Shuaijial Masters in Tainjin, 1930. Source:
Wrestlers in Tainjin, 1930. Source:



Greetings from Germany!

I am current attending the 5th Annual Meeting of the German Society of Sport Science’s Martial Arts Commission at the Sports University of Cologne.  I will soon be delivering my keynote address (titled “Creating Wing Chun: Towards a Social History of the Southern Chinese Martial Arts.”)  This paper discusses my approach to writing social history, explores why scholars should pay attention to this area of martial arts studies, and finally make an argument as to how this sort of research might be relevant to non-academic instructors and practitioners.    I plan to post all of that, as well as a full report on the conference, after my return to the United States next week.

In the mean time I thought that I would share with you the text of Paul Bowman’s keynote which he has been kind enough to post on his blog.   I don’t have a schedule in front of me, but I believe that Paul’s address comes a bit before mine in the batting order.  As astute readers may have already gathered from his title, this paper constitutes an intervention into the ongoing discussion of how to define and conceptualize the martial arts.  Rather than wading into the details of those conversations, it instead argues that such efforts may be premature at best, and misguided at worst.  One concern is that such exercises are too frequently put at the service of a sort of “naive empiricism.”  Paul goes on to argue that what is necessary at this point in the development of the field is a more sustained engagement with the basic insights of Critical Theory.

The paper that I will be presenting tends towards the historical and empirical, where as Paul’s is deeply engaged with post-structural and post-Marxist problems.  Yet when sitting down to look at each others essays, we were surprised to see that they touched on a number of shared themes and concerns.  One can even find some of these (albeit in a more empirical mode) in my recent post engaging with (and critiquing) Jeff Dykhuizen’s work on the culturally mediated nature of experience in the global Aikido community.  Hopefully I will have more to say on this after returning from the conference.  But until then, click the link to get a head start on the conversation!

What Can a Martial Body Do For Society? – Or, Theory Before Definition in Martial Arts Studies