Research of Martial Arts.
Edition and design by the author.
San Bernardino, CA. 2015.
Jonathan Bluestein is a martial arts teacher, a physical trainer, has a Bachelor in Law and is the author of several articles focused in martial research. While he did compulsory military service for three years, he worked as a researcher at the Police Central Unit of Tel Aviv. In 2012 and also in Israel, he founded the Tianjin Martial Arts Academy, where he teaches the traditional Chinese martial arts of Xing Yi Quan (形意拳) and Pigua Zhang (劈掛拳) since then. He has been practicing these martial arts for many years under the guidance of his main masters: Zhou Jingxuan and Nitzan Oren. From the latter he received the dictum that appears on the cover and in the introduction of his book: “Skill is acquired through continuous practice, sophistication & depth (are achieved) by giving thought to it.” The multidisciplinary and holistic approach that shifu (師傅) Bluestein’s has chosen for his investigation, without a doubt, honors the second part of the dictum.
A translation into Spanish of the book Research of Martial Arts has not been published yet. The book is composed by a preface –with a long list of acknowledgments thanking everyone who made it possible,– an introduction, three parts –which are divided into chapters and sub-chapters,– a bibliography and an appendix.
In the introduction, the author explains why the book must be read in a lineal way. One of the reasons is the logical assumption, which means that the parts and chapters cannot be read independently. In order to understand the third part, the reader needs to have read the second one before, and to understand the second part, the reader needs to have started by the first one. In other words, the introduction explains how the book should be read. In this section, the author also explains the reasons why he focuses on the “barehanded” concept, at the expense of weapons. Furthermore, he states who is the intended audience of this book. The author exposes that: “For the newbie, this book may serve as a knowledge treasure-chest, I assumed the reader has at least a minimal amount of experience in martial arts.” For both, the martial arts teacher and the expert, the book is a “great tool to aid in analyzing, teaching and explaining your art to others.”
Part I: “From the Inside Out – External & Internal Gong Fu,” is a vast deployment of martial theories and practices. The traditional and modern concepts and methods are approached from different disciplines, such as Physiology, Biology, Anatomy, Psychology, Western and Eastern Philosophy, Sports Science, and the author’s personal experiences. The author studies the “external” martial arts as well as the “internal” ones. He starts examining the external aspects, such as physical strength, durability, damage endurance, flexibility, techniques, etc. Then, the author continues talking about the internal martial arts and its aspects, such as “alignment”, “structure”, balance/equilibrium, relaxation, “yi”, the “six harmonies”, among others. Next, the combined internal/external martial arts are analyzed, for example, Wing Chung or Aikido. At the end, the author shares some epistemological reflections that problematize the exposed notions and unify the theories from an holistic perspective.
Part II: “Contemplations on Controlled Violence,” has a philosophic and psychological nature and contains the author’s thoughts about martial arts and their manifestation in our everyday life. The theses he presents are supported by articles written by many martial artists, such as his master Nitzan Oren, and also Robert Arnold, Alen Pittman, among others. It is worthy to mention that the book contains some poems written by Bluestein, as well as his testimony about his initiation into martial arts.
Part III: “The Wisdom of Martial Spirits: Teachers, and the Things They Hold Dear,” includes multiple interviews with distinguished masters of varied martial arts conducted by the author. Each interviewee has a point of view that is worth reading. Listed in the same order in which they appear in the book, the interviewee are the following masters: Chen Zhonghua (Chen Taiji Quan) and Yang Hai (Xing Yi Quan, Bagua Zhang and Chen Taiji Quan). In regard with the shifu: Strider Clark (Tongbei Quan, Taiji estilo Wu, Shuai Jiao and more), Neil Ripski (traditional drunken fist fighting style and many others), James Cama (Buddha Hand Wing Chun and Southern Praying Mantis) and finally, Itzik Cohen (Karate Shito-ryu).
The bibliography takes seven pages where many web page references can be found. Moreover, the appendix is centered on the health benefits of martial arts.
Pequeños Universos’ Review
In the back cover, Jonathan Bluestein says that his books is about “the true essence of martial arts.” That is an ambitious task. Moreover, it is possible that a reader with non-essentialist views would not love the idea of reading four hundred pages that explore something they are skeptical about. But whether we are essentialist or not, the erudition the author shows while moving completely naturally among different and complex disciplines –not only bio-physical disciplines, but also social and human ones– is surprising. We cannot assert that the author manages to grasp the so much wanted essence, but we dare to suggest that he at least comes close to it.
Fortunately, the book does not include teachings about lethal techniques to murder, nor mystic stories about the so-called super-human masters. Rather, it is a vast compilation of the author’s thoroughly contemplated observations about the subject, as well as the observations of many other martial artists and scientists presented with a touch of history and humor. Therefore, it is an indispensable book for honest martial artists seeking to follow the path of virtue.
The only unfortunate remark is the ergonomics of the book. Te combination of its enormous size and its soft consistency, plus it being a paperback, interferes with the reading process. In fact, the book –as the object that holds the content– literally scatters on the reader’s hands, making it difficult to maintain the concentration.