Gong and Fa in Chinese Martial Arts

Abstract

The distinction between gong (skill) and fa (technique) is ubiquitous in Chinese martial arts. Utilizing Maurice Merleau- Ponty’s notion of ‘embodied intentionality’, I examine this distinction. I draw specific examples of the kinds of skills under discussion from a particular style of taijiquan – Hong Chuan Chen Shi taijiquan (Master Hong Junsheng’s transmission of Chen taiji boxing) – and I argue that understanding taijiquan in terms of embodied intentionality allows us to understand important taijiquan concepts such as chansijin, yin, and yang. Although in this article I focus on one specific style of martial art, I argue that the general analysis of the gong-fa distinction based on embodied intentionality is widely applicable.

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DOI 10.18573/j.2017.10098

Citation

Nulty, Timothy J. 2017. ‘Gong and Fa in Chinese Martial Arts’, Martial Arts Studies 3, 51-64.

Contributor

Timothy J. Nulty is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.

Synthesizing Zhenshi (Authenticity) and Shizhan (Combativity)

Abstract

This article argues that Donnie Yen’s Ip Man series (2008-2015) synthesizes two predominant unarmed, hand-to-hand combat traditions of Hong Kong martial arts cinema – what I call zhenshi (真實; authenticity) and shizhan (實戰; combativity), represented by the series of kung fu films featuring Kwan Tak-hing as the legendary Wong Fei-hung and the martial arts action films of Bruce Lee respectively. Despite kung fu cinema’s claim to ‘realism’ since its conception in the 1949, there is a strong suppression of wu (武; the martial) in the genre’s action aesthetics due to the elevation of wen (文; the literary and the artistic) in traditional Chinese culture. By exposing the inherent contradictions within kung fu cinema and incorporating of combative action aesthetics derived from Bruce Lee’s martial arts philosophy and wing chun principles – what I call kuai ( 快; speed), hen (狠; brutality), and zhun (準; precision), the series presents new possibilities of wu and offers a more comprehensive understanding of Chinese kung fu.

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DOI 10.18573/j.2017.10096

Citation

Wong, Wayne. 2017. ‘Synthesizing Zhenshi (Authenticity) and Shizhan (Combativity): Reinventing Chinese Kung Fu in Donnie Yen’s Ip Man Series (2008 – 2015)’, Martial Arts Studies 3, 6-23.

Contributor

Wayne K. T. Wong is a joint PhD student at the Department of Comparative Literature at The University of Hong Kong and the Film Studies Department at King’s College London. His research interests include martial arts cinema, action cinema, and digital culture. He is currently researching the transformation of kung fu cinema amid the hegemonic presence of Chinese cinema and Hollywood.

Applied Linguistics, Performance Theory and Muhammad Ali’s Japanese Failure

Abstract

One of the more colorful realizations of the age-old striking versus grappling rivalry came in 1976, in a fight billed as boxing versus professional wrestling. Unlike similar matches throughout history, however, this event featured the heavyweight world champion, Muhammad Ali, and the most popular Japanese professional wrestler of the day, Antonio Inoki. Investigating this event through the lens of applied linguistic anthropology reveals much about the contextual social dynamics at play. Sources including newspaper reports, interviews with witnesses and those involved, and private correspondence are considered as they unveil the complicated truth behind Ali vs. Inoki, the fight that marked a turning point in the career of history’s most celebrated boxing champion. Analysis reveals that the event was a public failure because of communication breakdown on myriad fronts. Consequently, I argue that the fight itself should be viewed as a robust form of communication in which the nuances of dialect are at play.

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DOI 10.18573/j.2017.10095

Citation

Miracle, Jared. 2017. ‘Applied Linguistics, Performance Theory and Muhammad Ali’s Japanese Failure’, Martial Arts Studies 3, 65-71.

Contributor

Jared Miracle is author of Now with Kung Fu Grip! How Bodybuilders, Soldiers and a Hairdresser Reinvented Martial Arts for America. His research interests include transnational physical culture, martial arts, popular culture, and folk studies. He is presently researching a book on the development of the Pokémon franchise.

The Definition of Martial Arts Studies

Abstract

This article argues against all forms of scientism and the widespread perceived need to define martial arts in order to study martial arts or ‘do’ martial arts studies. It argues instead for the necessity of theory before definition, including theorisation of the orientation of the field of martial arts studies itself. Accordingly, the chapter criticises certain previous (and current) academic approaches to martial arts, particularly the failed project of hoplology. It then examines the much more promising approaches of current scholarship, such as that of Sixt Wetzler, before critiquing certain aspects of its orientation. Instead of accepting Wetzler’s ‘polysystem theory’ approach uncritically, the article argues instead for the value of a poststructuralist ‘discourse’ approach in martial arts studies.

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DOI 10.18573/j.2017.10092

Citation

Bowman, Paul. 2017. ‘The Definition of Martial Arts Studies’, Martial Arts Studies 3, 6-23.

