Journal of Combative Sport, Dec 2005


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On Publishing a Magazine

Extracts from letters written by Donn F. Draeger to Robert W. Smith. Letters in the Joseph R. Svinth collection, reprinted courtesy of Robert W. Smith and Joseph R. Svinth. Copyright © EJMAS 2005. All rights reserved.

(February 1, 1970)

You will have received my letter to the current editor of Judo Illustrated. I am sick of mincing words with him and so the hot blast. You may do as you wish, but I hope you will support those of us who will no longer submit material unless its policy goes back to making it a budo magazine. I like the Ogatas [Jim and Jenny; the publishers] as people and feel badly about this, but cannot continue under the present editor. They have at least twenty articles in their hands that should keep them until the middle of the year at least. After that, if they continue to have the same editor, they can fill the magazine with planets and people, pages of readers' comments, and crap about phonies such as Bob Trias. None of us want a part in that.

Not counting Jung at Black Belt, I have two other separate opportunities to begin a truly professional martial arts journal. Printing would be here in Tokyo. Management would be in my hands and I can choose the staff. But I do not split my loyalties so until this is resolved, I cannot accept.

(December 17, 1970)

Geoff Gleeson's article submitted to Judo Illustrated was in bad taste, technically unsound, and badly written. It is not the sort of thing I want in the magazine. If you recall editorials we will rid ourselves of all politics and stick just to technical essence. Gleeson is way off and so easy to tear apart that if it were printed I'd be tempted to make an ass of him on an international level. Maybe you don't know, but in England, many think he's slipped his trolley. We won't print it, though it could be rewritten to focus on some kind of message.

I hope the magazine improves. No matter the quality I send in it always gets diluted or distorted with errors, sloppy layout, or bad printing. I am obstinate, hopeful, and look forward to a good year in 1971.

(January 28, 1971)

Judo Illustrated keeps me hopping as I am programming the whole thing. Working six months ahead at present, but must finish all issues for this year before I leave for Indonesia and Malaysia in June.

Since I program the magazine, it is essential that all material be made known to me. Your book reviews were received, but matter of policy holds them. First, since we are yet only at forty pages the staff feels that it would not be good to devote even one page to reviews. When we take on a total of six or more signatures we can include a review section, which we plan to do. But we are now toying with the idea that all reviews will represent a staff report rather than the work of any one individual. No individual can be capable of solid and unbiased view. To instrument reviews done by several persons (all qualified in whatever subject is being reviewed) is time-consuming and has never been done to my knowledge. But we will try it. Thus, what you have written must either be used elsewhere, or you will have to give consent to let others add or modify, if such is required.

Gleeson is a case of "a little learning". With some education courses under his belt, he has set out to show all he knows. Result in his books is obvious – very little. His article checked by British experts came back with these comments penned on it. 1) "The wastepaper basket is too good a place for this article." 2) "This is a badly written, intemperate, warped statement of opinion, quite valueless for Judo Illustrated, with the single exception of the remark on page 5, top paragraph, which is worthy of discussion. It reads as though the author's nose has been put out of joint by somebody, or by many people."

Gleeson is taking a vicious swipe at established judo, not with sincerity, but with malice. (If you know the political situation in England's judo, this is apparent.) He is technically wrong in so many instances that I can't even begin to list the places. He hides behind Kano, but wishes to upturn it all in the same gesture. His ideas on ukemi [breakfalling] are ridiculous. Kano built ukemi from the lack of ukemi practice that existed in jujutsu, now Gleeson wishes to revert to pre-Kano jujutsu with its ways of training. He simply does not know enough about judo and its historical background and thus comes up with a "new approach." It is old, still being used in traditional jujutsu. Your comments on his technical errors are good. Those alone throw his book where it belongs as a book, which is where the British critics note.

The policy of Judo Illustrated is now to keep politics out of print. I will insist on this as long as I call the signals. Notice our issues – all sound and full of technical goodies, and not one word of chatter, gossip, or political bickering. Reread my last few editorials.

(January 31, 1971)

If Judo Illustrated were more solid I'd chuck most of the modern stuff and concentrate on classical stuff; but right now we can't afford to do this.

