Affective Mythology and ‘The Notorious’ Conor McGregor

Abstract

There are many ways in which we can interpret the sporting, commercial and personal success of Conor McGregor whose stories, fights and social appearances are analysed in this paper. There are archetypal traits of the hero and the trickster in McGregor’s journey, persona, legacy, and the semiosis that surrounds him through the myth of the fighting Irish, all of which I consider as affective mythologies in their psycho-discursive forms. Prior to this analysis, I revisit the discourse-mythological approach (DMA) whilst accounting for the psycho-discursive framework I developed to analyse affective mythologies. However, I found recurring mystical qualities which called for the expansion of this analytical framework. By analysing the myth of the law of attraction, I argue that a non-reductive materialist approach to mind and consciousness is necessary due to the role of mysticism and ideology in popular culture. Since the study of martial arts requires attention to cultural, political, economic, commercial, psychological, biological and transpersonal phenomena, this paper encourages more radical interdisciplinarity between cultural studies and biological sciences to develop innovative theorisations of culture, ideology and consciousness.

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DOI 10.18573/mas.47

Citation

Kelsey, Darren. 2017. ‘Affective Mythology and “The Notorious” Conor McGregor: Monomyth, Mysticism and Mixed Martial Arts’, Martial Arts Studies 5, 15-35.

Contributor

Darren Kelsey is Head of Media, Culture, Heritage in the School of Arts and Cultures at Newcastle University. He researches mythology and ideology in contemporary media, culture and politics. His recent monograph, Media and Affective Mythologies, synergises approaches to critical discourse studies with the work of Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell and other mythologists. His psycho-discursive approach explores the depths of the human psyche to analyse the affective qualities of storytelling.

The Influence of Competitive Co-action on Kata Performance

Abstract

Social facilitation is a phenomenon that can help explain performance outcomes in competitive sports. Previous research
has shown that performing in the presence of others may increase physiological arousal and that performance can be either facilitated
or inhibited depending on the skill level of the performers and the complexity of the skill performed. Although extensive research on this phenomenon has been reported in the sport psychology and related literature, previous findings have not focused on individual differences in terms of how social facilitation influences performance, and very little research has focused on martial arts. To bridge these gaps in knowledge, we investigated how a co-action situation would affect performance among 17 participants performing karate kata routines at a regional competition in SE England, comparing outcomes across age and sex variables. Expert judges awarded scores to each participant in both solo and co-action settings. Results showed higher performance scores in the co-action setting across the entire sample, with female karateka and older performers appearing to benefit the most. We argue that more research is required to explain this phenomenon, specifically with respect to understanding the apparent effects of age and sex on social facilitation.

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DOI 10.18573/mas.49

Citation

Thomas, S., Lugo, R.G., Channon, A. and Spence, A. ‘The Influence of Competitive Co-action on Kata Performance’, Martial Arts Studies 5, 52-60.

Contributors

Sion Thomas* is Senior Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Psychology at the University of Greenwich, UK. He is a BASES Accredited Sport Scientist (Psychology), working with elite, professional individuals and teams across a number of disciplines. His research interests include the phenomenon of home advantage as well as hardiness amongst elite performers.
Ricardo Lugo* is Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences and is an applied practitioner. His research is focused on how psychological and psychophysiological characteristics and the perception of psychosocial environments interact and influence behaviors such as performance and resilience.
Alex Channon is Senior Lecturer in Physical Education and Sport Studies at the University of Brighton, UK. His research interests lie broadly at the intersection of sports, martial arts and society. He is a member of the Board of the Martial Arts Studies Research Network.
Alan Spence is an independent researcher based in Japan. He is interested in the relationship between psychological factors and competitive martial arts performance. He has been training in karate for 17 years and holds a first-Dan black belt.
(*first co-author)

