The Fifty-Two Handblocks Re-framed: the Rehabilitation of a Vernacular Martial Art by Thomas A. Green

Brooklyn

Introduction

Greetings from the road!  If all has gone according to plan I am currently in the UK, and probably on a train somewhere between London and Cardiff, headed to the 2016 Martial Arts Studies Conference.  Since I will only have limited internet access, and even less time, I have arranged for a number of articles from the pages of the journal Martial Arts Studies to be posted in my absence.  Kung Fu Tea will be returning to its normal schedule following my return to the United States.

In today’s article  Prof. Thomas Green examines the discussion surrounding the “52 Handblocks” and explores the various ways in which the art has been created and re-invented over the years.  He provides a riveting account of some of the best known African American vernacular martial arts and I highly recommend that all readers take a look at it.

 

Click here to read: “The Fifty-Two Handblocks Re-framed: the Rehabilitation of a Vernacular Martial Art.”

 

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.

About the Author

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.

 

 

Left to right Gurus Tony Valdez, James Leach, Maha Guru Clifford Stewart, Green, Guru Thomas Lomax,  Los Angeles, CA.  Source: Personal Collection of Prof. Thomas Green.
Left to right Gurus Tony Valdez, James Leach, Maha Guru Clifford Stewart, Green, Guru Thomas Lomax, Los Angeles, CA. Source: Personal Collection of Prof. Thomas Green.

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