The first thing I think of regarding “Jonathan Bluestein’s Research of Martial Arts” by Jonathan Bluestein is “WOW!” At over 400 large pages with dense text and photographs, there is so much here. It’s definitely not a light quick read. It’s a book that takes some time to digest, but one that is well worth the time.
The second thing I think is, “what a fascinating look at martial arts, especially the internal arts of China. I truly enjoyed reading Bluestein’s research and experiences with his martial art journey. I learned things, and reinforced other beliefs I already had. This is not a technique book. You won’t learn a style by studying it. It’s more global in nature, exploring and comparing concepts and guiding principles. You train your body in the training hall, and you train your mind with books such as this.
The book has a Chinese martial art emphasis, and those who study the various martial arts will undoubtedly gain a deeper understanding of their training through reading this. However, I do feel any martial artist can benefit from the information and interviews in this text. My primary art is Hapkido, but I have studied Qigong and little Tai Chi as well. This book has helped inspire me to study these latter disciplines further, because they compliment my Hapkido and self-defense training.
The first part of the book explores the differences between external and internal gong fu, with an emphasis on the internal. The second part of the book contains numerous short essays on various aspects of martial arts and what the author calls controlled violence. And the third and last part of the book contains some in depth interviews with about a half dozen instructors. I found all three parts interesting and insightful.
The formatting of the book lacked at times with different font size that was sometimes a bit distracting, and there were a few typos here and there. But if you focused on these, you would truly be missing the forest due to a few trees. There were numerous pictures, but definitely much more text that photography. A detailed bibliography is included referencing the notes throughout the text.
I understand that there are martial artists that are more interested in the physical aspects and techniques taught within the arts. This is not that book. To enjoy and benefit from reading this text, you must have an interest in the internal aspects of martial arts as well as wanting a global look at various martial art concepts, theory, and practice from an almost academic point of view. If you are up for an intellectually stimulating discourse on martial arts, then you are in the right place.
As a martial art instructor and practitioner of over 30 years, I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
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