Welcome to “Chinese Martial Arts in the News!” Things have been busy with the release of the new issue of the journal, so we haven’t had a proper news roundup in a while. Lots has been happening in the world of the traditional Chinese martial arts, so its time to do something about that.
For those who may have forgotten, this is a semi-regular feature here at Kung Fu Tea in which we review media stories that mention or affect the traditional fighting arts. In addition to discussing important events, this column also considers how the Asian hand combat systems are portrayed in the mainstream media.
While we try to summarize the major stories over the last month, there is always a chance that we may have missed something. If you are aware of an important news event relating to the TCMA, drop a link in the comments section below. If you know of a developing story that should be covered in the future feel free to send me an email.
Its been way too long since our last update so there is a lot to be covered in today’s post. Let’s get to the news!
News From All Over
Our first story comes from Taiwan. The region is home to many styles of White Crane, and one individual is hoping to promote the Feeding Crane system both at home and abroad. You can read about his efforts in the Taipei Times.
The article is short, and starts off as a fairly typical discussion. But things get more interesting towards the end when questions of regional and national identity are brought into play. Fears of the decline of the TCMA notwithstanding, these systems are still functioning as important markers of regional identity.
Every Asian nation and culture around Taiwan has laid claim to a signature martial art, such as taichi, wing chun, karate, taekwondo, Muay Thai and escrima, [Lin] said.
“It is a shame that Taiwan does not have a representative martial art,” he said. “I want to leave behind something for the nation. I have vowed that I will travel to make the feeding crane style thrive all over the world,” he said.
Its worth remembering that while various sorts of wushu may be declining in popularity in China, a number of other martial arts are exploding in popularity. The next article argues that we can add the Filipino martial arts to this list of winners. Readers should note the way that this discussion has been framed as a response to recent events:
“Imported fighting skills such as taekwondo, boxing and judo are growing in popularity among young Chinese people, many of whom want to try something different from traditional Chinese martial arts, or Wushu. A sense of mistrust of Wushu techniques has arisen after Xu Xiaodong, a Beijing-based amateur MMA fighter, knocked out a self-proclaimed Taiji master within 20 seconds in a high-profile freestyle fight in Chengdu in April, 2017.”
I should point out that the popularity of foreign fighting styles actually goes back at least a decade. All of this suggests that the recent dust-ups with MMA trainers are more of a symptom of what is going on than a root cause.
“China to Promote Martial Arts Among Children”. So begins a recent article at ecns.cn reporting on an administrative meeting seeking to create new programs and opportunities for engagement with China’s youth. Interestingly, the programs have also been designed so that they can be opened up to youth from the “Belt and Road” region. Scholars have noted that China’s approach to public diplomacy is unique in that while most countries design separate informational programs for their own audiences and foreign citizens, the PRC tends to use the same talking points in both spheres. I suspect this is because there is often a surprising amount of sincerity behind the paternalism. But for whatever the reasons, I thought this article was a nice illustration of a larger trend in the PRC’s public diplomacy strategy.
While the previous articles have been brief, the Channel News takes a deep dive into the rise and fall of a local style in an article titled “‘Who wants ugly hands?’: Made-in-Singapore kungfu falls out of local favour, but flourishes in Greece.” This is a very nice case study and it is well worth your time. Its also worth reading as the underlying anxiety that this article discusses is in no way restricted to one style. Many masters have noted with consternation that their practices are growing in strength and popularity in the global marketplace at the same time that they are declining in China. This then raises a whole host of fears and questions regarding what it means for something to be a “Chinese martial art” in the current era. Given the salience of these questions, this article is certainly one to bookmark.
The South China Morning Post also ran a detailed study titled “Wing chun pilgrim who found a deeper purpose in Hong Kong’s martial arts community.” This piece offers a fascinating profile of Marc Guyon, a French banker and Wing Chun student who came to Hong Kong seeking a few months of instruction with the local masters. But in a surprising twist of fate he ended up becoming involved in MMA, competing in a number of pro-fights, opening his own school and permanently relocating to Hong Kong.
I checked out his gym’s webpage it looks like he has remained actively engaged with both the Wing Chun and MMA communities, though readers might not get that sense from the article alone. His webpage is also interesting as he really puts issue of economic class front and center with a heavy emphasis on pitching the martial arts to a “white collar” clientele. I also noted that he offers instruction in “Hong Kong style Wing Chun” (which he says is Chi Sao based) and “European style Wing Chun” (which he claims is more combative and self-defense oriented). The article is also worth a read for its narrative about transcending, rather than actualizing, the self.
“Snowflake soldiers on the march! Grenadier Guards are being given kung fu classes because they’re not aggressive enough.” So proclaims the Daily Mail in a headline that would be sure to earn a nod from General Qi Jiguang himself. The article goes on to basically confirm the byline when it notes that a group of officers became concerned that their men were not physically aggressive enough in a simulated training exercise and hired a local kung fu instructor to work on the problem (apparently with good results). It is often forgotten that Qi Jiguang also introduced boxing for its psychological and conditioning benefits rather than its actual utility on the battlefield. If viewed from this perspective, its not likely that the traditional martial arts will ever actually become obsolete.
