Welcome to “Chinese Martial Arts in the News!” Lots has been happening in the Chinese martial arts community, so its time to see what people have been saying.
For new readers, 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 let’s get to the news!
News From All Over
Our first story will be of special interest to readers who either practice Choy Li Fut or who take an interest in Foshan’s martial arts history. Multiple Chinese tabloids ran a story titled “Across China: Kung Fu Master’s fight to pass on martial art.” This generic title belies a much more interesting discussion of the individual behind the revival of Hung Sing Choy Li Fut in Foshan in the 1990s. The article provides a brief sketch of the current state of the practice in the city, as well as offering some insight into the various foreign students who make the pilgrimage to practice (sometimes for extended periods of time) at this regionally famous school. While short, this one is definitely worth checking out.
One of these same tabloids (Xinhua.net) also ran a revealing piece titled “Chinese Kung Fu wins hearts in Ningxia.” It focuses on local government backed efforts to promote the study of the martial arts (and in particular the Chinese rather than Korean arts) by school children. It hits a lot of the standard troupes (martial arts practice being good for “sickly” children, etc…) and some of the quotes from parents are great. Here is the punch line:
“It is an obvious trend that more and more Chinese parents are sending their children to learn martial arts in recent years, and in Yinchuan, there are at least six Kung Fu training centers and the total number of students reaches 500,” according to Wang Liang, Executive Vice Chairman of the Ningxia Wushu Association.
According to Wang, all levels of government took measures to promote martial arts among students. In 2010, the Minister of Education and the General Administration of Sports jointly promoted Kung Fu to be taken as a course in schools.
“Many students and parents getting to know the martial arts through these courses, and when they want to take a course to build up a strong body, Kung Fu becomes a new choice,” Wang says.
Are you “Celebrating World Tai Chi Day?” The global press certainly is. Indeed, this annual event has been the big news generator over the last month or so. But what exactly is being celebrated? Our first article has some suggestions:
“Tai chi is a way to demonstrate how we should adapt to changes that come to us through outside forces. Being able to adjust to change with discipline, calm, grace, artfulness and good form is an important quality that should be valued in any society. Garri Garripoli, writing about qi gong specifically but with resonance for tai chi in general, said that it “is more than a set of exercises, it is an attitude that works to restructure one’s perspective on life, leading to balance and harmony with the world around us.”
The next article was also inspired by World Tai Chi Day, but it went in a more interesting direction. “Meet Doreen Hynd, 92, tai chi chuan master.” It profiles a longtime Taijiquan teacher who was recently honored by the United Nations. As I was reading through this story I realized that it has a fascinating connection to Sophia Delza (someone whose contributions to the spread of the Chinese martial arts I recently discussed) that is worth checking out:
“Born in Australia in 1925, Hynd began her tai chi chuan training in the 1980s at Sydney University. In 1984, Hynd moved to the US and sought out Sophia Delza, who had spent many years in China studying under the famous tai chi chuan grandmaster Ma Yueh Liang, who was the senior disciple of Wu Jianquan, the founder of Wu-style tai chi chuan.
After Delza passed away in 1996, Hynd, by then Delza’s teaching assistant, carried on Delza’s mission of promoting tai chi culture and taught at places such as the United Nations, Carnegie Hall and the State University of New York.”
Next we turn to the “Kung Fu Diplomacy Files.” Rather than simply encouraging foreign journalists to write (positive) pieces about the Chinese martial arts, the following articles suggest that it may be more efficient to simply introduce them to the practice directly. The first of these notes that:
Reporters from around the world who are in China for a 10-month media fellowship programme recently downed their pens and diaries and put on sportswear at the Beijing International Chinese College. The internal gymnasium of the college became the venue for experiential lessons on the practical interpretation of Chinese Kung fu and Wushu, and how to handle Chinese martial arts weapons.
