A Brief History of the Martial Arts: East Asian Fighting Styles, from Kung Fu to Ninjutsu

Author(s): Jonathan Clements


Folk tales of the Shaolin Temple depict warrior monks with superhuman abilities. Today, dozens of East Asian fighting styles trace their roots back to the Buddhist brawlers of Shaolin, although any quest for the true story soon wanders into a labyrinth of forgeries, secret texts and modern retellings. This new study approaches the martial arts from their origins in military exercises and callisthenics. It examines a rich folklore from old wuxia tales of crime-fighting heroes to modern kung fu movies. Centre stage is given to the stories that martial artists tell themselves about themselves, with accounts (both factual and fictional) of famous practitioners including China's Yim Wing-chun, Wong Fei-hong, and Ip Man, as well as Japanese counterparts such as Kano Jigoro, Itosu Anko and So Doshin. The history of martial arts encompasses secret societies and religious rebels, with intimate glimpses of the histories of China, Korea and Japan, their conflicts and transformations. The book also charts the migration of martial arts to the United States and beyond. Special attention is paid to the turmoil of the twentieth century, the cross-cultural influence of Japanese colonies in Asia, and the post-war rise of martial arts in sport and entertainment - including the legacy of Bruce Lee, the dilemma of the ninja and the global audience for martial arts in fiction.


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I defy anyone to come away from this book without a deeper knowledge of all martial arts. http://blog.alltheanime.com/books-a-brief-history-of-the-martial-arts/ [Clements'] final conclusions surprise ... leaving the reader satisfied as well as educated. -- Hugh David MyM magazine

JONATHAN CLEMENTS is the author of many books on China and Japan, including A Brief History of the Samurai, An Armchair Traveller's History of the Silk Road, Christ's Samurai: The True Story of the Shimabara Rebellion, profiles of Khubilai Khan and Chairman Mao, The Art of War: A New Translation, and both Modern China and Modern Japan in the All That Matters series. His biographies of the First Emperor of China and Empress Wu have both been translated into Chinese, and his Anime: A History was a 2014 CHOICE selection as one of the year's outstanding academic titles. In 2016, he was the presenter of Route Awakening, National Geographic Asia's TV serial on the historical underpinnings of Chinese culture.

General Fields

  • : 9781472136466
  • : Little, Brown Book Group
  • : Robinson
  • : September 2016
  • : 234mm X 153mm
  • : United Kingdom
  • : December 2016
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Jonathan Clements
  • : Paperback
  • : 1
  • : en
  • : 796.81509
  • : 304
  • : No illustrations