Alexandre Legendre 2016

Teaching wushu in Taiwan: imparting a ‘sense of the body’ as a keystone

In popular imagery, Chinese martial arts are associated with both subtle grace and superior efficiency, notwithstanding the apparent contradiction between their respective requirements: harmony and finesse seem indeed to obey an aesthetic purpose, corresponding to a non-instrumental but expressionistic viewpoint, whereas the search for martial efficacy falls under a raw teleological reason, strictly aimed on the ability to hit the target. Thus, the singularity of Chinese traditional martial arts seems to consist precisely in the way they originally articulate those supposedly opposite logics: building efficiency through harmony lead them to emphasize a ‘sense of the whole body’ (or, of the body as a whole) from whom derive a form understanding (體悟, tiwu, comprehend through/from the body) with a way of acting (身法, shenfa, as a ‘way of the body’ understood as a whole). Two observation sessions (three months in total) of wushu classes in Taiwan, in diversified pedagogical contexts (students from 10 to forty years old), specifically focussed on the instillation techniques of this ‘sense of the body’ depending on the age, allowed us to provide a concrete, tangible content to this very notion.


Alexandre Legendre

PHD student and teaching assistant (Paris Descartes University), I focus on transculturation issues related to wushu.