(February 17, 1971)

The US Judo Federation is working to shed the present format of Judo Illustrated and recapture it as an official publication. I'm against it and will fight. But, if the Ogatas want to go back to being a national judo magazine, then okay with me, but I quit. The pressure is on Jim Ogata, of course, who is, as you know, a soft guy and easily conned. Of course, not a word has come from the US Judo Federation to me. It's quiet now, but if the point is won they will descend on me with loud noise. I hate this kind of crap. I told them clearly last summer in Detroit what plans we had for Judo Illustrated. They did not include having it as a rag for the US Judo Federation or any other group.

Gleeson? I'm not bellicose, just firm in my opinion that he should check his material before he prints it. He has committed so many technical errors that it is hard to believe that he doesn't know better. Proof of his pudding is in the fact that since he has taken control of British national judo training they have not produced anyone of mettle.

Still toying with the idea of collective research on book reports. Not a solid set thing and maybe never will be. Popular Science used to use the technique, as do some medical journals. If my policies seem more dogmatic it is perhaps just the contrast between having a solid, stable policy and the loose ends normally passed off as a modern-day endeavor.

(September 9, 1971)

The magazine is now progressing more along what I have in mind for it. A bit more surgery on local gossip and backyard chatter, and it will be right. We have professional layout and design man now in Chicago [Pascal Krieger] and his work should start showing up in issue 5:5. Phil Relnick will fully read each issue before press to catch the usual typos. In 1972 issues will be almost doubled in length and carry more sections on a variety of things. The how-to section takes almost half the magazine.

It will be supported by ads that pay. Cover shots will be special ones that I shot on this trip. They are dandy and will create a lot of interest.

I hope to get Yang T'ai Chi in "How to Do It." Failing that, at least some background about it. Steve Hua in Hong Kong has old manuscripts with sketches and photos of Yang masters doing their moves. Terrific! Wait until you see the release on Shaolin with rare photos of old masters in various stances. It will be the first time seen outside of this Shaolin school, even by Chinese! Fabulous!

Where are we in relation to you and the magazine? I seem to recall that you wanted to stop. If so, let me know as we are now readjusting the masthead and your position must be filled. I know no one else who can do it right, so I'm hoping you stick.

(October 6, 1971)

Have you seen volume 5, number 4, issue of Judo Illustrated? I think you will see improvement. But wait until you see the next two issues. They will be still better. For 1972 we hope to fatten the magazine and really develop it into a monthly. I am now finishing up the articles for next year, with gaps for major events such as the All-Japan, the US Nationals, the European Nationals, and the Olympics. Hope you will stick with us. If you do, though there is no obligation, I'd appreciate some technical or historical articles by you, especially on things Chinese. We will have a greatly improved Chinese section. Also, two top experts have joined our staff. They are Dr. Soekarto of Indonesia, who is a specialist on Balinese weapons and fighting arts, and Dr. West of Victoria Museum in Australia, who is a specialist on aboriginal weapons and martial arts.

In order to live I am forced to farm out minor manuscripts on various martial arts such as Ninjutsu just published. Nothing sensational, but they keep the belt tight. I'm sending you a copy of the book. Watch for it, if our dock strike ever gets settled.

(October 21, 1971)

Hate to see you drop Judo Illustrated. I understand your gripe, but honestly, keep in mind that since my return I have had no answers to urgent questions of policy. I've sent seven letters and a one-hour tape plus a 21-page report. No results! I keep going because I believe we need the publication. Vanity? I think not. Would like you to work with us from time to time, but under no obligation. Frankly, we need your name on the masthead. I'm asking. If you really want your name off, can we get some technical article from you on a subject of your choice for publication early next year? No reviews please. Keep within the policy of the magazine on not griping or pointing a sticky political finger at anyone or any agency.

(November 17, 1971)

Okay on you staying on masthead. Thanks. We have some fine stuff coming up in 1972. Can you pen something for early issues? Let me know right away as I am programming the finals for the entire year now. Any subject is okay with me, but prefer something other than judo if you will. There is so much crap in the USA about karate that frankly I'd like to avoid it all and publish only stuff that stems from Asian origins of repute.

I'm happy with issue 5, but we have some more cleaning up to do before it is the way I'd like it. Should be in good shape by 1972. We must go on a subscriber drive. We need many more readers. In past I can't blame people for not wanting to read it but now it is the best on the market and should be useful to all buffs of the martial arts and ways.

I hear that purist judoka are objecting to the lack of judo coverage. I'm cold on this criticism. We will go ahead and continue to omit local gossip from the magazine and put only the highest quality judo material in it during 1972. We have some nice stuff ready.