Shine recently ran a story on the growing popularity of boxing among urban professional women in China. The article is not long but it has some interesting discussion for Gender Studies students and those who focus on self-defense narratives:
“Zhang Saisai, a boxing instructor in Beijing, says most of his customers are women aged 30 to 40. “They view boxing as a way to prevent sexual harassment.”
But the boxing fad also mirrors the cultural blending between China and the rest of the world. While thousands of westerners came to China learning kung fu at the Shaolin Temple every year, Chinese fitness enthusiasts are working out with yoga, Pilates, Brazilian martial arts and taekwondo.”
“Tai chi: A kinder, gentler approach to cardiac rehab?” Researchers at Harvard think so. Their findings are important as formal cardiac rehabilitation programs can be expensive and difficult for patients to get to. Yet many of the same benefits can be gained from local taijiquan classes.
Finally, we conclude this section of the news roundup with definitive visual proof that two of your favorite things really do look better together. I give you Bruce Lee wielding lightsaber powered nunchucks! I would love to claim Lee as a Jedi…but to be honest his obsession with revenge in this film suggest that he was already pretty far along the path to the Dark Side. Maybe those blade should have been red. If you want your own set of lightsaber nunchucks, I know a guy who can hook you up.
Martial Arts Studies
I am delighted to announce that Professor Meaghan Morris has been appointed Honorary Visiting Professor in the School of Journalism, Media & Cultural Studies at Cardiff University, UK. Read the full story here.
Professor Morris’s first visit to Cardiff in this capacity will be for a conference on 11-12 July 2018, titled ‘Bruce Lee’s Cultural Legacies’ for which she will be delivering a Keynote Address. Clearly congratulations are in order and we cannot wait to hear what she has to say.
The new issue of Martial Arts Studies (an imprint of Cardiff University Press) has been released! As always, it is free to read by anyone with an internet connection. I would suggest starting with the opening editorial (by yours truly) before moving on to Farrer’s fascinating look at the world of Choy Li Fut in Singapore. Actually, all of the papers and reviews in this issue are excellent. If you would like a quick synopsis of the contents click here.
Call for papers!
Within and between the disciplines of anthropology, cultural studies, history, human geography, pedagogy, sociology and the emerging field of martial arts studies, there exist a great variety of research methods used to address themes of the body, education, gender, identity, nationalism, sexuality and technology – to name a few topics. Qualitative strategies including auto/ethnography, documental analysis, ethnography, interviewing, media analysis, netnography (online ethnography) and (auto)phenomenology continue to be tested, developed and combined through innovative projects from researchers from various continents and academic backgrounds.
The theme of culture in its many guises is a unifying factor in many of these academic fields, and ‘cultures of combat’ such as hand-to-hand combat training, traditionalist martial arts and vernacular self-defence systems provide a basis for the study of various aspects of culture more generally. Scholars are adding to knowledge on the fighting systems, martial arts, combat sports, self-defence systems and a number of overall physical cultures that we term for the purposes of this inclusive collection, ‘cultures of combat.’ At the same time, this body of knowledge is contributing to the methodological literature beyond the martial arts, such as the use of the senses, ‘habitus as topic and tool’ as Wacquant puts it, two-handed ethnography and surveys on fans across countries. It is with this burgeoning corpus of work in mind that we call researchers to share their findings, practices and insights from their investigations. In an effort to explore the ways of researching these cultures of combat, manner of analysing them and possibilities of representing such research, we particularly welcome submissions relating to the following specific themes:
· Tradition vs innovation;
· Embodied knowledge;
· Violence vs sociability.
· Apprenticeship and mentoring;
· Education and edutainment;
· The socialization of senses;
· Politics, biopolitics and power;
· Objects and weaponry;
· Space and place;
· Technologies and mobile applications;
· Doing research with technologies;
· Lifestyle and leisure;
· Health and wellbeing;
· Family and community;
· Environment and ecology;
Also, given the focus on methods in this gathering, we also see the potential for the broader methodological themes of:
· Doing qualitative research: Multimodality and methodological creativity;
· Analysing qualitative research: Theorising and understanding martial arts;
· Sharing qualitative research: Representing and communicating findings.
Following review by the convenors, the 15 maximum number of papers will be divided into three streams led by each of the convening chairs. Talks will last 30 minutes, followed by 15 minutes Q & A. At the end of each session, a ten-minute roundtable debate will be facilitated by the chair in an effort to connect the paper themes and develop discussion. Images and videos embedded within talks and a mixture of styles are also encouraged.
Beside traditional oral presentations and PowerPoint formats derived from written papers, we greatly welcome alternative forms of representation and creative analytic practices. The 30-minute sessions can facilitate an ethnodrama or performance ethnography, as well as the use of short film and interactive / physical workshop formats that demonstrate the blend of traditional ethnographic fieldwork with digital and online methods.
For applications and questions please direct all correspondence to:
Dr. David Brown: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. George Jennings: email@example.com
Dr. Lorenzo Pedrini: firstname.lastname@example.org
Kung Fu Tea on Facebook
A lot has happened on the Kung Fu Tea Facebook group over the last month. We have seen some great vintage photographs, learned about Wong Fei Hung’s wife and debated the identity of the top ten individuals in the history of the Asian martial arts! Joining the Facebook group is also a great way of keeping up with everything that is happening here at Kung Fu Tea.
If its been a while since your last visit, head on over and see what you have been missing!