Friday, March 6, 2009

Black Belt Magazine

When I was a kid, long before I had the opportunity to study the martial arts, I loved Black Belt magazine. The pictures seemed like such a wealth of information, and look at all the cool stuff that was for sale back in the day. With the help of this magazine, I was quite convinced that I could become a ninja. Ehh, I was 12, what do you expect?

Entirely by accident, I discovered this week that the Google Books project has started making old magazines available. Including Black Belt Magazine. All the way back to it's infancy in the early 1960s.

Not only are they available through google, but they are - of course -- fully indexed and you can search for those old articles and sweet fashions. Wow. Highkick Casuals look absolutely nothing like dobohks! :) And just for my generation: behold.

Novelty aside, BB magazine gives an interesting perspective into the martial arts as they were perceived in the US. You can see how it went from a modest cottage industry hobby and exploded into a very big business. You can watch as Judo, Karate, Kungfu, Tang Soo Do, Tae Kwon Do, Jujitsu, Brazilian Jujitsu, UFC, and Filipino arts all briefly were in the limelight. You can see how people in the 1970s were absolutely obsessed with the nunchaku, thanks to Bruce.

There's also some good snippets of history, for those of us who didn't get to experience it:

As I think back to middle school, I remember how our school library actually subscribed to BB. In retrospect, I'm completely bowled over by this, and have amazing respect for what must have been an amazingly progressive school librarian. These days, I can't imagine that is still possible.

But I digress. At the time, the school library was my source for BB magazine. It was stolen or hidden a lot, and we were usually lucky to have one or two editions hanging around. If 12 year old me was able to have every volume of BB at his fingertips, his head may have exploded from the sheer awesomeness of the prospect.

Good stuff. Try not to get lost in the history! :)

Note to Google: now, go get Kick Illustrated, Tae Kwon Do Times, Kungfu Magazine and Journal of Asian Martial Arts! :)