(January 30, 1972)

Judo Illustrated is giving me fits. They diddled around for a year with a change of name. I suggested Martial Arts Illustrated so that the content and name are more related. Now a New York outfit has put out a real rag under this title and we are left sucking. Have you seen it? Terrible!

Jim Ogata is too conservative and completely inefficient. This is not news to you but it is leaving me closer to deciding to break away and do my own publication in Hong Kong. Don't be surprised if I do this.

(June 2, 1972)

I must spend some weeks in Hong Kong setting up the magazine project. I will use your name on the masthead and give you whatever scope you feel is necessary. The legal angles of setting this up are important, and I am having a bit of a financial outlay accomplishing this. But the whole thing, I feel, can develop into a worthwhile project. If we can bring out a high-level journal we may get some reader support from hitherto untouched areas.

Have you seen the Hong Kong journal called Orientations? That kind of quality in our martial culture journal is what I am aiming for. If this thing goes, we will have to hire a fulltime editor who can live in Hong Kong. Until we get rolling, however, we will keep our overhead down by doing everything ourselves. (Four persons are involved.) Thanks for your support.

(November 4, 1972)

My new magazine project is progressing slowly but surely. I am insisting that all be set up legally. We have had our problems with posting bonds, getting legal contracts drawn up, and sounding out printers and other services connected with publishing. Everything is complicated by the fact that I cannot be physically present in Hong Kong.

The technical material is already programmed for about two years at six issues per year. If all goes well, we will certainly shift into twelve issues per year starting next year. We have fabulous stuff. No other publication can match it. Now if our admin boys get on the stick in Hong Kong, we can show what we have to the public.

I will, as you permit, keep your name on our masthead. Titles are cheap, so until we finalize these terms I cannot tell you what you will be called. But as for the zone of responsibility I'd appreciate it if you would be the final arbiter on all Chinese subject material that originates in the United States, and to be on tap for consultations regarding Chinese material we receive from other areas.

I'd also like to have some suggestions from you on how to improve the journal. Best you see the first issue, but if you have ideas that I might incorporate now, pass them on right away. We have more or less formalized the format, but we are flexible enough to make room for worthwhile changes. You also may wish to be a contributor (and contributions will be bought by us, I hope).

If you can recommend others for consideration to our staff I'd appreciate it very much. Keep in mind that they must be professionals in the technical sense. We do not use lay writers, for our journal is devoted to highly technical material. It is not a gossip rag, a gripe column, nor a "this is how I see it" kind of publication. What is contained is material by experts in their respective fields, a sort of technical dialogue, yet interesting enough for all readers. We are not a news medium. That is, we do not report or cover championships, movements of sports/budo men, or carry on a commentary about what this guy did in such and such a dojo or how the Stumpjump green belt team defeated the West Alley YMCA. Sounds sober, does it? That is why we are different. I think when you see it you will like what you see. Give us a couple issues to shake out the kinks. With luck we will get a January issue out late in January or early in February.

(December 8, 1972)

Judo Illustrated and I are through. Not unfriendly, but a mutual benefit pact. I will attempt to publish my own magazine out of Hong Kong, and meanwhile continue as a consultant for Judo Illustrated with Phil Relnick as editor.

The new venture needs time and cash to set up. I'm working on this now. Most of the old staff may join. A few top scholars in Asia have already agreed to help. One of the best is a Balinese archaeologist who is expert with the kris. He is a world authority on prehistoric Bali and its culture, including its weapons. How about you? Can I put your name on the masthead? I ask nothing from you, but if you have something to print, we will do so, and even pay you for it. Your name will do us more good than we for you, but in the long run I am sure that you will not be hurt by our journal. Let me know soon as I must get the masthead set for type.

(November 20, 1973)

Martial Arts International is in the final stages of typesetting. We're also working on a color cover. If things go well during the print stage in December, then we will have a first-class journal out in mid January 1974. As cash builds up we will improve the quality. Any lack of quality now is due to financial reasons. I've poured all my ready cash, as have several others, into this thing, but rising costs of paper and printing have kept us just short of things we really want. We hope to be solvent by the third or fourth issue. After that we can do what we wanted to do all along, which is improve. Subscriptions keep rolling in at our offices at Kona [Hawaii] in spite of how little advertising we have done. Once the journal is out and people see it, they are sure to like it enough to subscribe.

