3 December 2010
The author, Sang H Kim is an accomplished martial artist of world renown, and holds a Ph.D in Sports Media Studies. He worked as a special agent during his service in the South Korean military, and has, in recent years, developed his own fighting style which he calls 'Junsado' - 'The Way of the Martial Expert'. This book is a Korean martial text. Kim has translated this text from the original Chinese and Korean script, and has rendered it into English for the first time. This is essentially a scholarly text text of great historical importance, as it preserves not only a history of Korean martial endeavour, but at the sametime accurately demonstrates the influence exercised by imperial China toward those countries immediately surrounding it.
In Korean, this book is entitled 'Muye Dobo Tongji' - which translates as 'Comprehensive Illustrated Manual of Martial Arts'. The frontcover of this book adds the words 'of Ancient Korea', but this is something of a misnomer, as the original Korean version of this book was compiled in 1789 by Yi Duk-mon, Park Je-ga and Pak Dong-soo, at the express order of King Jungjo, the then ruler of the Yi Dynasty (1392-1910). Therefore, generally speaking, whilst considering the age of the Korean civilisation, and the Yi Dynasty inparticular, this text is not 'ancient' in the true sense of the word, it is however, 'pre-modern'. In its received form, this manual comprises the conveyance of 24 martial concepts:
This book is separated into 4 parts:
Book One - VI martial techniques.
Book Two - IV martial techniques.
Book Three - VIII martial techniques.
Book Four - VI martial techniques + II subsidery chapters.
The oldest part of the book is not Korean, but Chinese. This core layer is comprised of 6 of the fighting techniques of Chinese general Qi Jiguang (1528-1588). During the Chinese Ming Dynasty, this general defeated barbarian invasions and rampaging Japanese pirates. Tradition suggests that Guang chose the most effective armed and unarmed martial techniques prevalent in his day. Guang's manual is named 'Ji Xiao Xin Shu', or 'New Book Recording Effective Techniques', and was published in China in 1560 and again in 1584. Korea was a tributary state of China, and as general Guang had shown a certain brilliance on the battlefield against the Japanese, the Korean rulers thought that the Chinese example could help in the Korean fight against the Japanese military threat. The Korean King Sunjo acquired a copy of Guang's manual and asked for representatives of the Ming Dynasty to come to Korea and demonstrate its military application - the Korean version, (known as 'Muye Jebo', or 'Martial Arts Illustrations') was compiled in 1599 and serves as the basis for the current book under review. Over the subsequent two hundred year period, the Koreans added techniques to the manual, including the Japanese sword, Korean horsesriding techniques for war, and weaponry indigenous to Korea. There is a section for 'fist fighting' (taken from Guang, but added to the Korean manual in the mid-1700's under King Youngjo), and the use of flail on horseback, as well as the use of the rattan shield. Curiously, the Chinese sword is depicted as 'curved', and looks very similar to the Japanese sword, unlike the more common 'jian' or straight Chinese long sword usually encountered.
The paperback (2000) edition contains 400 numbered pages. The bulk of the book is made up of lined drawings featuring armed men on foot and on horse. This book is of great historical value. It is an official manual designed for the teaching of soldiers on the battlefield. Its contents would have been relayed by those who had been initiated into the 'meaning' of the manual, and would therefore, be able to transform the pictures from a theoretical presentation, to a very real physical ability. Often, Chinese martial manual were written in an opaque style, so that if they fell into the wrong hands, such as those of the enemy, the secrets of the manual would not be readily available. Scholars and experienced martial artists will benefit greatly from this excellent book.