The Iaido Journal  Mar 2004
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Martial Arts in the Modern World

martial arts in the modern world

Review by Ken Morgan copyright © 2004 all rights reserved

Edited by Thomas A. Green & Joseph R. Svinth
ISBN: 0-275-98153-3

    Green and Svinth have produced a book that intends to, as the title implies, look at various martial arts in the world of today. It may be somewhat misleading to say that Green and Svinth are simply the editors of the book, they are also the authors of many an article within the work itself. Anyone who has read any work by either of them knows that they are authors of integrity, and should open this book expecting the same.

    The book is divided up into eight parts with relevant articles under each, totaling eighteen separate papers within the book.


Part I. The Role of Folk History in the Martial Arts

Sense in Nonsense: The Role of Folk History in the Martial Arts–Thomas A. Green

The book begins with a brief look at Folk History in the Martial arts. Though this could be expanded into a work by itself, essentially the article looks at how the legitimacy of various martial arts are established through the transmission of real or imagined historical data. Green has researched this paper extraordinarily well, and constructs a compelling thesis.

Part II. Western Physical Culture Impacts Asia

a. A Study of Chinese Physical Culture, 1865-1965-Stanley Henning

This particular article looks at the traditional Chinese martial arts within the mid 19th to the mid 20th century. Deeply researched it explores the affects of Western and Japanese imperialism on the Martial Arts, and how the Chinese Martial Arts endured. Also included is the rise and domination of Communism and how politics changed and influenced the face of Martial Arts.

b. The Spirit of Manliness: Boxing in Imperial Japan, 1868-1945–Joseph R. Svinth

Boxing in this era and geography is of particular interest to me personally, so I took great interest in reading this article. The article, again is well researched, looks at the introduction of Western boxing into Japan, and its development throughout the years. Also discussed is the track record of Japanese boxers throughout the world.

Part III. Asian Physical Culture Impacts the West

a. Professor Yamashita Goes to Washington: Judo Comes to America—Joseph R. Svinth

This particular article looks at Professor Yamashita and his trip to the United States at the beginning of the twentieth Century. The article discuses Yamashita’s training of Theodore Roosevelt and his instruction at the U.S. Naval Academy. Also looked at are the attitudes of various Americans towards Judo and Yamashita.

b. The Circle and the Octagon: Maeda’s Judo and Gracie’s Jiu-Jitsu–Thomas A. Green and Joseph R. Svinth

This article takes a brief look at the Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). They discuss mixed bouts among various MA practitioners with special interest paid to Wrestling, Judo and Jiu-Jitsu. A very informative article.

c. The Myth of Zen in the Art of Archery–Yamada Shoji

This article takes a look specifically at the German Eugen Herrigel and the Japanese Kyudo practioner Awa Kenzo, and their relationship in the writing of Herrigel’s book, “Zen in the art of Archery”. An enlightening article.

Part IV. Martial Arts as Muscular Theatre

a. The Lion of the Punjab: Gama in England, 1910–Graham Noble

An enlightening article on the dominance of Indian wrestlers in the west, at the beginning of the 20th century.

b. The Little Dragon (Bruce Lee)–James Halpin

A brief article on the rise of Bruce Lee and the way it affected minority peoples in the United States. Volumes have been written on the mans life, but this brief paper speaks well on the subject.

Part V. Martial Arts as Cultural Artifact

a. Surviving the Middle Passage: Traditional African Martial Arts in the Americas–Thomas A. Green

The transmission and transformation of traditional African martial arts in the new world. An informative, well constructed paper on the struggles of slaves in the new world trying to maintain some part of their martial arts heritage.

b. Kendo in North America, 1885-1955-Joseph R. Svinth

As the title clearly states, Kendo in North America. A must read for any Kendo practitioner in Canada or the United States. It looks at the struggles of the original Japanese teachers and practitioners as they try to play their art. The intervening war years put a damper on the art, but it returns in all its might after the war.

Part VI. Martial Arts Enter the Olympics

a. Olympic Games and Japan–Kano Jigoro

A brief article on Kano Jigoro and his efforts to bring Japan into the Olympics games and to bring the Olympics games into Japan.

b. The Origins of the European Judo Union–Richard Bowen

Details on the founding of the European Judo Union.

c. The Evolution of Taekwondo from Japanese Karate–Eric Madis

An interesting article, on how the Korean love of martial arts warped around their dislike of the Japanese, to bring forth Taekwondo.

Part VII. Martial Arts as Weapons of Empowerment

a. Women’s Boxing and Related Activities-Jennifer Hargreaves

The evolution of woman’s boxing from predominantly entertainment, to fitness to serious competition and the morals/thoughts of the participants and the general public.

b. Freeing the Afrikan Mind—Thomas A. Green

An article of how the black peoples of the United States used the martial arts to help foster a feeling of community amongst themselves.

Part VIII. Martial Arts Enter the 21st Century

a. Action Designs: New Directions in Fight Choreography-Tony Wolf

Fight Choreography takes on new meaning when described by Tony Wolf, the fighting styles designer of The Lord of the Rings. He briefly describes the history of fight scenes in film then talks about how he structures his work. Quite an enjoyable read.

b. Combatives in the Early 21st Century U.S. Military—Joseph R. Svinth

Where the United States military is in its unarmed combat. What they teach, and why they teach what they do, and more importantly the purpose and feeling behind the training.

Epilogue: Where We Go from Here

Overall I found this book to be one of the best researched martial arts books I’ve ever read, but then again I expected no different from the authors. The writing of the various authors is excellent and provides compelling arguments, information and entertainment. I would without reservation recommend this book to any practitioner of the martial arts or to anyone interested in the history and development of sport.

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TIN Mar 2004