Georganna Ulary 2016

“Muay Thai, Agonism, and Creating Oneself as a Work of Art: An Existential-Phenomenological Account”


Georganna Ulary, Ph.D.

Chair & Asst. Prof. of Philosophy

Marist College, Poughkeepsie, NY


Abstract: In this paper I offer an existential and phenomenological account of how and why martial arts (with particular attention to the art of Muay Thai) can be one of the most fruitful, meaningful, and rewarding means by which to recreate oneself, and one’s life, as a work of art. Drawing on the philosophical insights of Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Kristeva, coupled with the personal accounts from martial artists themselves, I first offer a philosophical analysis of the appeal and promise of martial arts training; moreover, I also point to some of the limitations these practices might have for fully delivering on this promise. While I agree that one of the most important roles that martial arts training can play in one’s life is in fostering and practicing virtue (something that most martial arts philosophies stress and pride themselves on), I go further and suggest other, equally important aspects of practicing martial arts, aspects that are central and integral to creating oneself and one’s life as a work of art – including the value of agonism, the revaluation of values that such training entails, and the way of ‘being in the world’ that martial arts training orients one towards. Ultimately, I suggest that martial arts training can provide and help sustain a sense of “ontological rootedness” for a human life that is all too easily unmoored.



Alexander Hay 2016

News of the Duels – Restoration Duelling Culture and the Early Modern Press



Duelling’s return to the streets of London in the 1660s was the result of a variety of factors. The Royal Court’s exile in France after the English Civil War meant many royalists were immersed in French manners and habits, not least its rigorously homicidal duelling culture. The Restoration itself brought with it a return of a gentlemanly culture where duelling was seen as much a part of the rejection of Cromwell’s rule during the Interregnum as pronounced loyalty to the recently crowned Charles II. Places such as Hyde Park were even soon known as regular venues for these ritualised fights and the return of the duel, naturally, brought back a return of committed campaigns against it. This then is a significant period in English martial art history, as well as a culturally significant one, as evidenced by Samuel Pepys’ diaries recording several duels throughout the 1660s. One other development, however, was the emergence of the earliest English language newspapers to be published on the British mainland, superseding the ‘news books’ in the middle of the 1660s. How did these publications cover duels during this period, and what does their coverage reveal about martial practice of the time?



Dr Alexander Hay is Lecturer of Digital Journalism at Southampton Solent University, and comes from an eclectic humanities background, his research covering everything from sea monsters to music journalism and reader response theory. His martial arts experience is similarly varied, encompassing Tae Kwon Do, Wing Chun, Judo and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and he is presently studying Boxing, while retaining an on-going interest in Historical European Martial Arts. His research interests include the history of journalism and online media, and how they intersect with a wide range of other topics and disciplines, such as the martial arts themselves.


Itamar Zadoff 2016

Shinto, Martial Arts and Nation Building in Early-Meiji Japan

In his influential Imagined communities, reflections on the origin and spread of nationalism, Benedict Anderson suggested that modern Japanese nationalism was created by direct government guidance from above. Japanese nationalism, he argued, was the product of official ideology that had been propagated by state institutions. Hence, Anderson dubbed it “official nationalism.”

My paper re-evaluates Anderson’s thesis by three case studies that draw upon the martial-arts world: 1) The Dai Nippon Butoku Kai, among the most influential organizations in shaping the modern martial arts (particularly Kendo and Kyudo); 2) Sumo, Japan’s national sport; and 3) Judo, the first modern martial art and Japan’s contribution to the Olympic Games. The paper demonstrates their role in the creation of modern Japanese nationalism, no less than their inherent relation to the national Shinto religion.

The three case studies reveal different facets of Japanese nation-building: Sumo emphasizes the power of the emperor and the Meiji government in shaping Japanese national character through the martial arts; Butokukai demonstrates the power of the individual and the common masses; and Kano’s Judo indicates that Japanese nationalism is not necessarily emperor-related.

Itamar Zadoff is a graduate student in the Department of East Asia studies of Tel Aviv University, working under the guidance of Prof. Meir Shahar and Prof. Irit Averbuch. He is a teaching assistant of Prof. Liora Safati in the “Introduction to Japan” course.

His research focuses on the early-twentieth-century Japanese martial arts.

He studied Aikido under Shimamoto Katsuyuki Shihan (8th Dan), and Koryu En-shin Ryu under Soke Tanaka Fumon in Osaka, Japan. He is the Head of Wadokan Dojo, Pardes Hanna.

William Little 2016

Truth in the Martial Arts: Aikido, Violence and the Practice of the Self

William Little

Adjunct Professor in Sociology

University of Victoria, BC, Canada


My paper will address the theme of “truth in the martial arts,” a phrase from Mitsugi Saotome’s recent reflection on his relationship as Uchi Deshi to Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido. I will frame this theme sociologically, exploring it as an aspect of the martial arts as contemporary practices of the self. What is distinct about the practice of the martial arts in this context is their sustained reflection on violence, not simply as violent contest, but as a condition of irreducible insecurity per se. I would like to propose that Aikido (not unlike other martial arts) offers a response to violence by articulating a form-of-life—“a life that can never be separated from its form” (Giorgio Agamben)—that is centered on the understanding that complete martial fluidity is immanent to life. The martial arts are therefore very interesting contemporary practices of the self because their paths to knowledge address key biopolitical issues of life and power through a freeing relation to violence. I would also like to propose that the language of transcendental empiricism, which Gilles Deleuze develops to describe the dynamics of affectual as opposed to representational (i.e. mediated) experience, is both promising to characterize the form-of-life of martial fluidity and to expand the self-understanding martial artists themselves. Martial artists are uniquely positioned to decipher Deleuze’s texts because of the deep embodied knowledge that emerges through practice.



William Little is an adjunct professor in sociology at the University of Victoria, BC, Canada. He has practiced Aikido for the last twelve years. His research interests include contemporary social theory, media and popular culture, political violence, and the biopolitics of healing practices. His work on the theme of violence has been published in New German Critique, the Journal for Cultural and Religious Theory, and in several edited collections.