The True History of Chinese Martial Arts [Book Review]

Chinese Martial Arts: A Historical OutlineMan Mou Seung Chyun means “Scholar and Warrior” in Cantonese. It is an old Chinese ideal of a gentleman who can use skilfully both his brush and sword.

After well received book on Lama Paai Gung Fu (review HERE), dedicated to both history and technical curriculum of so called “Tibetan” styles of Chinese martial arts, David A. Ross Sifu of New York San Da brought us practical oriented textbooks of combined old and new methods, bringing the skills of traditional martial arts into the 21 century.

In his latest book, long awaited Chinese Martial Arts: A Historical Outline, he has tackled another difficult task – to present the true history of Chinese Gung Fu. And again, he does excellent job. 

Chinese Martial Arts: A Historical Outline: Content

  • Military Methods
  • The Four Staff of Occupations
  • Conflict an Violence
  • The White Lotus Sect
  • The Heaven and Earth Society
  • The Taiping Civil War
  • The Boxer Uprising
  • Nei Jia Quan
  • New Culture Movement
  • National Arts
  • Shaolin Legends
  • Bibliography

For a regular readers of his excellent blog it was no surprise – but the new book took it to another level. Ross Sifu presents a true piece of scholarly work with Chinese characters, quotations, and footnotes, and extensive bibliography. And he brings us the commonly known romantic legends, chivalrous heroes, and wise old monks, but true history of Chinese martial arts – full of violence, crime, sectarianism, snake oil, and politics. True history that is very seldom presented both in China and the West.

Did Buddhist monks and Daoist priests really practice martial arts? Is the practice of Chinese martial arts religious? What are the White Lotus Sect and the Heaven and Earth Society? Did martial artists really think they could resist bullets using their internal power? What is the “internal school” of martial arts? These and many more questions are addressed and potentially answered by the new volume Chinese Martial Arts, A Historical Outline.

Similar to the technical aspect of Chinese martial arts, we focus only on the good stuff. Beautiful performance a spear set is pleasing to watch, sticking the spear into somebody’s belly repeatedly not so much. “Practical is not pretty, pretty is not practical”, wrote famous general Qi Ji Guang few hundred years ago. We can say the same thing about the history and legends of Chinese martial arts – “true is not pretty, pretty is not true”. Ross Sifu’s new book could be called True History of Chinese Martial Arts.

We all love the stories of watching the crane vs. snake fight, studying under an old Shaolin monk in the mountains, or heroic deeds of righteous Wong Fei Hung. Martial arts, however, are in the end, an endeavour of violence. Ross Sifu mentions a commonly known Chinese saying: “A good piece of metal does not become nails, and a good man does not become a soldier”. Or a bodyguard, gang or secret society member, street performer, armed escort. Think of the image of today’s MMA fighters, local gang in the bad neighbourhood armed with guns, or those guys with no neck and cauliflower ears working on the doors, not your MC Dojo martial arts lessons around the corner.

The True History of Chinese Martial Arts [Book Review]

I fully confess of being guilty to love all the legends – they do carry an important message, especially in today’s world where martial arts role is not the survival on daily basis, but a way of personal development on many levels: health, strength, combat efficiency in the sport enviroment, and self-defense. Let us not forget the personal development and “martial virtues”. But I have grown up – and that is why I love Ross Sifu’s work, both theoretical and practical.

(Speaking of practical – Ross Sifu runs a “secret” Facebook page Lion’s Roar Martial Arts Advanced Training, where he posts on daily basis instructional videos, .pdf documents, etc. I am the member since the beginning, and I can’t recommend it enough – LOTS of useful and practical info that I have incorporated into our training. Contact Ross Sifu for more information HERE).

220 pages of detailed and reliable info, what else can we wish for! Actually, we can – another book, instructional DVD (or downloadable video), anything that Ross Sifu will share with us.

The huge success of our PHK Intro Kit: Beginner’s Guide to Chinese Martial Arts has motivated us to work on subsequent online instructional courses. It takes a lot of time to shoot and edit the videos, write the manuals – or a book. Please support Ross Sifu in his future endeavour, purchase the book either on Create Space or Amazon, and make sure to share this review with your friends and colleagues.

To purchase other Ross Sifu’s works, please visit his Amazon author page HERE.

Pavel Macek Sifu, Practical Hung Kyun

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