Title: (Henning's Scholarly Works on) Chinese Combative Traditions
Compiled By: Michael A. DeMarco
Publisher: Via Media Publishing
Price: $21.95 ($9.95 Kindle Edition)
I've often talked about how I missed out on the Journal of Asian Martial Arts (JAMA). An actual academic journal of the martial arts of Asia. The nerd in me weeps that it is now defunct, and that I can no longer contribute to it. I've gone on a mission when I have the time and money, to track down the old issues of the Journal. To help out all of us, Mr. Michael A. DeMarco, the editor of JAMA has compiled articles by subject matter and put them into single books for us. Chinese Combative Traditions does a take on that theme a little differently. He compiled works by a single author. This is the fourth such JAMA compilation that I've read, and I love them all.
This book collects the articles of Stan Henning's scholarly works into place. There are 15 different articles that span over a decade worth of time writing for JAMA. Most are written from an academic perspective on the history of Chinese martial arts. However, several of the articles are more about the travel Mr. Henning did in China, and about other Chinese "Martial Studies" scholars.
First off, my nerd side always loves the academic treatment of martial arts. Anytime an academic takes the subject of martial arts seriously, my mental ears perk up. Mr. Henning does a good job through his many articles of dissecting many of the stories we tell ourselves as martial artists about the origins of martial arts. He also provides good evidence of the false dichotomy (External vs. Internal, Northern vs. Southern, et. al.) that we classify Chinese martial arts into, as well as why this division occurred.
Besides looking at the history, there's also an article written about the future of Chinese Martial Studies, and gives you several gentlemen to look up for continuing research of the subject.
The collected articles by Mr. Henning are very well written, as I would expect from JAMA, and they are compiled nicely, to where, even though many years separate their origin, they have a natural flow of subject matter and experience.
Normally, I take off points for a book that is a little too art specific. However, in this case, I'm not going to do that very much. First off, Chinese martial arts isn't a very restrictive subject matter, and encompasses a lot of different arts. Secondly, I've never studied Chinese martial arts, yet I knew most of the "myths" he was setting to research. They've worked their way into the historical background of many different martial arts. Japanese and Korean arts being main ones, which are also the most practiced arts. I believe Karate, and Taekwondo are the most practiced arts in the world. Therefore, the main negative I can attribute to this book, is its academic nature. I love that part of the book, however, some may be turned off by it.
Overall, I'm definitely going to keep this book as a reference piece for other material I'm writing. I did enjoy the travelogue articles as I think many others would, and the citation and debunking of certain martial myths is important. I think most East Asian martial art students (Chinese, Korean, and Japanese arts) can benefit from this book, it may not hold more that curiosity to other arts research. Therefore, I'm going to give this book four out of five Ninja Stars. I really enjoyed it, most martial arts practitioners in the world will find it useful, and it is well written an put together. Some of the articles are a little on the academic side, but hey... it's in the title of the book, so you knew that coming into this.