Healing traditions linked to the martial arts
Barbara Ruth Campbell (campbell@I-2000.COM)
Wed, 6 Sep 1995 14:16:59 EDT
For those of you who are interested in martial arts, healing traditions,
meditation, massage, cultural and social anthropology, Asian history and
geography, may I suggest reading through the 14 issues to date of:
Journal of Asian Martial Arts
Via Media Publishing Co.
821 West 24th St.
Erie, PA U.S.A. 16502
1 (800) 445-9517
I finally broke down and ordered and then received 2 days latter the entire
print run and after having read several articles I must say this is an extremely
rich source of material for those of you on Paracelsus and those on Anthro-L.
It might also be of interest to those on H-Asia as much of what's in these texts
is of historical interest for those studying wars and such. The journal even
has a very unique (unique considering the topic) policy of incorporating space
shuttle photos of locales into the texts - a nice touch to go with the line
drawing maps). We VERY rarely include a macro view of the geography of an area
we are discussing. Now that NASA is selling maps to offset their budget cuts,
I'd like to see more academics including these in their work. Do you agree?
For a great chart comparing pinyin, Wade-Giles and English renderings of Chinese
martial arts see Vol. 4, No. 2 pp. 110-112.
For an article that has probably one of the best bibliographies I've ever seen
(from a librarian's point of view that is, this is extremely well-researched),
Vol. 1, No. 3 - entire issue except for the reviews
Maliszewski, Michael. (1992) Meditative-religious traditions of fighting arts
& martial ways. pp. 1-104
Now for the background to my questions to all of you:
Last night while watching what I hope was the 3rd episode of a new Korean serial
about court intrigue in 16th c. Yi Dynasty Korea (started with the birth of 2
girls in 1583 and sometimes characters refer to events that might have been
edited out so I don't know for sure if it was episode 3 - the station just
finished "Chang Nok Soo" which had a lot of intrigue and torture scenes and a
few martial arts scenes but no healing - just killing), there was a scene in
which the son of the abbot [when asked he fudged how he came to have a son and
what happened to his mother] comes upon his father performing something that
looked like what you see in Kung Fu films - balancing on a staff so that the
practitioner does a kind of cartwheel routine in this case kicking off the trees
(like they do in every episode of "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" if anybody
wants to admit having watched such stuff or at least the commercials for the
In the first episode the monk saved a main character by using a flurry of tae
kwon do like kicks and dexterious use of his staff. Anyway, his son, who was
hiding behind a tree before his father "sensed" his presence and called him
over, asked to be trained in the martial arts. I wish my Korean was better but
I just couldn't catch the phrase. There's a typical kind of banter back and
forth with stuff about you'd only become a bandit (and bandits apparently were
often called together to form militia and the father didn't want his son mixed
up with such stuff) and he should concentrate on becoming a Buddhist monk.
The son asked his father (I didn't tape it so this is from memory):
Son: But you know how to do bonesetting.
Father: If I knew how to do that, do you think I'd be living here as a monk?
Son: But you know how to heal and how to fight.
Father: Go back to your studies.
Okay, if you've read this far:
In the articles I am reading first, there's a great deal of history of how a
specific martial art developed and some authors make the point of discussing the
healing techniques developed over time as well. Most of the authors remark that
Americans in particular have tried to strip everything out of their training
that might conflict with their personal world views. Some students want to only
emphasize the healing aspects - usually healing the sense of being a victim,
although often healing chronic illness. The history of the religion (and
philosophy if semantically you draw a distinction) surrounding the art is also
watered down so students will accept training. This point also crops up in Skip
Kanester's article "In the Spirit of the Father Doctor: Traditional Thailand
Medical Massage" in the Autumn 1995 (Vol. 5, No. 3) issue of Qi: The Journal of
Traditional Health & Fitness in which he points out that to really do Thai
massage the patient needs to be worked on for 2-3 hours but Americans balk at
the time and the costs.
What I want to ask everyone is this:
We are now seeing some excellent scholarship on martial arts, non-Western
medicine and the history of these traditions (although there have been excellent
histories written already we now see more of them). So, why are there still so
many who are turning a blind eye to all of the writings of those who have
studied and researched their topic so thoroughly? Why are students of the
martial arts and of alternative medicine still putting up their hands and
saying: But I don't want to study that! I don't want to do XYZ. These
traditions are incredibly complex and rich and yet we are stripping them down to
their least common denominators - or it seems that many are doing so. Why, make
I ask, did they (the authors of these journal articles) have to form their own
journal just to get published - why isn't more of this published in mainstream
anthropology journals? Why not in the history of Asia journals? The
scholarship is certainly there and the writing is excellent.
The history of war is linked to the history of medicine - a trip to the National
Museum of Health and Medicine at Walter Reed Army Center in Washington, D.C.
will drive that point home but there's a great deal we could learn from looking
back through time at each culture's warriors and how they treated wounds, etc.
and what each has in common with other traditions but not to say they are the
Is anyone studying this?
The Roman foot soldier got shot a lot. The samurai took quite a few sword
Are there texts from these time periods that describe the techniques used at the
time and are any of them applicable today?
The Tibetans had a group of monks called the dop-dop who were "warrior monks".
The Koreans apparently had monks trained in the martial arts (one whose name I
didn't catch was shown meeting with the king before going off to meet with a
Japanese general). I find that the history of Asian martial arts (let's not
even get into African and Native American - they're completely neglected) yields
a great deal of insight into these societies and their medical paradigms and yet
I never found this connection in our history textbooks (I used to teach and had
to scan lots of texts to find material for E.S.L. students).
Does anyone agree with me? If not, there's a yoga position I believe where I'm
to stand alone and remain silent.
Barbara Ruth Campbell, Ph.D. firstname.lastname@example.org
Westfield, New Jersey 07090
"Sensitivity to the role of paradigms in our
perception can be an important tool in problem
solving. Once we know that all our problems
cannot be solved within the frame of a current
paradigm, then it is sometimes possible to solve
a problem by reframing its terms" - Schwartz
and Ogilvy, 1979.