Editorial: Show, Don’t Tell – Making Martial Arts Studies Matter

Abstract

How can we make martial arts studies matter? Returning to the issues of triviality and legitimation raised in the Spring 2017 editorial, in this essay we explore various strategies for conveying the intellectual importance of our work to a scholarly but non-specialist readership. In recent years the field of martial arts studies has made impressive strides in terms of both growth and public exposure. Yet this success suggests that increasingly gatekeepers in the form of editors, funding bodies and promotion committees will have an impact on the development of our field. Appealing to such readers is a critical next step in the creation of martial arts studies. The first draft of this editorial was presented by Benjamin Judkins as a keynote at the July 2017 Martial Arts Studies Conference at Cardiff University. It has subsequently been edited to reflect the opinions of both authors and the current context.

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DOI 10.18573/mas.46

Citation

Judkins, Benjamin N. and Bowman, Paul. 2017. ‘Show, Don’t Tell: Making Martial Arts Studies Matter’, Martial Arts Studies 5, 1-14.

Editorial: Is Martial Arts Studies Trivial?

Abstract

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.

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DOI 10.18573/j.2017.10183

Citation

Bowman, Paul and Judkins, Benjamin N. 2017. ‘Is Martial Arts Trivial?’, Martial Arts Studies 4, 1-16.

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.

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.

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.

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