Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Review of Jonathan Bluestein’s Research of Martial Arts

 “The heart of the study of boxing is to have natural instinct resemble the dragon.”
 – Wang Xiang Zhai

Anyone who has been a regular reader of Cook Ding’s Kitchen should know the name Jonathan Bluestein. Most of the top ten most popular articles written over the nine years that this blog has been in existence have been guest posts written by Jonathan.

Well, he’s gone and done it again. Not a guess post, but a book.

Jonathan Bluestein’s Research of Martial Arts has just been published. I was honored to be able to review an advance copy of the electronic version. It will also be available in hard back.

First of all, having put together two modest books, I greatly admire the work that went into the layout of this book. It flows. It is attractive. The pictures and illustrations are meaningful. Jonathan did a fine job.

It is said that when you teach, you learn. Jonathan has been teaching the traditional Chinese martial arts of Xingyiquan and Piquaquan for some time now and as an exercise in working out his own idea of the theory of martial arts for himself and his students, he has undertaken this project which comprises about the first half of the book.

Jonathan’s explanation of the theory of martial arts is comprehensive, well thought out and articulated. Even if you don’t particularly agree with some of the specifics of Jonathan’s theories you have a template for articulating your own theory of the study and practice of martial arts and how all of the various pieces stick together. Jonathan has set a standard to which you can measure your own understanding.

This is not a “how to” book by any means, it is a "why" book. It seeks to impart some knowledge so that the reader, from beginner to an advanced practitioner can better inform his practice.

Both so called External and Internal martial arts are examined. It is explained how the distinction and terms are somewhat arbitrary, but they much of our thinking about martial arts is related to these terms.

He begins with an examination of external or “outside – in” characteristics: physical strength, endurance, the ability to sustain blows, flexibility, techniques and so on; and how these different attributes adds up to the development of a martial artist.

Next he examines the internal, “inside – out” martial arts and their characteristics: alignment, structure, balance, relaxedness, yi, the six harmonies, etc; and how all of these pull together to form an effective martial art.

He then moves on to that place where internal and external methods combine. For myself, I’ve practiced Yoshinkan Aikido, Taijiquan, Xingyiquan, Baguazhang and a variant of Yiquan, but I also run, have trained in MMA and am currently working on Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. This chapter really hits home.

It is a very rare individual who would be totally at one end of the spectrum of study and practice or the other.

He not only discusses how this combination of internal and external applies to each of us in our practice, he does a survey and overview of martial arts that are considered to be “hard/soft,” specifically taking the case of Wing Chun and Aikido (which from my own experience has a wide spectrum of study and practice; the style I learned was considered a “hard” form of aikido).

The remainder of the book consists of a wonderful collection of interviews with, or articles by notable martial artists whose insights enliven the theories discussed.

For this collection alone, this book is a must have.

I know that I’ll be chewing on the ideas presented here and will be looking at my own practice both in the short and long term a little differently for a long, long time and I’ll be better for it.

Please visit the Research of Martial Arts website:

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