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Thread: Chinese Martial Arts Training Manuals

  1. #1
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    Arrow Chinese Martial Arts Training Manuals

    Chinese Martial Arts Training Manuals: A Historical Survey
    Brian Kennedy, Elizabeth Guo

    North Atlantic Books, 2005
    ISBN 978-1556435577

    My brother spotted this at Borders a couple months ago and was kind enough to pick it up for me. I haven't had a chance to finish it yet, but I've read the better part of it. When I first looked at it, I was hoping for a healthy dose of material from the earlier periods, and while the book does touch on these manuscripts, the majority of the text focuses on the mass-produced manuals of early Republican China. As an introduction to these, however, my impression is that they did a good job. As the authors themselves stress, there is no way they could fit a comprehensive historical outline of all the manuals that have been written in the 300 or so pages of the book, but (and I speak as somebody who has only the most basic understanding of Chinese martial arts) it reads like a good overview.

    The first half of the book was written primarily by Brian Kennedy, and focuses on the historical and cultural context of the manuals. The second half was written largely by Elizabeth Guo, a Taiwanese citizen and professional translator, and discusses the manuals themselves.

    That said, I do have a few criticisms of the book. It is not written for scholars; it is in many places very casual. Worth reading, yes, but don't expect anything particularly challenging. My main criticism, and this is what really hurts it as a viable reference source, is its lack of citations. Aside from the manuals they discuss and depict within the text, the authors never cite information that comes, ostensibly, from sources other than the primary sources, and there is not a bibliography. While most of the book reads like somebody writing from a "common sense" point of view, and eschews the traditionally romantic writing associated with literature of substandard research, the lack of credited sources seriously hurts it, and, moreover, it does not give the reader a jumping point from which to conduct further research. This, in addition to the often casual feel of the book leaves the reader with the impression that this is not as "serious" as other works.

    However, because there are so few works of this kind in English, I would not discount it out of hand. The primary sources are, after all, the core of the text, so if you are looking for an overview of Republican-era manuals or biographical information of their authors and other important Chinese martial artists, this isn't a bad place to start.
    Last edited by Justin Gifford; 08-27-2007 at 09:39 AM. Reason: Edited for grammar
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  2. #2
    Last week I treated my self to the book Chinese Martial Arts Training Manuals, co-written by Brain Kennedy and Elizabeth Guo.
    I started reading the book yesterday night and haven't been able to put it aside before I had finished it. A jewel, especially for someone like me who isn't a native speaker of the English language and certainly not someone who knows a lot of Chinese So this book not being written in a very academic way does have its pros.

    The book gives a short historic overview of Chinese martial art manuals and debunks a lot of myths on the way.
    Also for me as a practitioner of Korean martial arts it gave me some insight in how martial myths came into being.

    The book is elaborate but gives more than enough handles to spit deeper.
    I bought the book because I wanted to know more about Chinese martial manuals and especially about General Qi Ji Guang's New Book on Effective Martial Techniques (the book that served as the inspirations of the Muyejebo).

    As an introduction into Chinese martial manuals the book is great, I gave it five stars at Amazon.

    The book has 'only' four or five pages about General Qi's book. And likewise isn't very elaborate about the other manuals that are described. But again, it gives enough pointers for further study, but like Justin said it doesn't cite sources.
    Last edited by Klaas Barends; 09-01-2007 at 02:12 PM.
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