Welcome to our third annual discussion of the top webpages in Chinese martial studies. The purpose of this series is to acknowledge some of the individuals who have made great contributions to our understanding of the traditional martial arts in the last year. We also hope that visitors who are not familiar with these authors will be inspired to go out and discover some of these resources for themselves. Anyone interested in going back and reviewing our previous selection for 2012 or 2013 should click here.
After considering the questions we are ready to announce Kung Fu Tea’s selection’s for “Top Chinese Martial Arts Webpage of 2014.” To be eligible a webpage must have posted regularly in the last year and to have shown excellence in the study and understanding of some aspect of Chinese martial culture. It is also expected to have made a substantial original contribution in its research, journalism, analysis, art or creative writing. Finally, the webpage must be searchable and available on the open internet (e.g., you should not have to be a member of a social media community to access it).
Beyond that everything can (and does) get quite subjective. “Chinese martial culture” is a huge research area with lots of different branches. Better still, there are a great many individuals devoting their time and resources to researching and spreading this information. The pace and quality of this work has grown markedly in the last year. Collectively our community turned out some great work in 2014. Narrowing the field down to a single “winner” was a challenge. There were at least half a dozen strong contenders that I looked at, each advancing their own understanding of the arts and unique style of writing.
The winner was the webpage that best responded to both the challenges and opportunities that 2014 presented. Specifically, how can we bring practitioners, students of Chinese popular culture, ethnographers and historians together into a single conversation that advance our understanding of the development and the practice of the traditional fighting styles? How can we connect some of the best conversations that are happening in China with those that are currently taking place in the west? Is it possible to present a meaningful synthesis of these conversations?
I am very happy to announce that this year’s winner is “Be Not Defeated by the Rain.” This blog, authored by Bernard Kwan, has been posting regular essays, reviews and translations dealing with all aspects of the Chinese martial arts (and some other related topics) since 2009. Keeping an individually authored blog active and interesting for such a long time is an achievement in itself, and Kwan always seems to have some new project or insight. In the last year he has dedicated much of his energy to translating articles and arguments from various Chinese language publications, opening their ideas to discussion among a broader community of readers. He has also been working with Hing Chao and the International Guoshu Association on some potentially exciting projects that we hope to hear more about in 2015.
As someone who also writes and thinks about the martial arts of Guangdong Province, I appreciate the emphasis on the Southern fighting systems that can be seen in many of Kwan’s posts. These essays often consult or translate current discussions among southern martial artists and researchers. In this way “Be Not Defeated by the Rain” has become a valuable forum for truly transnational discussions.
Given its extensive archives new readers might appreciate some suggestions about where to start. Here are some of my favorite posts from the last year focusing on the Chinese fighting arts:
This year I would like to do something I have not done in the past and introduce readers to another blog that, while not focused on the Chinese hand combat systems, is making some great contributions to the broader conversations on the history of the martial arts in the West. “Martial Arts New York” was created to provide a comprehensive listing of the various fighting schools (both Eastern and Western) in the New York City area.
They have also been posting short articles to their front page exploring the history and sociology of a number of martial arts systems in the New York area and the West more generally. Most of these discussions do not focus directly on Kung Fu, but they provide the sorts of resources and discussions that many students of Martial Arts Studies will find fascinating. These explorations of the history of Filipino, Japanese and Western fighting systems also suggest the possibilities of potentially fruitful comparative studies in the future.
The focus on the New York City region found in a number of these posts is also intriguing as it begins to paint a fuller picture of what the “martial culture” of an American city really looked like in the early years of the 20th century. I have argued in other places that Martial Arts Studies needs more of these sorts of geographically focused studies, and I think that this blog nicely illustrates why.
While only created a few months ago, “Martial Arts New York” has been very productive. Every sort of reader will find something of interest in their quickly growing archives. I cannot wait to see what they come up with next year. Here are a couple of selections to get you started.
As always, settling on just one “winner” has been a painful process. “Be Not Defeated by the Rain” has become an important platform for promoting a fascinating dialogue between martial arts practitioners and researchers. And while relatively new, “Martial Arts New York” is posting resources that students of Martial Arts Studies and history will find fascinating.
What about you? Are there any other web-pages that you discovered in the last year that made a particularly significant contribution to your understanding of the traditional Chinese martial arts? Drop us a link in the comments section and let us know what you have been reading.
Happy New Year!
If you enjoyed this post you might also want to read: London, 1851: Kung Fu in the Age of Steam-Punk