Kung Fury: Contemporary Debates in Martial Arts Cinema

Kung Fury: Contemporary Debates in Martial Arts Cinema


In the media-congested world of YouTube, Vimeo, Netflix and other digital platforms, it is perhaps surprising that Kung Fury, a 30-minute martial arts action comedy short which pays tribute to the culture of the 1980s, could have raised $630,000 via Kickstarter, premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, and attracted more than 13 millions views of its trailer.

This one day symposium in the School of Media and Birmingham City University takes the success of Kung Fury as a provocation to discuss a range of themes emerging around contemporary martial arts cinema in the digital age. Given the multiplicity of approaches to Martial Arts Studies recently set out in Paul Bowman’s field defining book Martial Arts Studies: Disrupting Disciplinary Boundaries (Rowman & Littlefield, 2015),  this is a multi-disciplinary event that includes scholars and practitioners working in all manner of theoretical, industrial, educational and methodological modes.

Topics will include:

  • Martial arts cinema and digital culture
  • Funding and distribution
  • Film festivals, marketing and promotion
  • Martial arts cinema heritage, nostalgia and memory
  • Mashups and genre busting intertextuality
  • The place of period cinema
  • Martial arts stardom and transnationality
  • Martial arts audiences and fandom

Date:                            Friday 1st April 2016

Location:                      School of Media, Birmingham City University, Parkside/Millennium Point, 5 Cardigan Street, Birmingham, B4 7BD

Organizers:      Oliver Carter (oliver.carter@bcu.ac.uk) Simon Barber (Simon.Barber@bcu.ac.uk)

Funded by:       The AHRC-funded Martial Arts Studies Research Network (mastudiesrn.org)

Registration:    https://www.eventbrite.com/e/kung-fury-contemporary-debates-in-martial-arts-cinema-tickets-19962611709


Martial Arts Studies on Bruce Lee’s Birthday

I have just returned from an interesting conference in Korea on the history, politics and culture of traditional Asian martial arts. On the flight home I rather blearily wrote a quick report on my experiences and thoughts (which I posted here).
Because today is (or would have been) Bruce Lee’s 75th Birthday, it seemed to me like a good day to send an update on some martial arts studies related events and activities.
As it is Lee’s birthday, I also wanted to give away my most recent book about Bruce Lee – Beyond Bruce Lee: Chasing the Dragon through Film, Philosophy and Popular Culture (2013) – as well as one or two other publications. (You can download them all if you follow the links here, or directly from my academia.edu page here.)
Next I wanted to draw attention to the first AHRC-funded event of the Martial Arts Studies Research Network. This is the one-day conference at the University of Brighton (Eastbourne Campus), Gender Issues in Theory and Practice on Friday5th February 2016. Registration is free but you must register – here. (Alternatively, paste this link into your browser: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/martial-arts-studies-gender-issues-in-theory-and-practice-tickets-19117962340)
Our next network event will be a day-long event in Birmingham on Friday 1st April, organised by issues inspired and encapsulated by Kung Fury. Further details will follow soon. Watch this space!
Finally, a reminder about the next Martial Arts Studies Conference in Cardiff, from 19-21 July. Registration for this major international conference is here (http://www.eventbrite.com/e/martial-arts-studies-conference-2016-tickets-16674422647?aff=eac2), and you should register early to get the cheapest tickets and best value for money.
We have an growing and impressive line-up of speakers and presenters at this conference – just a few of which are listed here:
Please be aware that those who register early enough will be able to register for affordable Cardiff University accommodation for the three days of the conference. We cannot guarantee this for late registration. So, if you are serious about attending and you want to minimise costs, earlier registration is advised.
Needless to say, perhaps, we are still inviting proposals and abstracts. Instructions are here:
I’d also like to draw your attention to our film competition – which offers a chance to win free registration, accommodation, food, and everything:
So, those are the main updates from me. Any questions – let me know!
I hope to see some of you soon.

Big News in Martial Arts Studies

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Three Big Pieces of News:

We are delighted to announce that issue #1 of the new open-access journal Martial Arts Studies has been published. The issue is free to view, download and share here: martialartsstudies.org

On a related note, we are equally happy to announce that there is now a Martial Arts Studies Book Series, which will be published by Rowman & Littlefield International. Anyone working on an academic monograph in martial arts studies should consider applying to publish in this series, as books will appear simultaneously in hardback, paperback and ebook formats.