Captivation, False Connection and Secret Societies in Singapore

Abstract

Interminable ritual repetition of set movements (taolu) has resulted in Chinese martial arts facing trenchant criticism as being useless in fight sports, mixed martial arts, and actual combat. In Singapore, the neglect of body-callousing or conditioning methods in Chinese martial arts may render them unfit for unarmed combat. This led me to ask whether the entire edifice of set practice in the martial arts is based upon a false connection. Researching Hong Shen Choy Li Fut, a Chinese fighting style notoriously infested with gangsters in the red-light district of Singapore, I was informed that all Chinese martial arts and lion dance associations are triads. Nevertheless, even here I was shown curious dancelike interpretations for martial arts moves taught. Does the endless repetition of sets captivate the performer into a delusional belief that they are becoming a better fighter? Are the audiences of such sets, performed in dramatic rendition, similarly held captive in a false connection?

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DOI 10.18573/mas.48

Citation

Farrer, D.S. ‘Captivation, False Connection and Secret Societies in Singapore, Martial Arts Studies 5, 36-51.

Contributor

Douglas Farrer is Visiting Professor of Performance at the University of Plymouth, and Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Guam. He has conducted extensive field research in Singapore, Malaysia, and Guam. Dr. Farrer’s research interests include martial arts, sorcery, anthropology of performance, visual anthropology, sociology of religion, social theory and psychoanalysis. His publications include War Magic: Religion, Sorcery, and Performance [2016]; Martial Arts as Embodied Knowledge: Asian Traditions in a Transnational World [2011]; and Shadows of the Prophet: Martial Arts and Sufi Mysticism [2009].

Tales of a Tireur

Abstract

A tireur is a male practitioner of savate, a martial art relatively unknown in the UK but popular in France, Belgium and much of central Europe. Savate, which is also known as French kickboxing or boxe française, is very much a minority sport in contemporary Britain and Northern Ireland, and its enthusiasts have received little research attention from social scientists. This article is a collaborative case study of one tireur: James Southwood. It draws on ethnographic research on the classes taught by Southwood, a British teacher who is an international medallist. The interrelationships between this teacher’s pedagogy, his enthusiasm for savate, and his biography are explored, drawing on his life history and the events in his classes. The small world of savate in Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in which teachers find it hard to make a living, and the success of this teacher as an international competitor, are contrasted herein. The article also introduces Bourdieu’s concept of habitus in a way parallel to the work of Wacquant on boxing.

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DOI 10.18573/mas.51

Citation

Southwood, J.V. and Delamont, S. ‘Tales of Tireur: Being a Savate Teacher in Contemporary Britain’, Martial Arts Studies 5, 72-83.

Contributors

James Vincent Southwood graduated in the History and Philosophy of Science from Cambridge in 2001. He has focused since then on being a Savate teacher, practitioner, advocate, and competitor. He won a gold medal at the 2014 World Championships and has silver medals from European and World Championships in 2007, 2015 and 2016. He was awarded Silver Glove grade in 2017. James is active in the organisation that runs GB Savate, serving as President from 2010-2014 and National Director of Technique from 2014-present. He has appeared in a TV series, and in newspaper articles promoting savate. Contact details are available at LondonSavate.co.uk.
Sara Delamont is Emerita Reader in Sociology in the School of Social Sciences at Cardiff University. Her main research interest since 2003 has been doing ethnographies of capoeira, and since 2009, savate assaut. Her most recent, written with Neil Stephens and Claudio Campos is Embodying Brazil: An Ethnography of Diasporic Capoeira [Routledge, 2017].

Ideological Efficacy Before Martial Efficacy

Abstract

This article relates the training of gendai budō/mudo to theatrical performance. While there are already studies that discuss theatricality in martial arts, the aim of this paper is to provide a systematic overview of the theatrical structuring of elements of martial arts training. This could be further developed in the study of different martial arts and in comparative case studies. For this purpose, Andreas Kotte’s theory of scenic processes is used to arrange different phenomena in martial arts training systematically, representing the constitutive aspects of theatricality as derived from theatre and performance art. Gendai budō/mudo are used as cases to elaborate a systematic approach to the analysis of martial arts as theatrical performance. These examples were chosen because of their emphasis on aesthetics and technical expertise, rather than practical fighting applications. While theatricality in martial arts is usually seen as something for enjoyment or possibly to improve and display athleticism, it is argued here that theatricality has to be viewed as a mode of communication to convincingly elevate and spread information. It is therefore possible to trace ideological features such norms, values, and ideals in the theatrical staging of martial arts training.