In a separate piece in Shine (formerly the Shanghai Daily) a Russian journalism intern writes a more introspective essay on what she has learned about achieving life balance from her study of Taiiquan with a local teacher. This article seems to have been timed to correspond with the World Tai Chi Day celebration but it does not directly reference it.
I used to jog in the morning or in the evening, swim in summer and ski in winter — perennially engaged in all kinds of active sports so popular in Russia, my home country. Schooling is competitive too. I studied hard, because otherwise I wouldn’t enter a good university and then wouldn’t go abroad for studies. Fighting my imperfections, I was always ambitious to reach new horizons.
It’s probably a positive thing to set goals and reach them but I seem to have little time to stop and reflect: What do I truly need? Now tai chi seems to hint at an answer, by steering me to be more in harmony with the surrounding world.”
Our next stop is a bit of local news aptly titled, “Chinese Culture Night features martial arts, dancing, singing.” While reviewing the news this last week it occurred to me that there are a few types of stories that I rarely report on. I tend to focus on reports in major media outlets, or articles in Chinese tabloids aimed directly at an English speaking audience. In contrast I have ignored a lot of the shorter pieces in local newspapers reporting on regional tournaments, or the opening of a new class at the community center. Most of these stories are only of local interest, and a great many of them are basically small business advertisements. But it occurred to me that news items like are also an important source of insight into the (sometimes contested) role that the martial arts play in Western culture. Indeed, they probably speak more directly to the lived experience of the martial arts than an elegantly written essay in the New York Times.
This particular article struck me as important for two reasons. First, it suggested just how stable the “Chinese cultural night” has been as a type of cultural performance in local American communities for close to 100 years. Indeed, the format and content of the event described here, including the martial arts, are not all that different from those that I reported on in the 1920s. Even the link with university students is a constant. Second, the embrace of the martial arts as a key aspect of Asian American identity was interesting, as that sentiment is not always shared. (Also note here.)
The Chinese Culture Organization at Sacramento State held its eighth annual Chinese Culture Night on Sunday at the University Union.
The event took place in the University Union Ballroom and consisted of many performances celebrating Chinese culture. The event featured singers, musicians, and dancers — and also included magic tricks and martial arts shows.
Alex Tran, the president of the Sac State Martial Arts Club, shared his experience participating in the event.
“It was intense, our endorphins were rising high, and we were just ready to go,” Tran said. “It was crazy.” Tran said events like these are used to preserve Asian culture.
“As a Vietnamese-American, I would say it’s very important where our culture comes from. Like any culture in general, whether it be Chinese, Vietnamese, American culture,” said Tran before trailing off. “It is good to spread it so that it does not die off.”
Martial Arts in the Media
Donnie Yen, the international martial-arts superstar who was introduced to an even wider audience with his role as blind monk Chirrut Imwe in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, has taken another high-profile role for Disney. This time, Yen will be working for the Mouse House proper, in the live-action remake of the company’s beloved 1998 animated film Mulan. Yen will play a new role, Commander Tung, who’s described as “a mentor and teacher to Mulan.”
Karate has been in the news quite a bit this last month. The big announcement is that these two familiar faces are getting ready to relaunch their rivalry on YouTube’s streaming service. So what should you expect as you revisit the Karate Kid?
“When Johnny resurrects the old Cobra Kai dojo, it triggers Daniel, a successful car dealer who misses the stabilizing influence of his late mentor, Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita). As the rivalry reignites and finds proxy in young protégés, multigenerational resentments, confrontations and hook-kicks ensue.
“It’s a karate opera,” Mr. Schlossberg said. “There’s a fun sort of Hatfields and McCoys vibe.”
For a nice discussion of the fan theories and debates that really seem to be driving this project be sure to check out this post at The Tai Chi Notebook. Also, check out this interview with Ralph Macchio in Slate.
As long as we are talking about Karate, it might be worth asking if the traditional martial arts compete with MMA? I am not talking about in the ring/cage/octagon/pit. Rather, can they compete as a modern media savvy sports franchise? Well, these guys want to find out.
