What we think are Asian martial arts is usually derived by Hollywood images, fanciful novels, and a superficial idea of what role combatives played in the long histories of Far Eastern countries. There are only a few people in the world who can truly be called scholars in this field. A leading figure in the USA for the study of Chinese martial traditions is Stanley Henning.
This special anthology is a collection of Henning’s superb articles that were previously published in the Journal of Asian Martial Arts, including one he co-wrote with Marnix Wells—a leading British scholar on Chinese martial traditions. Henning has little patience for those who miss the original essence of practical martial arts, and who fell under the enticement of “flowery boxing.” True combative arts are not play, although they influenced other practices.
In the fifteen chapters included here, you’ll find a strong historic base for what the martial arts meant in old China and how they changed over the centuries. In order to understand martial arts as they were evolving over dynastic periods, it is necessary to look at the political and social settings, technology, and even geography and linguistics. When it comes to research, Henning presents clear facts and accurate conclusions. At the same time, he wisely states what is open to debate and requires further research.
Why is the chapter on Korean martial arts included in this anthology?—Because the Chinese had tremendous influence on their neighbors, including Japan and Korea. Thanks to a few scholars like Henning and Wells, we are getting a clearer picture of just how much Chinese martial arts have influenced the fighting arts in other countries.
Leading scholars are having an impact on how Asian martial traditions are perceived, understood, and practiced. Henning introduces the “new wave” of Chinese scholars who have presented their findings in various articles and books, opening new vistas for all interested in this growing field of study—at least for those who ready Chinese. Fortunately Henning’s work is in English!
This anthology is not an easy read for those unfamiliar with Chinese history, the various dynasties, the terminology and variety of martial systems. However, it will no doubt benefit the serious scholar of Chinese martial arts, and hopefully others will likewise benefit by patiently reading each chapter to broaden their understanding of the rich martial culture of China.