What do you say about an article, on a subject of your choice, for a future issue? While going over the next two years' programming I find nothing by RWS. A calamity! I can manage to wedge something you do into a coming issue in 1974, if you keep it short, use few pictures, and get it to Tokyo soonest!

(January 8, 1974)

Spent some days with the Chans – Soo Kehan and See Meng. Will be using their talents in Martial Arts Illustrated, which is in the presses now. Should be out by the time you arrive here. There have been many headaches. Not with us in the editorial, technical, or artistic sense, but with the Malaysian government. Anyway, we move ahead.

(March 30,1974)

Self-Defense World is no competition to Martial Arts International. We are an entirely different publication, as you will see. We have a professional staff that they don't have. Their coverage is not ours and so there is room for both of us. I only envy their financial resources.

(July 6, 1974)

Thanks for your comments on Martial Arts International. We have positive improvements in mind, including the use of color inside, but it all depends on cash. We cover a wide range of subjects, perhaps enough for most readers. One guy found the Shaolin article useful and will train; another had what he saw there turn him to T'ai Chi; still another wanted to know more about the monk who brought Shaolin to Malaysia. Keep in mind that it is all relative to taste, and that what appears does not appear just to fill pages. All is worked into a master program and each builds on another. In time this will be clear to you.

We can sustain the pace of journal in a technical sense, for we have sources nobody else has, to include 50,000 negatives in the library to draw against. Too much guts in the pages now, but we made this appeal to the "do it" crowd because we know they will buy it. Later we will get less gutsy and smoother. There's some real good stuff coming in and programmed for later in 1974 and all through 1975; we're working on 1976 now.

(September 5, 1974)

A glance at your new book, Masters and Methods, urges me to ask you to write a short article on "kung fu" for Martial Arts Illustrated. One and a half to three typewritten pages is enough. Spell out what it is, what it is not, and anything else you think appropriate. It is high time we began to educate the general public about such things. I ask this of you for not only would it be good to have your article appear in Martial Arts Illustrated (you are an important member of the staff) but also because this would put no burden on your time.

Martial Arts Illustrated is in direct touch with Mainland China. We contacted them during the Tokyo and Honolulu wu shu demonstrations. They are highly pleased with the magazine and apparently will appoint editors to be responsible for material coming out of China. That's a nice break for us. They are making a nationwide distribution of Martial Arts Illustrated to government offices. We might just have a trip to China for us in the future.

Number three is in the press. Slow, yes, but with the rising cost of production we have to count our pennies. We go slowly but surely. We are planning a page increase, color, and a content expansion on things Chinese. All of that should certainly make it worth its price. The Shaolin article in number one still gets people to write asking for more, and has resulted in two invitations for the master to go abroad.

(October 7, 1974)

Got your note on the book review. The latter is the typical assumption that the educated man is qualified to speak out on the martial arts and related disciplines. Timothy Mo has missed entirely the weaknesses of Secrets of the Samurai and in some of his words he has furthered misrepresentations. This is the kind of thing that has gone on in the past and why so much nonsense is believed by the public. In 1975 Martial Arts International will start running a literary critique section. Volume 2 Number 2 carries an analysis of Secrets of the Samurai. You will see a difference because a board of qualified men made a composite review.

Any ideas what to name this review section? "Beacon: Views and Reviews in Martial Arts," "Searchlight," "Book Critique," "Books and the Arts," "Focus on Martial Literature," and others have been suggested. I do not particularly like any of these. So?

Okay on your not doing an article on "kung-fu". I think you are missing the point. As an editor, you should be given priority for placing one article in the inaugural year. Give me enough credit to realize that I could ask another to do it, including some of the fellows I like but you don't (I detect a bit of bitterness in your remark), but I wanted you to have that honor. But okay. I have programmed some good stuff authored by Chan See Meng and thus the time that I need something on the meaning of "kung fu" is extended. You tell me when you can get something short to me; or if you are willing. I am not sure that you are from the tone of your letters. What is the problem?