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DOI 10.18573/mas.50

Citation

Minarik, Martin. 2017. ‘Ideological Efficacy before Martial Efficacy: On the Relationship Between Martial Arts, Theatricality and Society’, Martial Arts Studies 5, 61-71.

Contributor

Martin Minarik has studied Philosophy, History, as well as Theatre-, Film-, and Media Studies in Bielefeld/Germany and Vienna/ Austria. During that time, he was also a member of the off-theatre ensemble FLEISCHEREI_mobil, which he still collaborates with as an independent choreographer and performer. He is currently working at the faculty of cultural sciences at the Paderborn University, while also a PhD candidate at Hamburg University. His research includes East Asian, especially Korean, martial arts, cultural theory, theatre and performance studies, and sociological practice theory. He has practiced different martial arts since 2002, especially kukki-style taekwondo.

From Realism to Representativeness: Changing Terminology to Investigate Effectiveness in Self-Defence

Abstract

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.

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DOI 10.18573/j.2017.10187

Citation

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.

Contributor

Trans-regional Continuities of Fighting Techniques in Martial Ritual Initiations of the Malay World

Abstract

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.

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DOI 10.18573/j.2017.10186

Citation

Facal, Gabriel. 2017. ‘Trans- regional Continuities of Fighting Techniques in Martial Ritual Initiations of the Malay World’, Martial Arts Studies 4, 46-69.

Contributor

CONTRIBUTOR
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.

Virtually Legitimate: Using Disembodied Media to Position Oneself in an Embodied Community

Abstract

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.

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DOI 10.18573/j.2017.10185

Citation

Griffith, Lauren Miller. 2017. ‘Virtually Legitimate: Using Disembodied Media to Position Oneself in an Embodied Community’, Martial Arts Studies 4, 36-45.

Contributor

CONTRIBUTOR
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 [2016]. She is currently working on a new book titled Apprenticeship Pilgrimage [under contract with Lexington Books].

Fighting Words: Four New Document Finds Reignite Old Debates in Taijiquan Historiography

Abstract

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.

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DOI 10.18573/j.2017.10184

Citation

Wile, Douglas. 2016. ‘Fighting Words: Four New Document Finds Reignite Old Debates in Taijiquan Historiography’, Martial Arts Studies 4, 17-35.

Contributor

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.

News of the Duels

Abstract

The period between 1660 and 1670 was an eventful one for both Britain and its martial arts. 1660 saw the Restoration, where the Stuart dynasty was returned to power under Charles II and the post-Civil War Commonwealth swept away. For all the optimism at Charles’ coronation, however, his kingdom was ill at ease. Such uneasy times were also significant for the press. It is what the press (and other sources from this period) reveal about duelling practice at the time, martial arts in general, and the changing nature of violence that is the focus of this article. As the insurrections, riots and various acts of violence taking place both in Britain and abroad demonstrate, the 1660s were certainly a violent time. But, as the newspaper coverage also demonstrates, the nature of violence itself was changing. This continued a trend, dating back to the Civil War, where close quarter fighting skills had begun to give way to the relative ease and convenience of firearms. British violence found itself, ironically, in as much a state of flux as the rest of the country.

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DOI 10.18573/j.2017.10097

Citation

Hay, Alexander. 2017. ‘News of the Duels: Restoration Duelling Culture and the Early Modern Press’, Martial Arts Studies 3, 90-102.

Contributor

Dr Alexander Hay is Lecturer of Digital Journalism at Southampton Solent University, and comes from an eclectic humanities background, covering everything from sea monsters to music journalism and reader response theory. His martial arts experience is similarly varied, and he is presently studying boxing, while retaining an on-going interest in Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA). His research interests include the history of journalism and online media and how they intersect with a wide range of other topics and disciplines.

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