Back from the third internation Martial Arts Studies congress (Cardiff July 11-13, 2017)

I've attended the first two conferences (2015, 2016). I'm really proud to have been a part of it. Scholars from all over the world, coming together to share their thoughts, outstanding work and enthusiasm for the rise of the field of research. This could be just a bunch of colleagues convinced by themselves, coming together each year (like this sometimes feels in such congresses). It is not.

Output these last 4 years

  • The number of output these last 4 years in the field is impressive. They moved from an excellent volume on Martial Arts studies (2014) in the journal of the Cardiff University Press to a fully dedicated independent open-access peer-reviewed journal, the Martial Arts Studies Journal. The fourth issue has just been published. Truly excellent work, I have never been disappointed by a single article so far. Quite impressive.
  • They started a book series on the topic at Rowman & Littlefield. The third book is already published. You'll find a review of this third volume in the last issue of my journal and on the last issue of the Martial Arts Studies journal. Title in the series so far: The Virtual Ninja Manifesto, Martial Arts Studies: Disrupting disciplinary boundaries, and Mythologies of Martial Arts.
  • They put up an impressive research network, with lots of features, including the tape of the keynotes, publication, blog, and so on... visit the website! The Martial Arts Studies Research Network
  • They also care about public outreach with the interviews being made by DoJo Tv since last year. A lot of material available there as well, intended for a broader audience.

These endeavours are carried out mainly by two esteemed colleagues. They are trendsetters and wizards making things happen. Paul Bowman is the organiser of the conference, the director of the book series and co-editor of the journal mentioned above. Benjamin N. Judkins is co-editor of the journal and the man behind the well-read and excellent blog Kung Fu Tea.

Historical European Martial Arts at the congress

Since the first edition, we have set up dedicated panels about our own research interest. Sixt Wetzler, Eric Burkart, Alexander Hay and myself have been regulars there, amongst a few other. I believe that we have successfully introduced our work to other scholars previously unaware of the work being done on the topic.

The second edition was quite a blast for me, and I have fond memories of my keynote in armour, which has been put up on video since then. Excellent work have been done there, including unpublished exciting research. I cannot cite all the contributions, but you'll find some published on the journal, notably two articles by Alexander Hay.

Few impressions about the last edition

I arrived only on the second day and I missed the keynote of my friend Sixt Wetzler (The problem of violence: martial arts as coping strategy). I'm waiting on the video recording of it. I met Peter Lorge (author of the Chinese Martial Arts 2012) and had interesting discussion. I noticed in particular an excellent keynote of Ben Judkins entitled: "Show, Don’t Tell: Making Martial Arts Studies Matter". It was presented as a follow-up of the editorial of the last issue of the journal (Are martial arts studies trivial?). It was way more than this. The right tone, mind-blowing issues at the right timing, disturbing and provocative questions. Ben is really good...

I attended two panels. One including the presentation of the dissertation on Chinese martial arts movements by a fellow colleague of the University of Geneva (Pierrick Porchet). The other was mainly on HEMA, with Erik Burkart (where he presented the project of his habilitation thesis and addressed relevant matters on the actual development and definition of the field) and Sebastian Keller. I then was involved with the last afternoon with a workshop and a round table debate about Communicating Embodied Knowledge. We wrestle with a quote from Wacquant book on boxing, following the perspective on it by Paul Bowman

How to go from the guts to the intellect, from the comprehension of the flesh to the knowledge of the text? Here is a real problem of concrete epistemology about which we have not sufficiently reflected, and which for a long time seemed to me irresolvable. To restitute the carnal dimension of ordinary existence and the bodily anchoring of the practical knowledge constitutive of pugilism – but also of every practice, even the least ‘bodily’ in appearance – requires indeed a complete overhaul of our way of writing social science. (Loïc Wacquant, ‘The Body, The Ghetto and the Penal State’, Qual Sociol, 2009, p.122)

Lots of interesting discussions, contacts, networking, and I am not mentioning the after hours socialising and fun. You have never attended such congress? You should. We are looking forward for the next edition.