As for leaving your published work stand as is, of course. But the Vicar… (Dr. Hanson-Lowe is whispering in me ear, if grammar is correct; you think Fusaro is bad, you should feel the sting of the Vicar.) We have some house rules. For example, we do not normally use the expression "Chinese boxing" simply because it is an old, misused, worn-out, and improper term for something that has its own proper name. Our contact with China makes this clear. These days no self-respecting Chinese ever refers to wu shu as "Chinese boxing" because the latter is a British phrase. In interests of accuracy then, we'd insist on this unless the expression is used as "Chinese boxing" rather than "Chinese Boxing". We also do not use "kung fu" to mean a system, etc. That is the why behind your article I suggested. Your ideas on this are solid and we'd like to air them more internationally. I leave the matter to you, but clue me.

We are literally swamped with requests on Shaolin history and techniques. Five requests from South America alone ask for qualified instructors to teach there. In future issues we will have some damn fine material on wu shu of all types, and when we start getting stuff out of China…

(November 7, 1974)

I may be going to China for Martial Arts International. Some Chinese are coming to see, study, and exchange ideas on combat. Their gymnastic wu shu thing here was impressive, but left no impression on bujutsu men except that it was good exercise. I am convinced that the real stuff is still there, that it will never die. The only problem is to uncover it and not invoke the wrath of the present government.

(December 27, 1974)

Understand fully what it means to be busy; you should try my schedule. But no complaints: there is nothing that I'd rather be doing.

The review section for volume 2 will handle more than books. Unpublished stuff such as hand scrolls, dissertations, etc. will also be reviewed. Nothing final, but the vote for the name now leans toward "Searchlight." Not too bad I guess.

Many thanks for the fine book The History and Art of Personal Combat by Wise. I have the original. It's small, beat-up, and not as meaty. We will review the new one in the magazine if I can get our master of arms in Portugal to do the technical.

Peking cannot appoint staff to Martial Arts International for it is not within their present policy to do so. That's to be expected, but reading between the lines they will supply what they can to us, even check our technical needs if we request. Very cooperative.

(January 18, 1975)

I'd like some T'ai Chi coverage in the magazine, but I have no sources other than run of the mill stuff. Steve Hua won't part with any (he's not allowed to) and most everything else I see in my travels is just ordinary. Even Lee Pei Lai in Malaysia is not pure. He mixes in Shaolin and this is why is he is so effective. The current top popular T'ai Chi man in Malaysia is Huang, but he too is not pure. All this recalls to me what Chubby Chucker (Wang I-hsiang) told me: T'ai Chi is not enough to make an effective system of combat, and that is why he combines Hsing-i and Pakua skills. Any ideas on what to put in the magazine regarding T'ai Chi? Appreciate your ideas on this, but would prefer to stay away from the how to do it angle. Background stuff, personalities in the art, meditation, etc. may be some starting ideas. I'm stuck.

I'll try to stay current in letters with you, but I'm really swamped here. Some days it's fifteen hours at this damn machine without more than a piss call and a snack break. I'm tired, but making headway.

(March 21, 1975)

Will see the Chan laddies before shoving off for Borneo. Both have come through with meaningful contributions for Martial Arts International. We are getting good responses now from our staff members. China, however, is still reluctant, but very polite about their refusals.

(September 22, 1975)

The magazine is still struggling. We have a cash shortage and thus a slowdown on distribution. We have the second volume ready but cannot put it to print for lack of moolah. Negotiating now with an investor that might turn the trick. If so, we will have volume 1 issues out by the end of the year. We should know in October.

(January 18, 1976)

I will ask Shipley to polish his article and to supply more information on the Northern Wave bit. His article is a bit dull, but at least it has enough honesty to background Tang Soo properly and without fanfare.

Though we have volume 1 camera ready, volume 2 in typeset getting ready for layout, and volume 3 in the program stage, Martial Arts International suffers from lack of cash. The cost to print and distribute runs about US $5,000 per issue. This comes out of the pockets of three of us. We can't go on. We've tried to get financial backing that allows us to keep technical control over contents. We've found backers who will buy us out but that is not what we want. If we can get the cash to print, they you will see the best yet in the field, Arts of Asia quality. I could cry when I see what absolute crap is being printed in Black Belt, Masters of Self-Defense, Self-Defense World, etc. We have fabulous stuff, beautiful layouts, and no way to sustain our production.

(May 25, 1976)

Martial Arts International is now in the process of merger talks with a publisher her in Tokyo who wants to go international. While this will reestablish the magazine, I am going slowly for fear of being aced out of control. The next few months will tell the story. We have material and they have cash. What a marriage, even if we must sleep in different beds!

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