We are happy to announce that the fifth issue of Martial Arts Studies is now freely available. For new readers, Martial Arts Studies is the premier scholarly source for interdisciplinary work on a wide variety of topics surrounding the practice, sociology, history and media representation of the modern combat sports and traditional martial arts. Published twice yearly, we are dedicated to presenting the very best research written and reviewed by leaders in the field.
This issue begins with an editorial discussion followed by five articles and three book reviews. Judkins and Bowman (our editors) set the tone by asking how we as scholars can demonstrate to our colleagues that martial arts, and by extension martial arts studies, really matters. While a critical task, easy answers to this question are often complicated by the deeply interdisciplinary nature of this emerging field. Still, its rapid growth over the last five years has made this topic more pressing than ever.
In the first article, titled ‘Affective Mythologies and “The Notorious” Conor McGregor’, Darren Kelsey asks what role mysticism, and the notion of the ‘monomyth’, might have played in the career of one of MMA’s most successful and famous fighters. He finds that it is likely impossible to understand the topic without tackling the role of mysticism, myth and ideology in popular culture. Kelsey concludes his argument by calling for more interdisciplinary engagement between cultural studies and the biological sciences to better tackle problems of ideology and consciousness.
Our second paper takes us to the kung fu schools of Singapore’s red-light district. Drawing on his extensive fieldwork in Hong Shen Choy Li Fut, anthropologist D. S. Farrer asks searching questions about the purpose and outcome of taolu (also ‘set’ or kata) training in the traditional Chinese martial arts. Despited the stated goals of this training within a combat oriented school, Farrer was forced to consider whether (and how) the endless repletion of taolu created the mistaken belief that one was becoming a more skilled fighter. Further, how do audiences come to be held captive by these ‘false connections’? Farrer’s discussion is timely given the current debates within the TCMA community following the repeated high-profile embarrassment of taijiquan ‘masters’ when faced with MMA trained opponents.
Next Thomas, Lugo, Channon and Spence investigate ‘The Influence of Competitive Co-action on Kata Performance’ in Japanese Karate. Their paper adds to the already extensive literature on ‘social facilitation’ within competitive sports by demonstrating that co-action has a notable impact on measurable outcomes within the martial arts. Further, both age and sex seems to play an important (if somewhat surprising) role in understanding social facilitation within these fighting systems.
Martin Minarik then takes up the relationship between theatrical performance, social values and the martial arts in a paper provocatively titled ‘Ideological Efficacy Before Martial Efficacy’. While his basic findings are likely broadly applicable, in this paper Minarik focuses on Japanese gendai budo. After noting the consistent theatrical structuring of martial arts training, he employs case studies to show that performative elements within the martial arts are used to both socially elevate these practices and broadcast information about them. A careful study of these theatrical aspects can be used to trace such ideological features as the norms, values and ideals embedded within martial arts training.
The issues’ final research article is titled ‘Tales of a Tireur: Being a Savate Teacher in Contemporary Britain’. Produced by the practitioner/scholar team of Southwood and Delamont, this paper offers an ethnographic examination of the classes and career of one of the UK’s top Savate instructors. This article is also important as Savate (popular in France, Belgium and Eastern Europe) has been sadly neglected in the English language martial arts studies literature. As such we are very happy to bring readers this important glimpse into the world of a Tireur (a male Savate teacher).
Following these research articles, readers will find a critical examination of recent publications within the field of Martial Arts Studies. First, Emelyne Godfrey provides readers with an assessment of Wendy Rouse’s recent volume, Her Own Hero: The Origins of the Women’s Self-Defense Movement (New York UP, 2017). Russell Alexander Stepp brings his own background as a medievalist to bear in an examination of Daniel Jacquet, Karin Verelst and Timothy Dawson’s (eds.) Late Medieval and Early Modern Fightbooks (Brill, 2016). Finally Craig Owen reviews Embodying Brazil: An Ethnography of Diaspora Capoeira by Sara Delamont, Neil Stephens and Claudio Campos (Routledge, 2017). He also uses this opportunity to ask important questions about the role of video and other media sources in academic publishing.
Do you still need to catch up with Issue 4 of Martial Arts Studies? If so click here.