a proxy for health conditions in the early twentieth century.
But in all fairness, Brian Kennedy himself mentioned that this book was based on a copy of the 10th Anniversary Book published by Jing Wu and he is in some ways content to let Jing Wu speak for himself. He also mentioned that many of the other branches of Jing Wu in America and South East Asia deserve a book by themselves. So he is to be commended for making this available for the English speaking public and I would definitely recommend this book to all.
The traditional martial arts of China (especially the Shaolin Northern style) was a basis of the Jingwu program. However the martial arts were applied in a distinctly modern context. Most importantly, the classes were open to anyone who wanted to join (and could pay for it). There was a system of courses, with certificates granted in the end. The goal was the physical revitalization of the Chinese people.
This book is based largely on a 10th anniversary commemorative volume the Jingwu produced to celebrate their program.
Beside the main text I strongly recommend reading the 1st appendix which concerns historical research into Chinese martial arts. This is an essay that is long past due both for historians and martial artists. This book is an example of how martial arts history should be written. I strongly recommend the book not only for martial artists, but for libraries as well.
Top reviews from other countries
The Jingwu changed this by rejecting the supernatural claims along with:
1) Promoting martial arts training to all
2) Martial arts as sport and recreation (not just a workman's skill for earning a living)
3) Women on equal footing to men
4) Using books, magazine and movies to promote the martial arts.
Western subjects such as basketball, chess, tennis and military training were also taught. The goal was to create a fit, strong well educated person able to stand up to intimidation by foreign powers.
Famous martial artist Huo Yuanjia was credited with co founding the Jingwu, Huo was a hero in China due to defeating foreign fighters, but in reality he did not start the Jingwu and the incidents with foreign fighters lack credible evidence.
The book finishes with a discussion of the poor quality of martial arts history research.
I didn't really find myself to have enjoyed or disliked it only thats it was ok. I learnt alot about Jingwu and I guess that was the aim of the book.
It didn't hype up the legend of Jingwu or Huo Yuan Jia and was quite dry in its approach. More of a book for the historian rather than the CMA practioner in my opinion.