Finally, a quick reminder that Earlybird discounts are still available for the Martial Arts Studies Conference at Cardiff University from 19-21 July 2016. If you book soon enough, you will also be able to reserve a room in a Cardiff University Hall of residence at an incredibly cheap price. But places are limited. First come, first served: Book early to avoid disappointment! Further information is available here: mastudiesrn.org

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Conference 2016: Confirmed Speakers

Martial Arts Studies

Martial Arts Studies Conference 2016

Cardiff University, 19-21 July

The Martial Arts Studies Conference in 2015 brought together eighty researchers from a wide range of fields and from all over the world, for two and a half days of keynotes, special sessions, workshops and socialising. Many new relationships were formed and new collaborations initiated. The second conference in July 2016 seeks to build on these foundations, and to bring more martial arts studies scholars and more disciplinary perspectives together, into face to face dialogue and debate.

Confirmed Speakers in 2016 Include:

  • Kyle Barrowman – Cardiff University
  • Paul Bowman – author of Martial Arts Studies: Disrupting Disciplinary Boundaries (Rowman & Littlefield International)
  • Alex Channon – University of Brighton
  • Jon C. Cole – University of Liverpool
  • Philip H.J. Davies -Director of the Brunel University Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies
  • Sara Delamont – Cardiff University
  • Martin Ehlen – sifu of the Gary Lam Wing Chun System
  • D. S. Farrer – University of Guam
  • Adam Frank – author of Taijiquan and the Search for the Little Old Chinese Man: Understanding Identity Through Martial Arts (Palgrave)
  • Carol Fuller – University of Reading
  • Tommaso Gianni – University of Suwon
  • Alexander Hay – Southampton Solent University
  • Robert Agar-Hutton – publisher of martial arts books
  • Neil R. Hall – Institute for Advanced Integrated Martial Arts
  • Tamiaho Herangi-Searancke – National Curriculum Director Sport Fitness Recreation & Cultural Traditional Weaponry Artforms, NZ University
  • Daniel Jaquet – editor of Acta Periodica Duellatorum, Postdoctoral Research Fellow (SNSF), Visiting scholar at Max Planck Institute for History of Science
  • George Jennings – Universidad YMCA, Mexico
  • Benjamin Judkins – author of The Creation of Wing Chun: A Social History of the South Asian Martial Arts (SUNY)
  • Deborah Jump – Manchester Metropolitan University
  • Anna Kavoura – University of Jyväskylä
  • Evelina Kazakeviciute – Cardiff University
  • Rich Kelly – The Living Seed, NY
  • Vera Kérchy – University of Szeged
  • Johnson Leow – Chinese University of Hong Kong
  • Lipyeow Lim – University of Hawaii Manoa
  • William Little – University of Victoria, BC, Canada
  • Viki Lloyd – Chinese Internal Arts Association and the Tai Chi Union for Great Britain
  • Alexandre Legendre – Paris Descartes University
  • Philip Loy – Singapore
  • Filip Marić – AUT Auckland
  • Martin Meyer – University of Vechta
  • Martin Minarik – Hamburg University
  • Daniel Mroz – author of The Dancing Word (a book on the use of Chinese martial arts in actor training and performance creation, Brill)
  • Janet O’Shea – University of California, Los Angeles
  • Craig Owen – St. Mary’s University, Twickenham
  • Veronika Partikova – Hong Kong Baptist University
  • Scott Park Phillips – North Star Martial Arts
  • Catherine Phipps – University of Greenwich
  • Tamara Russell – Kings College London
  • Anna Seabourne – Manchester University
  • Benjamin Spatz – author of What a Body Can Do: Technique as Knowledge, Practice as Research (Routledge)
  • Mario Staller – self-defence instructor, Germany
  • Neil Stephens – Brunel University
  • Qays Stetkevych – University of Iceland
  • Alex Stewart – University of Bedfordshire
  • Lan Tran – Cabrini College
  • Georganna Ulary – Marist College, NY
  • Anu Vaittinen – Newcastle University
  • Nancy Watterson – Cabrini College
  • Sixt Wetzler – University of Freiburg
  • Geoffrey Wingard – University of Maine
  • Wayne Wong – University of Hong Kong
  • Phillip Zarrilli – author of When the Body Becomes All Eyes: Paradigms, Pratices, and Discourses of Power in Kalarippayattu, a South Indian Martial Art (Oxford University Press)
  • Itamar Zadoff – Tel Aviv University
  • Gehao Zhang – Macau University of Science and Technology


Registration Options Include:

  • reduced rate for students
  • three nights in Cardiff University Halls
  • tea, coffee, refreshments, lunches
  • three conference dinners and evening social events
  • access to all keynotes, panels and workshops

Win A Free Registration!

  • For the chance to win free registration, students are invited to enter our short film making competition. See here for details.

Publication Opportunities:

  • The Cardiff University Press open-access academic journal, Martial Arts Studies (www.martialartsstudies.org) invites participants to submit papers to be considered for publication.

