Sunday, March 25, 2018

4 Ninja Stars for Martial Arts in the Arts: An Appreciation of Artifacts

In the interests of full disclosure, I was given this book for review purposes 

Title: Martial Arts in the Arts, An Appreciation of Artifacts
Compiled by: Michael A. DeMarco, 
Publisher: Via Media Publishing

Publish Date: 2018
Format: Softcover
Price: $15.95 Cover Price

I think most readers would know by now, that I'm an academic at heart.  My degree is in zoology.  So I love that there was an academic journal dedicated to martial arts.  However, by the time I was ready to appreciate the Journal of Asian Martial Arts, it had become defunct.  Overtime, when I can, I'm spending more than they originally cost on eBay to collect old volumes of the JAMA.  That's why I love these compilations.  Not only are they collections of old articles from JAMA, but they are also grouped by subject.  Normally in an issue, they would all be interesting articles, but only 1 or 2 directly dealt with me and my martial art.  With the compilations, I know what article subjects I'm getting


All together the reader gets 14 different articles that talk about and describe some of the physical, and artistic representations of martial arts.  There are articles about museum collections, about the connection between brush paintings and calligraphy to martial arts, and even some on artifacts.  My favorite was the article on Oshigata by Anthony DiCristofano.  Oshigata is a form of detailed sword rubbing to accurately capture all the details of both the hamon and the forging of Japanese swords.


I like the academic approach to martial arts, and martial arts related subjects.  This collection is a good example of how to appreciate other aspects of a culture that originated the martial art.  If you study a Chinese martial art, having some appreciation of Chinese art is probably a good thing.  If nothing else, it may help explain some of the philosophical underpinnings of your martial art.  

The production value of this book is also very high.  There are many great reproductions of art and museum pieces which are accurately portrayed in this book.  Sometimes you can get grainy pictures, to where you cannot tell what the picture is supposed to be.  This book, dealing with art pieces, doesn't do that at all.  


I understand that this may not be everyone's favorite type of martial arts book.  There is very little that is directly tied to martial arts, or the study of it.  However, I feel the book adds value to any martial artist who reads it.  


This collection of articles is sort of... martial arts adjacent.  It looks at other aspects of a culture, by using martial arts as the keyhole through which it peers.  I've always said this is the difference between a martial artist, and someone who practices a martial art.  Do you see martial arts as a holistic experience, or as one segment, one part of your daily life?  If you answered yes to the former, then you should read this book.  It provides excellent examples of how to use martial arts as a gateway drug activity to studying another culture, or at least a different time.   For that reason, I'm going to give this book 4 out 5 Ninja Stars.  I really liked it.  But at the same time, I can understand why people may not think of this as a martial arts book, or at least one that adds to their own understanding.


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