Out Now: Martial Arts Studies by Paul Bowman


My book Martial Arts Studies is out now!

I thought it was going to be published in May, but I have already received my own copies and a quick check online suggests that it is now available via Amazon.com in America (here) and Amazon.co.uk in the UK (here), as well as in FranceGermanyIndiaCanada, and a few other countries I looked at, but apparently it is not (yet?) available in Australia or Brazil and a one or two other significant places I glanced at… Anyway, it is out now in hardback and paperback.

Buy direct from the publisher here.

If you are attending the Martial Arts Studies Conference in Cardiff in June, you will also be able to pick up a copy there (I think there will be a discount) – although you may want to read it before the conference so that you can argue with me about it over the three days 😉

Three Days of Martial Arts Studies

For those unable to attend the full three days of the Martial Arts Studies Conference, there are now more registration options:

1. Wednesday 4pm Keynote (Professor Stephen Chan, OBE), and drinks reception;

2. Thursday  including lunch, many papers and panels to choose from and two keynotes (Dr Ben Judkins, of the Kung Fu Tea Blog, and Professor Douglas Farrer, editor of Martial Arts As Embodied Knowledge);

3. Friday  including lunch, many papers and panels, a special session on new forensic approaches to the death of Bruce Lee, and a closing keynote by Professor Meaghan Morris.

New: One Day Registrations

You can now register for only one day of the three day Martial Arts Studies conference:

  • Wednesday – including the keynote of Professor Stephen Chan, OBE (SOAS) – followed by a drinks reception.
  • Thursday – including two keynotes: Dr Ben Judkins and Professor Douglas Farrer.
  • Friday – including the keynote by Professor Meaghan Morris.

There is also a reduced price student registration:


Call for Papers: The Invention of Martial Arts

A Collection Edited by Paul Bowman

In an era when researchers are expected to be very familiar with arguments about the ‘invention of tradition’, ‘imagined communities’, ‘imagined geographies’, and so on, how are scholars of martial arts to assess the traditions, narratives, common knowledges and commonplace beliefs about martial arts? This collection seeks to explore the invention of martial arts – when the word ‘invention’ is read in terms of such ground-breaking texts as The Invention of Tradition, Imagined Communities, Orientalism, and the works of cultural studies, cultural history, and cultural geography that have been stimulated in response to these seminal contributions.

Proposals are invited from scholars that engage critically with any significant aspect of ‘invention’ in, around and of martial arts – from the origin myths, folklore and popular cultural imaginings of traditions, to motivated political or ideological interventions and inventions, to the most modern, commodified, mediatized and spectacular inventions of martial arts. Contributions may include (but are not limited to) studies of:

  • Origin myths and lineage narratives in traditional martial arts;
  • Rediscovered and reconstructed martial arts;
  • The appropriation of martial arts in nationalist, nation-building, social management and other political processes;
  • The dissemination, development, and transformation of martial arts;
  • The commodification and international trade in martial arts;
  • Comparative considerations of the ‘same’ martial art in different contexts;
  • The place of martial arts in contemporary culture, society and economy;
  • Issues of the relations of martial arts to tradition, modernity, postmodernity, coloniality, postcoloniality, neocoloniality and globalisation;
  • Martial arts and/as ideology.

Proposals should be sent to Paul Bowman at BowmanP@cardiff.ac.uk

Proposals should be 150-300 words

The deadline for proposals is Monday 14th September 2015

Conference Dinners

The June 2015 Conference has two conference dinners.

On Thursday 11th June there will be a dinner at La Bodega – Cardiff’s finest Spanish restaurant. La Bodega is a very informal place where it is easy to mingle with fellow conference delegates and attendees. The staff are excellent, and the tapas flows from the kitchen until 10pm every night. Register here.

On Friday 12th June we will have a second Conference Dinner at Cardiff University’s Aberdare Hall. Aberdare Hall offers high quality food in a convivial atmosphere – and the bar prices are very reasonable. There will be a charge for this event – registration details to follow.


Martial Arts Studies Research Network events are funded by the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council.



The Martial Arts Studies Conferences are predominantly funded by ticket sales, with some crucial extra financial support provided by the School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies at Cardiff University.

Since 2015, the publishers Rowman and Littlefield International have regularly contributed towards our costs – so we raise a glass to them.


Our Conference of 19-21 July 2016 has received sponsorship from:

The organisers would welcome further sponsorship. This will always be used to alleviate the costs incurred by student participants, first of all.

Please contact the organiser at BowmanP@cardiff.ac.uk

Past Sponsors

  • In 2015, RDX Sports generously sponsored the conference – enabling us to cover some of the costs of research students in attendance. Thank you RDX Sports.



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Martial Arts Studies Conference 2015

2015-06-13 18.17.40
Martial Arts Studies: An International Interdisciplinary Conference
Cardiff University 
10-12 June 2015

What is martial arts studies? What could it be? Is it a specific new field or is it always going to be a subsection of other disciplines? What are the possibilities and limitations of creating or developing martial arts studies? What are its key concerms, problematics, theories, orientations, and methodologies, and why? Building on recent work, such as the 2014 special issue of JOMEC Journal on martial arts studies, this conference invites proposals for 20 minute papers that engage with key questions about the field, as well as papers that present current work in any aspect martial arts studies.

