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Before introducing the articles comprising this issue of Martial Arts Studies, this editorial first undertakes a sustained reflection on the question of whether the emergent field of martial arts studies might be regarded as trivial. In doing so, it explores possible rationales and raisons d’être of the field in terms of a reflection on the legitimation of academic subjects, especially those closest to martial arts studies, from which martial arts studies can be said to have emerged. The first draft of this reflection was originally written by Bowman in response to certain reactions to his academic interest in martial arts (hence the occasional use of the pronoun ‘I’, rather than ‘we’), but Judkins proposed that the piece form part of this issue’s editorial, because of the importance of thinking about what this ‘martial arts studies’ thing is that we are doing, what the point of it may be, and whether or not it may be trivial.View/Download
Bowman, Paul and Judkins, Benjamin N. 2017. ‘Is Martial Arts Trivial?’, Martial Arts Studies 4, 1-16.
Physical assaults are an inherent problem of modern society. One strategy available to try to prevent violence is to strengthen one’s personal capacities to defend oneself. This is the scope of various self-defence programs and systems within the civil domain. While training in self-defence facilitates the use of self-protective strategies in real life situations, it is important to ascertain whether individuals learn the skills taught in self-defence classes and whether they are able to perform the skills when these are required. In order to test the effectiveness of self-defence skills in an ethically acceptable way, instructors and scholars have to design environments in which valid and practically relevant results about the performance of the learner can be obtained. The imprecise nature and the multidimensional use of terms like ‘realism’ and ‘reality-based’ leads to difficulties
in designing such environments. In this article, we argue for the need to shift the emphasis from ‘realistic’ to ‘representative’ design in testing and learning environments, with the aim of developing transferable self-defence skills within the civil domain. The Trade- Off Model of Simulation Design that we propose is intended to help instructors and scholars to make more informed decisions when designing tasks for testing or training.
Staller, M.S., Zaiser, B. and Körner, S. 2017. ‘From Realism to Representativeness: Changing Terminology to Investigate Effectiveness in Self-Defence’, Martial Arts Studies 4, 70-77.
Mythologies of Martial Arts.
by Paul Bowman
Rowman & Littlefield, 2017
Sixt Wetzler, Deutsches Klingenmuseum Solingen. This contribution is a revised version of a review published in Acta Periodica Duellatorum [Wetzler 2017].
In Search of Legitimacy:
How Outsiders Become Part of the Afro-Brazilian Capoeira Tradition.
by Lauren Miller Griffith
Berghahn Books, 2016
Kyle Green is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology & Anthropology at Utica College, New York.
Venezuelan Stick Fighting:
The Civilizing Process in Martial Arts.
by Michael J. Ryan
Lexington Books, 2016
Benjamin N. Judkins is co-editor of the journal Martial Arts Studies and a Visiting Scholar at Cornell University’s East Asia Program. With Jon Nielson he is co-author of The Creation of Wing Chun: A Social History of the Southern Chinese Martial Arts [SUNY 2015]. He is also author of the long-running martial arts studies blog, Kung Fu Tea: Martial Arts History, Wing Chun and Chinese Martial Studies.
This article explores continuities in fighting techniques of martial ritual initiations found across the Malay world (Dunia Melayu). Comparison with other neighboring Asian and Southeast Asian regions shows that these techniques follow patterns and principles that can be considered as ‘properly Malay’. I argue that ‘Malayness’ is socially and politically consolidated through these initiations, not least because the techniques mobilize local cosmologies and notions of the ‘person’. These cosmologies and notions are mainly articulated through conceptions of space and time, an aspect that is underlined by the transmission processes themselves. Transmission steps show parallels with life processes such as maturation, growing and purification. The correspondences between these processes are also expressed through a specific material culture. The structures of the technical fighting systems are oriented towards principles based on religion and morality, cosmology and philosophy. All of this suggests that the efficacy of techniques should be analyzed in conjunction with larger questions of the efficacy of rituals.View/Download
Facal, Gabriel. 2017. ‘Trans- regional Continuities of Fighting Techniques in Martial Ritual Initiations of the Malay World’, Martial Arts Studies 4, 46-69.
