Welcome to the Kung Fu Teahouse. I hope that this will become a place where we can meet to reflect on and discuss the growing field of martial studies. While most of my writing and thinking focuses on the area of Chinese Martial Studies in the late Qing and Republic periods, I have always believed in the power of the comparative case study to illuminate new and interesting facts. As such I will also publish posts dealing with Japanese, Middle Eastern and traditional European martial arts and culture.
What is Martial Studies?
So, for non-specialists, what is “martial studies”? Basically this blog focuses on the academic study of the martial arts. More specifically, martial studies include the social, cultural, economic and historical study of a society’s fighting and military traditions at all levels of social organization. By tradition “martial studies” seem to focus more on how society upholds these structures than a strict military historian might.
Martial studies is also radically interdisciplinary. In its ranks you will find historians, hoplologists, political scientist, psychologists, anthropologists, economists and literature and film studies students. It asks questions as diverse as “When was Taiji created?”, “How has globalization effected the development of southern Chinese martial arts?” and “How has Bruce Lee changed what it means to be a Chinese American?” If you are interested in any of these questions than this blog is the place for you.
Who am I and why am I writing about this?
My name is Benjamin Judkins. I have a Ph.D. in political science from Columbia University in New York City where I studied international relations and comparative Asian politics. I taught international relations and international political economy (globalization) at the University of Utah and have recently moved back to you NY. My research interests include international political economy, religion and politics, and of course Chinese Martial Studies.
This last subject really grew out of my interest in late 19th century globalization, Asia and religion and politics. It occurred to me that southern China was understudied and a great test bed for many of our theories about social groups, civil society and globalization. To that end I started educating myself about the development of southern Chinese martial culture more generally.
I should also note that I draw on my own background as a practicing martial artists when writing and thinking about the field of martial studies. I practiced Tae Kwon Do on and off through college. Later I discovered Wing Chun, a southern Chinese form of boxing propagated by Ip Man in Hong Kong in the 1950s and popularized in the west through Bruce Lee, his most famous student. I study with Sifu Jon Nielson (a student of Ip Ching, son of Ip Man) and do a little teaching myself.
I say all of this not to display my credentials so much as to explain my unique research interests. Most of the posts on this blog will focus on Chinese martial culture. I am especially interested in Guangdong and Fujian provinces from about 1850 until today. Wing Chun is my major case study so it is probably going to be a little over represented, but I will also post on a number of other local folk styles and even more modern topics regarding Chinese martial arts.
Of course not all of the posts will be equally weighty and academic. Hopefully we will also have a chance to discuss martial arts in the news and popular culture.