A Bubishi by Any Other Name

Sometimes, especially near the change-over in the year, things happen that just make you take notice. In this case, it is a series of notable convolutions surrounding Plum’s representation of a book called the Bubishi.

On December 1, we got a letter from our affiliates at Lion Books announcing a new analysis called “The General Tian WuBeiZhi: The Bubishi in Chinese Martial Arts History”—not a translation, mind you, but a deconstruction of this famous work. Included in this handsome edition were two original Bubishi texts: a Japanese version of the original, plus a never before available Chinese version containing great color paintings of the dozens of fighting techniques.

While reading this email, another arrived from a customer who had just seen a notification on the site of Russ Smith, a well-known expert and researcher on Karate. When we contacted Russ, he confirmed that he had mentioned it on his facebook page, and offered to include Plum on his site for a place to find it (not to mention ordering a couple of copies for himself).

The orders started tumbling in, along with a synopsis prepared especially for us by the author, Liu Kang Yi and his translator, David Nisan. At this point, we decided we would also add to our stock Patrick McCarthy’s latest expanded version of his text on the Bubishi.

Meanwhile, seemingly dropped from the sky, an original, signed edition of McCarthy’s earliest version of his text appeared on my wife Debbie’s desk at her bookstore job. While we were giving it a closer look, an order arrived from McCarthy, his autographed edition sitting next to our elbows as his order came in.

The translator, David, replied concerning the original ownership of the charming colored drawings. To our surprise, we found that this never-before-published series of painted figures was from the collection of the late Furuya Sensei, an old acquaintance of ours, and one of Adam Hsu’s best friends in America. We were able to fill out the picture a little by informing David that Furuya was an Iaido expert, a top notch Aikidoist and a Buddhist Abbot.

With this cascade of cross-information, we realized that it would behoove us, and aid our customers, to collect these valuable findings in one place. The Bubishi, along with other seminal and cultural migrations—such as White Crane and other southern styles—are cousins in a large family. Here, we hope, is the beginning of gathering sources—well-known, exclusive, and sometimes elusive—for further investigation of this important book: a text influential in allowing us to sense both the Chinese, the Okinawan (and through that, the Japanese) adoption and discovery of the Bubishi.