Contributor

Paul Bowman, Professor of Cultural Studies at Cardiff University, is author of ten books, including Martial Arts Studies: Disrupting Disciplinary Boundaries (2015). He is founder and director of the AHRC-funded Martial Arts Studies Research Network and co- editor of the journal Martial Arts Studies. His most recent book is Mythologies of Martial Arts (Rowman & Littlefield, 2017)

Pink Gloves Still Give Black Eyes

 

Abstract

This article considers the gendered significance of women’s participation in combat sports, with a specific focus on the performances of femininity by female combat athletes. Against lines of argument which posit that women’s enactment of femininity is the result of restrictive, coercive, and ultimately conservative cultural pressures, respondents in two separate studies suggested that a purposeful, selective enactment of femininity, when understood in combination with their fighting ability, signified an important challenge to orthodox understandings of gender. As such, our data suggests that manoeuvring within normative cultural parameters of gender may, ironically, help to stimulate change in its structure of meanings, given that the feminine performances of these fighters ultimately posed symbolic challenges to cultural constructions of (‘normal’) women as inevitably weaker and inferior athletes compared to men. We therefore advocate that scholars with an interest in exploring the subversion of gender remain mindful of the possibility that such subversive impulses might occur via the appropriation, and re-signification, of some of its more orthodox norms.

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DOI 10.18573/j.2017.10093

Citation

Channon, Alex and Phipps, Catherine. 2017. ‘Pink Gloves Still Give Black Eyes’, Martial Arts Studies 3, 24-37.

Contributor

Alex Channon is Senior Lecturer in Physical Education and Sport Studies at the University of Brighton, UK. His research explores various aspects of the relationship between sport, gender and the body, with a particular focus on martial arts and combat sports. Alex is the co-editor of Global Perspectives on Women in Combat Sports [Palgrave Macmillan, 2015], and the co-founder of the anti-violence initiative, Love Fighting Hate Violence [www.lfhv.org].
Catherine Phipps is a PhD student at the University of Greenwich, UK. Her research explores LGBTQ+ inclusion in university-based sport, with her wider research interests including gender and combat sports. Catherine currently competes in boxing and muay thai.

Taolu

Abstract

The practice of taolu (tao4lu4, tào lù, 套路), the prearranged movement patterns of the Chinese martial arts, has been explained in fantastically diverse ways spanning a range of interpretations from the essential and functional to the narrative, theatrical and religious. Rather than trying to find a universal reason for the practice of taolu, this paper proposes to look at the idea of prearranged movement patterns through the lens of credibility and decipherability. These twin concepts, borrowed from the Great Reform movement in 20th century theatre practice, helpfully embrace both the criteria by which the performance of taolu is usually judged and also the deficiencies in our contemporary understanding of reasons behind this palimpsestic training method. As conceptual tools, credibility and decipherability also offer us insight into how the practice of prearranged martial movement patterns is presented and interpreted as a personal and phenomenological experience of embodied practice. This paper hopes to pragmatically present new perspectives from which the practice of taolu can be understood.

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DOI 10.18573/j.2017.10094

Citation

Mroz, Daniel. 2017. ‘Taolu: Credibility and Decipherability in the Practice of Chinese Martial Arts’, Martial Arts Studies 3, 38-50.

Contributor

Daniel Mroz is a theatre director, university professor and student of the martial arts. His recent performances have been presented at the Canada Dance Festival and the Évènement Zones Théâtrales. The Dancing Word, his book on how to use the Chinese martial arts in the practice of contemporary theatre, is published by Brills. He studies martial arts with Chen Zhonghua and studied acting and directing with Richard Fowler. He holds a Doctorat en études et pratiques des arts from the Université du Québec à Montréal. He is Associate Professor in the Department of Theatre at the University of Ottawa
where he teaches acting and directing.

Ancient Wisdom, Modern Warriors

Abstract

Xilam is a modern Mexican martial art that is inspired by pre- Hispanic warrior cultures of ancient Mesoamerica, namely the Aztecs (Mexica), Maya and Zapotec cultures. It provides a noteworthy case study of a Latin American fighting system that has been recently invented, but aspires to rescue, rediscover and relive the warrior philosophies that existed before the Spanish Conquest and subsequent movements beginning in 1521. Using the thought-provoking work of anthropologist Guillermo Bonfil Batalla, México Profundo, I aim to analyse the Xilam Martial Arts Association through the way that they represent themselves in their three main media outlets: the official webpage, the Facebook group and the YouTube channel. Overall, the data suggests that certain elements of Mesoamerican civilisation may be transmitted to young Mexicans through a mind-body discipline, which in turn acts as a form of physical (re)education. Overall, xilam is both an invented tradition (in a technical sense) and a re-invented tradition (in a cultural sense) that provides lessons on the timeless issues of transformation, transmission and transcendence.

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DOI 10.18573/J.2016.10064
 

Citation

Jennings, George. 2016. ‘Ancient Wisdom, Modern Warriors; The (Re)Invention of a Mesoamerican Warrior Tradition in Xilam’, Martial Arts Studies 2, 59-70.

