The Journal of Asian Martial Arts is a very serious publication that examines the history, culture, and techniques of a variety of traditional Asian fighting arts.
Published by Via Media in Erie, PA, this quarterly (which also calls itself JAMA, risking confusing some doctors) is in the style of an academic journal, and indeed is a member of the snooty-sounding Council of Editors of Learned Journals. Its large (8.5 x 11 inch) pages leave ample room for illustrations, an essential element of many articles. Aside from the cover, JAMA is printed in black and white.[ADBLOCKHERE]The issue currently in our newsstand is #1 for 2006, which also happens to be JAMA‘s 15th anniversary issue. Editor-in-chief Michael A. DeMarco notes in his celebratory editorial that “out of thirty article submissions, only two or three are accepted for publication.” He also points out with pride that JAMA will soon be published in Spanish and Greek language editions for European distribution.
The best summation of the journal’s content and purpose can be found in its statement of editorial policy:
The Journal of Asian Martial Arts publishes three types of materials: (1) scholarly articles based on primary research in recognized scholarly disciplines, e.g., cultural anthropology, comparative religions, psychology, film theory, and criticism, etc.; (2) more informal, but nevertheless substantial interviews (with scholars, master practitioners, etc.) and reports on particular genres, techniques, etc.; and (3) reviews of books and audiovisual materials on the martial arts.
Like almost all academic journals, JAMA practices peer review, with each article submitted to a couple of editorial board members before it is accepted for publication.
Turning to the anniversary issue itself, the opening article is a very scholarly analysis of why people take up martial arts training in New Zealand. The author posits that it’s because they perceive that they are in what she calls a “risk society,” and are seeking personal safety, personal health and fitness, more social solidarity, and a meaning and purpose in life. She concludes that those who persist in their study do it for more abstract reasons than simple self-defense and fitness.
The next article, utilizing 34 of the issue’s 112 pages, is a truly comprehensive introduction to Shuai Jiao, a traditional Chinese form of wrestling that confines itself to throwing the opponent off-balance and to the ground. As soon as any part of him but his feet touches the ground, you’ve won. The trick is to clutch his sleeve, his shoulder, his waist (but never, never his pants!), and unbalance him, perhaps feinting one way and quickly reversing direction. You can use your legs, but only to nudge, not to kick. Of course, for every offensive move, a countering defensive move has been invented over the centuries.
Author Zhang Yun provides a fascinating account of how Shuai Jiao came into favor with the emperors starting early in the Qing Dynasty in the 17th century. With the fall of that dynasty in 1911, its practitioners had to take to the streets as entertainers and as teachers to the common people. A staggering blow to the sport in China was the decision by the government a few years ago to support Olympic wrestling in the Greco-Roman tradition. In the article you’ll find exhaustive discussions of proper footwork, hand techniques, and body movement, illustrated by dozens of photographs and other graphics.
The issue concludes with tributes to the lives and teachings of a couple of recently deceased masters of the martial arts, and by several pages of thoughtful book reviews. A couple of the book titles: Shinsengumi: The Shogun’s Last Samurai Corps and The Art of Chinese Swordsmanship: A Manual of Taiji Jian.
JAMA will be of the most interest to serious students of the martial arts, but anyone with a passion for things Asian will find it absorbing for the historical and cultural insights it provides.