Finally, the South China Morning Post always has interesting martial arts coverage. Be sure to check out an article titled “Ancient martial art that spawned Muay Thai undergoes a rebirth in Cambodia thanks to a tireless grandmaster.” Muay Thai is very popular in Hong Kong, both as a competitive sport and an amateur practice. As such, it gets a fair amount of coverage in local papers. This report is an interesting case study on the revival and reconstruction of a popular martial art, with everything that this implies for the ways in which history is discussed and deployed.
Martial Arts Studies
As always, the martial arts studies community has been generating a lot of news. The first, and most exciting, note would have to be the launch of a new venture out of Germany titled the “Journal of Martial Arts Research.” Germany has been at the center of the growth of this field in recent years and this new project should ensure that many of the best articles being produced there will be brought together in one place. Best of all, this will be another open access journal, freely available to anyone with an internet connection. Articles will be published in German or English. Watch this place for future updateds.
Would you like to celebrate the start of summer at a social gathering with other likeminded students of martial arts studies? If so, I will be hosting a BBQ and Picnic on Sunday May 27th in Ithaca NY at the beautiful Myers Park. This will be a great chance to meet new people, hang out, and discuss possible ideas for future projects, regional conferences or panels. See here for more information and to RSVP.
Submissions are now closed for the 2018 Martial Arts Studies conference in Cardiff. This year’s meetings will focus closely on Bruce Lee and his ongoing cultural legacy. But you can still register as an attendee (which is really the best way to experience these gatherings. Its all the fun with none of the stress). Click here for the details.
Readers should also note that planning is already under way for the 2019 conference. And there is some exciting news on that front. It looks like those meetings may very well be crossing the Atlantic and happening in Los Angles. Stay tuned for more!
Have you ever wanted to buy a copy of the groundbreaking Martial Arts of the World [2 volumes]: An Encyclopedia of History and Innovation, but you were scared off by the $200 price tag? You can now access this incredible resource for free on “Kindle Unlimited,” or for less than $10 if purchased directly for your Kindle. This is a fantastic resource which I often find myself consulting.
The first video article in the innovative new Journal of Embodied Research has been released, and it will be of special interest to anyone who follows HEMA. Our friend Daniel Jaquet suits up in mediaeval armor and investigates what movement was really like! This makes great lunch time viewing.
As long as we are on the topic of articles, here are a few other recent papers that the readers of Kung Fu Tea might find interesting. The first item is by George Jennings and Veronica Partikova titled “The Kung Fu Family: A Collectivist Metaphor of Belonging Across Time and Place.” Unfortunately we only have the slides, and not the complete paper. But the good news is that these slides are almost an entire paper themselves.
Next we have an essay by Alex Channon (first published at the LFHV Blog) titled “The Madness of King Conor: Athlete Hubris, Promotional Culture, and Performative Violence.” This is a great read. Be sure to check it out if you haven’t seen it yet.
Lastly, for the more philosophically oriented, Karsten Kenklies has shared a copy of the forthcoming article on Academia.edu: (Self-)Transformation as Translation. The Birth of the Individual from German Bildung and Japanese Kata, in: Tetsugaku: International Journal of the philosophical Association of Japan, Vol. 2
Pedagogical processes are always connected to translation. This is very obvious in those practices of teaching where knowledge is transmitted through mediation. However, processes of self-formation or self-education, and especially the development of individuality, don’t seem to be connected directly to processes of translation. The following paper suggests that processes of individuation, too, can be understood as translations. In contrasting two culturally very different positions — the German idea of Bildung and the Japanese practice of exercising kata — it should become clear that both cannot be understood without referring to a concept of translation.
Kung Fu Tea on Facebook
A lot has happened on the Kung Fu Tea Facebook group over the last month. We have read about conspiracy theories in the martial arts, Nazi propaganda about the Chinese martial arts during WWII, and even daggers made from human thigh bones! 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!