Contributor

George Jennings is a qualitative sociologist interested in traditionalist physical cultures. His previous work has examined the traditionalist Chinese martial arts such as Wing Chun and Taijiquan, and he is currently investigating the dynamic relationships between martial arts, health and society. He is a researcher and editor at the Universidad YMCA, Mexico, and an associate researcher at the Health Advancement Research Team, University of Lincoln, UK.

The Fifty-Two Hand Blocks Re-framed

Abstract

From the late 1980s, a cluster of related African-American vernacular fighting styles became a focus of contention among martial artists. Over the next twenty years, evidence drawn from popular culture, social science, and sport validated the existence of vernacular styles such as Jailhouse Rock and the 52s. This paper examines the recent ‘re-framing’ of the 52s as a heritage art, a uniquely African-American expression for cultivating health, fitness, and ethnic pride, as well as the development of a structured, culturally-based curriculum which began in order to ensure its embodied preservation.

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DOI 10.18573/J.2016.10062

 

Citation

Green, Thomas A. 2016. ‘The Fifty-Two Hand Blocks Re-Framed: Rehabilitation of a Vernacular Martial Art’, Martial Arts Studies 2, 23-33.

Contributor

Thomas A. Green earned his PhD in Anthropology from the University of Texas (Austin). After teaching at Idaho State University and the University of Delaware, he joined the faculty in Anthropology at Texas A&M University. Folklore and cultural anthropology comprise his primary teaching duties. He has conducted research among groups ranging from urban gang members and Northern Chinese martial artists to Native American political activists and African-American cultural nationalists with a focus on the ways that traditional art forms identify and manage cultural conflict. He currently collaborates with Chinese colleagues on the vernacular martial culture of the contemporary PRC. In addition to academic articles, he has published twelve volumes on these topics, including Martial Arts of the World: An Encyclopedia of History and Innovation, co-edited with Joseph R. Svinth. Green has served in editorial roles for academic journals in the U.S. and Europe, including the Journal of American Folklore.

Fight-Dancing and the Festival

Abstract

Festivals bring people together in affirmations of community. This article looks at two festivals in coastal locations in Indonesia and Brazil with a close inspection of performances of fight-dancing included within both festivals. The improvisatory or choreographed organization of the fight- dancing performances echoes the manner in which the festivals themselves are assembled. As these festivals grow in popularity, the process of inventing tradition is heterogeneously co- constituted by those parties who actively invest in the symbolic capital of the events. Verbal and non-verbal forms of expression reinforce each other in the construction of a multivalent sense of regional traditions. The corporeal engagement of organisers and participants blurs the boundary between embodied remembering and narrative accounts. Based on archival research and ethnographic fieldwork, this article explores the interweaving of fight-dancing with the history, growth, and post-colonial expression of regional festivals.

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DOI 10.18573/J.2016.10065

Citation

Mason, Paul H. 2016. ‘Fight- Dancing and the Festival: Tabuik in Pariaman, Indonesia and Iemanjá in Salvador Da Bahia, Brazil’, Martial Arts Studies 2, 71-90.

Contributor

Paul H. Mason completed his PhD in cultural anthropology at Macquarie University (2012) under the supervision of Professors Greg Downey and John Sutton. He has conducted ethnographic fieldwork with arts communities in Indonesia and Brazil, religious minorities in India and Brazil, and tuberculosis patients in Australia and Vietnam. With support from Macquarie International, the National Department of Education in Indonesia, and the Australia Netherlands Research Collaboration, he has also conducted archival research in Australia, Brazil, Holland, and Indonesia. His research on martial arts has been published in Global Ethnographic, Cultures-Kairós, and Inside Indonesia, and he recently coedited The Fighting Art of Pencak Silat and its Music with Dr Uwe Paetzold (Robert Schumann University of Music, Düsseldorf), published as part of Brill’s Southeast Asian Library Series.

The Seven Forms of Lightsaber Combat

Abstract

Martial arts studies has entered a period of rapid conceptual development. Yet relatively few works have attempted to define the ‘martial arts’, our signature concept. This article evaluates a number of approaches to the problem by asking whether ‘lightsaber combat’ is a martial art. Inspired by a successful film franchise, these increasingly popular practices combine elements of historical swordsmanship, modern combat sports, stage choreography and a fictional worldview to ‘recreate’ the fighting methods of Jedi and Sith warriors. The rise of such hyper-real fighting systems may force us to reconsider a number of questions. What is the link between ‘authentic’ martial arts and history? Can an activity be a martial art even if its students and teachers do not claim it as such? Is our current body of theory capable of exploring the rise of hyper-real practices? Most importantly, what sort of theoretical work do we expect from our definition of the ‘martial arts’?

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10.18573/J.2016.10067

 

Citation

Judkins, Benjamin N. 2016. ‘The Seven Forms of Lightsaber Combat: Hyper- reality and the Invention of the Martial Arts’, Martial Arts Studies 2, 6-22.

Contributor

Benjamin N. Judkins is co-editor of the journal Martial Arts Studies. 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.

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