Keynote Speakers:
  • Professor Stephen Chan, OBE (SOAS)
  • Professor Meaghan Morris (Sydney)
  • Professor Douglas Farrer (Guam)
  • Dr Ben Judkins (independent scholar)

Conference Organiser

Dr Paul Bowman (Cardiff University)

Email: BowmanP@cardiff.ac.uk

Call for Papers: Martial Arts Studies journal

Martial Arts Studies invites academic articles of 5-10,000 words on a wide range of aspects of martial arts studies, especially those focusing on social, cultural, political, historical and economic issues relating to martial arts. All submissions will be anonymised and sent out for double blind peer review, but in the first instance, submissions must include:

  • A title and abstract;
  • A short biographical contributor note;
  • An article prepared with full and complete references and bibliography (Chicago Author-Date 16th Ed. Style)

Book Reviews:

Martial Arts Studies invites book reviews of 1,500 words on books relevant to the academic study of martial arts.

Review Articles:

Martial Arts Studies invites review articles of 5-10,000 words. Review articles should offer detailed engagement with themes, issues and problematics pertinent to martial arts studies via a high level engagement with one or more academic publication in the field of martial arts studies. All submissions will be anonymised and sent out for double blind peer review, but in the first instance, submissions must include:

  • A title and statement of the book(s) reviewed;
  • A short biographical contributor note;
  • A review article prepared with full and complete references and bibliography (Chicago Author-Date 16th Ed. Style)

Conference Reports:

Martial Arts Studies invites conference reports of 2,000 words on conferences and seminars that focused on or have relevance to to the academic study of martial arts.

Book Reviews:

Kyle Barrowman is the Book Review Editor.  He can be reached at:

Book Review Editor
Kyle Barrowman
School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies
Cardiff University
Bute Building, King Edward VII Avenue
CF10 3NB

Panel 14: Taijiquan to Mindfulness: Friday 4.00-5.30pm, room 0.14




Room 0.14


PANEL 14 – From Taijiquan to Mindfulness and back again

Room 0.14

Giles N Yeates & Tamara A Russell

Beyond Mindfulness: Introducing constructs and practices from Chinese Martial Arts into Western healthcare

Mindfulness meditation has become a widespread and influential set of concepts and practices within Western healthcare, education and neuroscientific communities. However there are several limitations emergent in the rapid transition from the heterogeneous Buddhist spiritual and cultural context of origin, to secular set of techniques in the West. Perspectives on these limitations are shared in this presentation from two clinicians who are also martial artists working with enduring complex physical and mental health problems in the UK’s NHS. Firstly the progressive disembodiment of mindfulness practices during their secularisation as psychotherapy techniques is explored, resulting in the restricted access/benefit of now predominantly sitting meditation practices to those with complex health conditions. A programme that uses Chinese martial arts movements, breathing practices and sequences to improve the accessibility of mindfulness concepts and benefits to these groups will be described. Secondly, the over-extension of mindfulness to many therapeutic mind-body practices within the Western lens is reflected upon, alongside the progressive loss of the original cultural and spiritual contexts of practices such as Tai Ji during their incorporation into Western healthcare. It is argued that these trends have inadvertently masked the unique applied potential of other ancient Eastern spiritual traditions. The Daoist concepts and practices of Flow (famously evangelised by Bruce Lee) and Neidan within Chinese internal martial arts will be shared as an example, together with their planned application within UK stroke rehabilitation.

Zhang Gehao

Bodily Sense and Spiritually Sensibility: the practices of Tai Chi Quan in the UK

This research takes one of the primary contemporary icons of Chinese tradition – the popular practice of Tai Chi – and subjects its career in both China and the West, to a series of critical interrogations focusing on three main moments; the invention and (re)imagination of tradition, the practice’s migration from China to the West, and its translation by its English practitioners. Based on ethnography in the United Kingdom it explores the contending understandings of Tai Chi among its British practitioners, both teachers and students. It explores the ways in which British practitioners’ invention and translation of bodily sense such as rou (softness), xu (emptiness) and how these bodily senses shape the practitioners’ understanding tai chi quan as a spiritual discipline rather than martial arts.

Mark Langweiler & Stefanie Sachsenmaier

On Not Neglecting the Near for the Far: The Practice of Wu Style Tai Chi Chuan

Drawing on a range of perspectives, this contribution presents a discussion of some of the philosophical principles underlying the practice of Wu Style Tai Chi Chuan. Based on the Daoist concepts of ‘the constant within change’ and ‘movement within stillness’, Tai Chi Chuan can be understood as the physical embodiment of these principles. Relying on an analysis of the underlying anatomical structures, along with concepts of the theory of practice, the present discussion focuses on several aspects of the Wu Family archive with particular emphasis on the process of ‘practising of the self’ as a means to martial skill. As a martial art it is a training system in which the practitioner prepares for the continual relational changes that an opponent might present. Through discussion and the presentation of examples of selected forms, as well as pushing hands techniques, we seek to highlight the mental, emotional and physical components this state of ‘constant readiness within the changing martial parameters’ might involve.