Join the Mailing List:

Martial Arts Studies Research Network:

Martial Arts Studies: Gender Issues in Theory and Practice (Brighton Uni)

Martial Arts Studies

The first AHRC-funded event of the Martial arts Studies Research Network will be held at the University of Brighton on Friday 5 February 2015.

This event is FREE, but registration is required. Register here:


The event will be hosted by Dr Alex Channon and Dr Christopher Matthews of the University of Brighton.



Registration Now Open for our 2016 Conference!

Martial Arts Studies

We are delighted to announce that registration is now open for the 2016 Martial Arts Studies Conference at Cardiff University.

If you’d like to submit a proposal, the call for papers is here:


At the conference this coming year, from 19 to 21 July, as well as great keynotes, high quality conference panels, physical workshops, refreshments and conference dinners, we can also provide incredibly cheap but good quality University accommodation for the entire duration of the conference!

Registration is here:


Once you have registered for the conference, you will be emailed in November about booking accommodation in University Halls that are walking distance from both the conference venue and Cardiff City Centre – so you will be able either to make your own breakfast or nip out to a cafe.

Accommodation in self-catering University Halls is now offered at the amazingly low price of £21.36 per night!

The AHRC supports Martial Arts Studies


I am delighted to announce that I have just been informed that the Martial Arts Studies Research Network will be funded for the next two years by the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). This is great news for martial arts studies in the UK because it will enable us to have more face to face events.

Here is some information about the Research Network.


Four decades after being kicked off by the ‘kung fu craze’ of the early 1970s, participation in martial arts in the Western world now rivals (and often exceeds) participation in traditional physical cultural practices connected with sport, health and exercise. Taekwondo and t’ai chi are as common in schools, college campuses and community centres as football and tennis; and Mixed Martial Arts are now globally bigger business than boxing. Yet, in the UK (and the English language in general), the academic study of martial arts remains in the shadows. This is so even though academics from a range of disciplines are contributing to diverse international scholarly fields via explorations of the many questions attached to martial arts, culture and society. Indeed, martial arts studies is demonstrably emerging, in diverse academic disciplines and across many geographical regions. Clusters of overlapping problematics are emerging within disciplines such as anthropology, cultural studies, ethnography, film studies, history, medicine, psychology, religious studies, sociology, and sports studies.

However, as these studies have developed within discrete disciplines, researchers have rarely engaged in cross-disciplinary dialogue. In fact, in the UK (and across Anglophone academia), the proliferation of academic writing has outpaced academic events, and there is little face-to-face exchange of ideas and approaches. Yet, there is evidence of not only a national but also an international appetite for a research network to foster cross-disciplinary communication in the development of martial arts studies. As well as increasing publications, there are growing numbers of conferences and events internationally, yet very few events have ever taken place in the UK or in the English language. There are regular academic conferences on martial arts in Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic and all over Asia. Around the world, a growing number of degree programmes involve elements of martial arts studies, including some in the UK.

Yet, despite this growing research context, there is little sense of community or network for the development of martial arts studies. To address this lack, the Principal Investigator has already organised an international interdisciplinary Martial Arts Studies conference (Cardiff University, June 2015). The call for papers attracted over 100 proposals, some 60 of which were accepted. Proposals came from the UK, Australia, Guam, North America, China, Korea, Hong Kong, Japan, South America, Germany, Finland, and France, and represent fields as diverse as anthropology, cultural studies, ethnography, film studies, history, medicine, philosophy, psychology, religious studies, sociology, and sports studies. This wide national and disciplinary sweep is matched in a broad spectrum of work, spanning from theoretical to practical orientations. As well as pure academic work, there will be talks by surgeons, security experts, diplomats, and medical doctors involved in research into ways of incorporating elements of martial arts as therapy into NHS treatment for post-stroke rehabilitation and depression.

The Martial Arts Studies Research Network will bring more researchers together in face to face events that advance the study of martial arts and ask what studying martial arts can contribute to knowledge more widely. Each event will engage with a cluster of questions around a specific theme, and will involve the participation of academics, researchers, practitioners, and professionals, in order to explore core social and cultural questions. In this way the research network will stimulate multi-disciplinary conversations that advance our understanding of martial arts in broader cultural contexts. Through these dialogues, the network will generate knowledge and lead the way in the development of martial arts studies that contributes to multiple areas.


The primary objective of the Martial Arts Studies Research Network is to connect up disconnected disciplinary and cultural discourses on martial arts by fostering dialogue through cross-disciplinary events. In connecting and engaging diverse researchers, the network will develop knowledge of the significance and impact of martial arts in the contemporary world and set the agenda for future research in the interlocking multidisciplinary fields around them.

Over a period of 24 months, a series of UK seminars will take place on key questions. Events will be held in institutions where there is ongoing research into related areas.


To discuss the network, please feel free to contact me at my Cardiff University email address.