Martial Musings: A Portrayal of Martial Arts in the 20th Century

Journal of Combative Sport, January 2000

Review By Joseph R. Svinth
Copyright © 2000. All rights reserved.

Robert W. Smith, Martial Musings: A Portrayal of Martial Arts in the 20th Century (Erie, PA: Via Media Publishing Co, 1999). Hardbound, 6"x9". 400 pages, over 300 B&W illustrations. Price: US $39.95. ISBN 1-893765-008.

Order through, Koryu Books, or Journal of Asian Martial Arts.

Most anyone interested in the Japanese or Chinese martial arts should find this book a peach; the exceptions will be those who dislike writers who state their opinions bluntly. The photo selection is first-rate, the factual content is sound, and the text reads like a series of letters from Bob Smith. (Not Mr. Smith, the martial arts instructor, but Bob, the guy who helps site shelters for bluebirds.) The sections on judo -- easily a third of the book -- burn with the gem-hard flame of A Complete Guide to Judo (1958). The chapters describing Mr. Smith's many notable friends -- E.J. Harrison, Donn Draeger, Jon Bluming, Bill Paul, Cheng Man-ch'ing, Ben Lo, Rose Li, and others -- sparkle with insight. And if you read between the lines, then you should find a wealth of how-to, including how to spend life breathing free rather than on your knees and truckling.

Major themes include:

To summarize, this book represents Mr. Smith's best published writing in years and may be his best book ever. And, while its themes and answers may offend some readers, that is irrelevant because this book is autobiography rather than dissertation. I recommend it highly.

JCS Jan 2000