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Martial Arts as Embodied Knowledge

Asian Traditions in a Transnational World

John Whalen-Bridge, D. S. Farrer

Publication Year: 2011

A wide-ranging scholarly consideration of the martial arts. This landmark work provides a wide-ranging scholarly consideration of the traditional Asian martial arts. Most of the contributors to the volume are practitioners of the martial arts, and all are keenly aware that these traditions now exist in a transnational context. The book’s cutting-edge research includes ethnography and approaches from film, literature, performance, and theater studies. Three central aspects emerge from this book: martial arts as embodied fantasy, as a culturally embedded form of self-cultivation, and as a continuous process of identity formation. Contributors explore several popular and highbrow cultural considerations, including the career of Bruce Lee, Chinese wuxia films, and Don DeLillo’s novel Running Dog. Ethnographies explored describe how the social body trains in martial arts and how martial arts are constructed in transnational training. Ultimately, this academic study of martial arts offers a focal point for new understandings of cultural and social beliefs and of practice and agency.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. iii-iv


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pp. vii-viii


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p. ix

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p. xi

D. S. Farrer wishes to thank the Yan Chin Martial Arts Association, Singapore, for their assistance during his research. Sifu Ng Gim Han, Sifu Chow Tong, and Sifu Tan Mon Joo deserve special recognition. Mr. Yong Feng acted as my translator in several countries where we experienced some difficult, even dangerous, situations. ...

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1. Introduction: Martial Arts, Transnationalism, and Embodied Knowledge

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pp. 1-25

The outlines of a newly emerging field—martial arts studies—appear in the essays collected here in Martial Arts as Embodied Knowledge: Asian Traditions in a Transnational World. Considering knowledge as “embodied,” where “embodiment is an existential condition in which the body is the subjective source or intersubjective ground of experience,” means understanding martial arts through cultural and historical experience...

Part I. Embodied Fantasy

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p. 27

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2. Some Versions of the Samurai: The Budō Core of DeLillo’s Running Dog

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pp. 29-60

Yukio Mishima, the budō code, the Japanese guide for killer courtiers known as the Hagakure—these would not appear to be the important elements from a novel by Don DeLillo, arguably America’s finest living novelist, but they are. Running Dog is his fifth novel and was published in 1978...

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3. The Fantasy Corpus of Martial Arts, or, The "Communication" of Bruce Lee

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pp. 61-96

This encounter changes Miller’s life. In his account of this moment, Miller eloquently conveys an experience—his experience—singular, intimate, personal. But it is also an experience that has been shared in common by innumerable people in innumerable situations, all “alone,” yet all sharing something in common. ...

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4. Body, Masculinity, and Representation in Chinese Martial Arts Films

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pp. 97-119

This essay seeks to study alternative representations of masculinity in the globalized Chinese martial art film. This is exemplified by Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, a wuxia film (sword-fighting martial arts genre) directed by Ang Lee in 2000. This film typifies a focus on the body as a cultural site for representing nonhegemonic Chinese masculinities. ...

Part II. How the Social Body Trains

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p. 121

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5. The Training of Perceptionin Javanese Martial Arts

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pp. 123-143

To what extent can the classification of the senses be considered objective or universal? Can touch be considered a simple capacity or sense or an elaborate one? Answers to such questions depend on the way the hierarchy of senses is shaped in a given sociocultural context and how in this context the senses are educated. ...

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6. Thai Boxing: Networking of a Polymorphous Clinch

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pp. 145-158

Thai Boxing or Muay Thai is among the biggest and most important cultural industries in contemporary Thailand.1 Our question here regards the “professional practice” (muaj achi:p, lit., professional boxing) of Muay Thai that encompasses close to all of the boxers in the kingdom of Thailand, except for a few amateur clubs where the upper class practices a traditional local form of self-defense. ...

Part III. Transnational Self-Construction

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p. 159

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7. From Floor to Stage: Kalarippayattu Travels

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pp. 161-183

In The Meaning of Truth William James draws attention to significance of the relationship between the doer and the thing done in the accrual of value to either. “The relations between things, conjunctive as well as disjunctive,” he suggests, “are just as much matters of direct particular experience, neither more, nor less so, than the things themselves” ...

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8. The Oriental Martial Arts as Hybrid Totems, Together with Orientalized Avatars

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pp. 185-201

The absorption of blows is rather easy. It depends more on those delivering the blows than the one receiving them. When I repeated this demonstration ten years later in 1994 at the University of Kent, the students laid in hard with long planks of 6x2 (timber 15 cm wide and 5 cm thick), and got it right. All I had to do was keep a rooted stance, control my breath, and relax my muscles. ...

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9. Coffee-Shop Gods: Chinese Martial Arts of the Singapore Diaspora

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pp. 203-237

This chapter outlines the embodied practice of Chinese martial arts, with special reference to kung fu in Singapore.1 Overseas Chinese martial arts exist as a vast reservoir of Chinese cultural capital, and some kung fu masters (sifu) remember over a hundred long sets of movements.2 ...


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pp. 239-241


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pp. 243-249

E-ISBN-13: 9781438439686
E-ISBN-10: 1438439687
Print-ISBN-13: 9781438439679
Print-ISBN-10: 1438439679

Page Count: 208
Illustrations: 13 b/w photographs
Publication Year: 2011

OCLC Number: 775361438
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Martial Arts as Embodied Knowledge


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Subject Headings

  • Martial arts.
  • Martial arts -- Social aspects.
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