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Southern China

This category contains 117 posts

Through a Lens Darkly (43): Chinese Amazons and the “Weapons of the Forefathers”

Wonder Woman with a Dadao     In China the realm of social violence, and the martial arts in particular, has been male dominated.  That does not mean that women never became a part of such activities.  After all, they played an increasingly high profile role in the martial realm from the early 1920s onward.  … Continue reading

Recovering Alfred Lister: The Noble Art of Self-Defense in China (Part II)

Introduction This is the second half of our two part series on the life and writings of Alfred Lister.  A civil servant in Hong Kong during the second half of the 19th century, Lister provided his readers with some of the most detailed English language discussions of the Chinese martial arts to emerge during the … Continue reading

An Updated and Revised Social History of the Hudiedao (Butterfly Swords)

  In January of 2013 I posted an essay titled “A Social and Visual History of the Hudiedao (Butterfly Sword) in the Southern Chinese Martial Arts.” As a student of Wing Chun I have always been fascinated by these weapons, and as a researcher in the field of martial arts studies I have been equally curious … Continue reading

Recovering Alfred Lister: A Forgotten Observer of the Southern Chinese Martial Arts (Part I)

    ***While never discussed within the Chinese martial studies literature, Alfred Lister may have been the single most important western observer of the Chinese martial arts in the second half of the 19th century.  Over a period of four years he produced four different statements (two relatively brief, and two much more detailed) that … Continue reading

Research Notes: Foshan’s Kung Fu in 1919.

    First, the Important Stuff   Is it possible to approach history without theory?  I think not.  It is the existence of some sort of preexisting story or framework of understanding that we carry around in our heads which tells us that some given source is relevant data in the first place.  Nor are … Continue reading

Reflections on the Long Pole: History, Technique and Embodiment

      A New Pole   I had been meaning to get a new “long pole” (or Luk Dim Boon Kwan) for a while.  As the name implies, these are somewhat unwieldly training tools and (unless you own a truck) they do not travel well.  In my experience most poles simply “live” in the … Continue reading

A Tale of Two Challenge Fights – Or, Writing Better Martial Arts History

Introduction I recently had the good fortune to attend the 2016 Martial Arts Studies conference held at the German Sports University of Cologne, sponsored by the German Society of Sport Science’s Martial Arts Commission.  The theme of this year’s gathering was “Martial Arts and Society.”  Over the course of three days (October 6th-8th) I saw … Continue reading

The Bubishi: Innovation, Tradition and the Southern Chinese Martial Arts

    Introduction: A Secret Book   We have all seen the movie.  We have all had this dream.  A mysterious Kung Fu manual, purporting to relate the secrets of past masters, falls into your possession.  What will you find within its pages? It must contain the keys to excellence in combat.  That is the … Continue reading

Research Notes: Xiang Kairan on China’s Republic Era Martial Arts Marketplace

    Introduction   In a recent post we explored the life and career of Xiang Kairan (1890-1957), a seminal figure in the creation of the modern, media driven image, of the traditional Chinese martial arts.  Born to a wealthy family, and educated in both China and Japan, Xiang cemented his identity as a martial … Continue reading

The Creation of Wing Chun – Now in Paperback!

    I recently received a letter from SUNY Press letting me know that The Creation of Wing Chun: A Social History of the Southern Chinese Martial Arts, will soon be released in paperback.  This is wonderful news and due in no small part to the enthusiastic support we received from members of the Wing … Continue reading

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