After obtaining a Master of Social Anthropology at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris (2009), Gabriel Facal completed his doctoral thesis (2012) at Aix-Marseille University as a member of the Institut de recherches Asiatiques (IrAsia, Marseille) under the supervision of Professor Jean-Marc de Grave. He carried out a dozen fieldwork expeditions for a total duration of thirty-seven months in Southeast Asia. His research initially focused on ritual initiation groups and their links with religious organizations and political institutions in the West of Java and the South of Sumatra (Indonesia). Since 2013, he has completed several additional trips in different regions of Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam to establish a comparative perspective.
Previous research on capoeira suggests that face-to-face training is the ideal mode of learning this art. However, there is a
robust corpus of capoeira tutorials available on YouTube. This paper asks what the function of these videos is. I analyze six comment threads taken from YouTube that exhibit a common pattern, concluding that beyond the video’s utility as a source
of information, the comments shared by community insiders serve as an invitation for aspiring students to join the embodied capoeira community, paving the way for their adoption of the underlying ethos of capoeira by socializing them into the ‘anyone can do it if they work hard enough’ discourse that is common in capoeira academies. And while this discourse itself is somewhat deceptive insofar as not everyone can do all of the moves of capoeira – even if they work hard – it is actually the mediating link between technical mastery, which could theoretically be achieved from watching videos, and embodiment of capoeira’s generative grammar, which must be learned in an embodied community setting.
Griffith, Lauren Miller. 2017. ‘Virtually Legitimate: Using Disembodied Media to Position Oneself in an Embodied Community’, Martial Arts Studies 4, 36-45.
Lauren Miller Griffith is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Texas Tech University. Dr Griffith received her PhD in anthropology from Indiana University. She studies performance and tourism in Latin America and the U.S. Specifically, she focuses on the Afro- Brazilian martial art of capoeira and how non-Brazilian practitioners use travel to Brazil to increase their legitimacy within this genre.
Her work on capoeira has been published in Annals of Tourism Research, the Journal of Sport and Tourism, and Theatre Annual, and she is the author of In Search of Legitimacy: How Outsiders Become Part of the Afro-Brazilian Capoeira Tradition . She is currently working on a new book titled Apprenticeship Pilgrimage [under contract with Lexington Books].
Martial arts historiography has been at the center of China’s culture wars and a cause célèbre between traditionalists and modernizers for the better part of a century. Nowhere are the stakes higher than with the iconic art of taijiquan, where, based on a handful of documents in the Chen, Wu, and Yang lineages, traditionalists have mythologized the origins of taijiquan, claiming the Daoist immortal Zhang Sanfeng as progenitor, while modernizers won official government approval by tracing the origins to historical figures in the Chen family.
Four new document finds, consisting of manuals, genealogies, and stele rubbings, have recently emerged that disrupt the narratives of both camps, and, if authentic, would be the urtexts of the taijiquan ‘classics’, and force radical revision of our understanding of the art. This article introduces the new documents, the circumstances of their discovery, their contents, and the controversies surrounding their authenticity and significance, as well as implications for understanding broader trends in Chinese culture and politics.
Wile, Douglas. 2016. ‘Fighting Words: Four New Document Finds Reignite Old Debates in Taijiquan Historiography’, Martial Arts Studies 4, 17-35.
Douglas Wile is professor emeritus of Chinese Language and Literature from Brooklyn College-City University of New York. He holds a PhD in East Asian Languages from the University of Wisconsin, with additional training at Stanford University. He has numerous publications in the field of Chinese intellectual history, with specializations in martial arts studies and sexology. He was the first to publish a scholarly monograph on Asian martial arts with a university press and the first to offer credit-bearing college courses on taijiquan and Asian movement arts. Professor Wile has trained in various styles of five martial arts, as well as yoga and qigong, and has maintained a fifty-year practice of Yang style taijiquan.