In the interest of full disclosure, I was given this book for review purposes.
Title: Research of Martial Arts
Author: Jonathan Bluestein
Pages: 418 (This is a large, thick book)
Price: $36.00 (on Amazon)
I always read a book with a highlighter. As I go through I highlight and make comments on anything that I want to know more about, or I should write down in my martial arts journal. Usually there are a couple good quotes and such that I like and conglomerate into my own martial arts philosophy. This book, I had to have highlighters of several colors just to make sure the ideas didn't just run together. That should be an indication of the amount, and value of information present here.
Research of Martial Arts is almost three books in one. As such, it is divided into three parts. The first being a deliberate and in depth look at the ideas of Internal and External martial arts. Although often used to speak of Chinese martial arts, Mr. Bluestein does a good job of showing other martial arts apply the same principles. The second portion is more like a collection of short essays and observations on martial arts by the author, with two articles by guest authors. The third is a collection of insiteful interviews with the martial artists that the author has studied with, and has used as examples throughout the book. If that wasn't enough information for you, there is an extensive bibliography with 190 references, and an appendix with a couple of articles mentioned specifically in the book. If nothing else, the volume of work in this book makes it worth it.
If you can't tell, I like academic books on martial arts. I'm an intellectual at heart. This book hits that spot for me. The first portion, the tretise on External vs. Internal martial arts, is well researched, and well refereced (did I mention the 190 citations?). It also doesn't take a "mine is better than your" approach. Sifu Bluestein explains where the strengths and weaknesses of each approach lie. He also gives examples of how other arts choose some aspects of both to make their art work. The second part, the article portion is also well written, and insiteful. I had my highlighter out a lot for this section as well. The third section, the interviews, are generally very good, and certainly give you many different views, and approaches to martial arts.
I don't really have anything bad to say about the book. The first section, was very thick with information, and I'll probably have to read it again to make sure I got most of the ideas. It was a bit academic, although written from a lecture point of view rather than a textbook style, so it wasn't as dry as some others I've read.
I don't know if this book is meant for every martial artist, but every martial artist can get something out of it. This book apparently was published in 2014. I wish I'd known about it then. I felt that a certain level of martial arts experience was necessary to fully understand the first section, as well as a general familiarity with many different types/styles of martial arts. That being said, I would easily recommend this book to my more academically minded friends and colleagues. This wasn't a right before bed read, or read during the commercials type of book. This book required my full attention, but it gave me a lot if I paid attention. That's why I gave this book 4.5 out of 5 Ninja Stars. It was a really dense book that I'm going to have to look at again, but I really enjoyed it. Besides, any book that mentioned both Donn F. Draeger and Hiyaa! had to be that good!