Panel 13: Choreographies of Gender: Friday 4.00-5.30pm, room 0.05




Room 0.05


PANEL 13 – Choreographies of Gender

Room 0.05

Luke White & susan pui san lok

Through the Window – Wing Chun as Woman Warrior

The origin myth of Wing Chun – a martial art invented by one woman for another – is striking with respect to gender. Of its many cinematic tellings, the most intriguing in reworking the figure of the heroic swordswoman is Yuen Woo-ping’s Wing Chun (1994). Sasha Vojkovic (2009) understands the film – emerging from a longer cultural tradition of women warriors – as ‘a landmark of … womanhood in Chinese cinema’ and ‘an art of empowering women and subverting patriarchal authorities’, where martial arts create a transformed femininity rather than merely masculinising the film’s protagonist. However – in spite of its rendering of a decaying patriarchy where the authoritative, sympathetic characters are overwhelmingly women – Wing Chun might be read as simultaneously undermining and reinscribing gender norms. This paper will take the form of an experimental visual/textual essay, in which some of the film’s key moments are re-cut and re-framed with a dialogic/reflexive commentary, exploring the film’s gender politics and our own spectatorial positionings. Our starting point is to investigate the repeated imagery of windows in Wing Chun. Cheng Pei-pei (who plays Wing-chun’s teacher) recounts refusing a direction, during the making of an earlier film, to exit a scene by the door rather than the window, like her male counterparts. A swordswoman, she insists, leaves by the window. Marking the boundaries of domestic (female) and public (male) space, the window, like the cinema screen, is not only a portal for gazes and misrecognitions, but also one through which the athletic, unconventional warrior (male or female) exits and enters. As a motif, how might ‘leaving by the window’ be read as a figure of female empowerment, resistance, or otherwise? How do the film’s three central female characters and archetypes – Wing-chun (‘martial artist’), her aunt (‘businesswoman’) and Yim Neung (‘beauty’) – speak and move within and beyond its frames, to invoke different femininities? How do narratives of Yeoh herself, transitioning from beauty queen to action star, intersect with the film’s images of Wing-chun as warrior and woman? Among multiple gazes, what spaces open up for spectators to variously imagine, identify or contest the empowered, transformed and gendered woman warrior?

Gladys Mac

Wen, Wu, and Romantic Love: The Xia and Masculinities in Jin Yong’s Wuxia Novels

In 1955, Jin Yong serialized his first wuxia novel in Hong Kong. Generally categorized as being part of the New School wuxia fiction, Jin Yong had followed a literary tradition that was no longer permitted in China, with a different interpretation of the xia figure and the composition of masculinity. Jin Yong’s male characters are not fully wen (cultured) or wu (martial). His male protagonists do not consider women a source of trouble or distraction from their martial arts studies; in fact they all boldly embrace romantic love. Yet love is not the men’s sole focus, as the men in the scholar-beauty stories. These heroes are simultaneously impacted by their female companions and the political situation at the time, thus range somewhere in the middle of the wen and wu spectrum, but never completely reach either ends. Chen Jialuo, the male protagonist of Jin Yong’s first novel Book and Sword, is a handsome, learned young man hailing from an honorable family and has superb martial arts skills. In great contrast, the “hero” of Jin Yong’s last novel Deer and Cauldron is the rascal Wei Xiaobao, who is illiterate, has weak morals, and his only martial arts skill is to escape from danger. In addition to the two characters mentioned above, I will also examine Guo Jing from Condor Heroes, and Linghu Chong from Proud, Smiling Wanderer in regards to the wen, wu, and romantic aspects in the makeup of their masculinity and chivalrous characters.

PD Hyunseon Lee

Martial body in Akira Kurosawa’s early films

Martial arts films are characterized by elaborate action pictures. In his famous paper “The Movement-Image” Gilles Deleuze demonstrates the prototype of actions picture with Akira Kurosawa’s film “Shichinin no samurai” (1954). In the martial arts genre, one of the most important characters is that of the sword fighter, which embodies the performance of fighting body of men. The sword fighter plays a significant and poignant role in these films. The portrayal of the sword fighter exists primarily in the historical works of Kurosawa. These works highlight the phenotype of the Japanese martial male which is depicted with images of worriors. Kurosawa’s samurai films also pose the underlying question of ‘Japaneseness’. Other questions raised in Kurosawa’s films are: How the martial bodies are mobilised, critically interrogated and investigated throughout? To which extent Kurosawa’s unique film aesthetic is expressed and the martial body as the spectacle portrayed? How does the inclusion of the indigenous culture manifest itself? The focus of the following presentation aims to examine such questions while centring on the motive of the ‘martial body’. This equally has a close relationship with the transcultural and -national development of martial arts genre. Examples referenced for analysis are Kurosawa’s early films such as “Sugata   Sanshirō, 1943) “Sugata   Sanshirō, Part II” (1945) and „Shichinin no Samurai“ (1954).