Countdown to Conference 2016!


The conference is almost upon us, so here are some quick but important updates.

First things first: Food

Lunches will be provided for all during the conference, and we have two dinners scheduled – one on Tuesday 19th at ’29 Park Place’, and one on Thursday 21st at Aberdare Hall  (I have left Wednesday evening free, but I daresay some voluntary activities will be proposed neared the time.)

If you have not yet filled in the Doodle Poll to register your attendance at the conference dinners, please do so right now. Spaces are limited. Also, we need to place our orders with the University Caterers well in advance.

Note: We will be closing the registration for the Conference Dinners on Tuesday 28th June (UK time, not US time!)

Second: Movement.

One of our keynotes, Professor Adam Frank, has proposed some morning tai chi push hands sessions. I think this is a great idea. If the weather is fine, anyone interested can play in the rose garden across the road in front of Bute Building. If the weather is not fine, I will book some space inside Bute Building.

I propose an 08:30 start on Wednesday and Thursday morning. Those of you who are keener, or who went to bed earlier the night before, can of course start earlier. And anyone who has never done tai chi push hands but would like to give it a try, feel free to come along too.

Third: Films

You may recall that after our opening keynote on Tuesday, we will be moving over to a gastro-pub called 29 Park Place  where, we will be drinking, eating, and screening a few short films. Most of the film-makers themselves will be with us, which is great – so we can discuss their work with them in an informal environment.

I have started to upload the films to a YouTube playlist called ‘Conference Films 2016’ on our Martial Arts Studies YouTube Channel  Have a look, and keep checking back regularly, as I will be adding several more films to the list over the next couple of weeks.

OK, I think that’s just about all of the updates for now. Any questions – feel free to ask!

See you soon!


Dr Paul Bowman

Professor of Cultural Studies

JOMEC, Cardiff University, UK

Profile – Publications – Martial Arts Studies

2016 Conference Schedule & Important Info


This is just a quick note about a couple of recent developments.

The first is really quick: issue two of Martial Arts Studies is out now, and downloadable in full or in part here.

The second is actually a small cluster of points, about our second international Martial Arts Studies Conference, which will be upon us in just over a month (from 19 to 21 July).

First thing to note here is that a draft schedule for the conference is now available for download as a PDF file, here. (Please note: this is a working draft, and is still subject to change. A definitive schedule will be made available nearer the start of the conference, and of course a printed copy will also be provided to all who register and attend.)

Secondly, I want to urge everyone who has registered for the conference to let us know whether you intend to come to the conference dinners. We need to know numbers before 24th June.

So if you want to come to the dinners, please fill in the Doodle Poll right now – It will only take you a few seconds to complete.

Eric Burkart 2016

Understanding Historical Records of Technique

Epistemological and Hermeneutic Problems in the Study of Lost Martial Arts


Eric Burkart, Trier University

This paper is organised around the notion of embodied technique as “the transmissible and repeatable knowledge of relatively reliable possibilities afforded by human embodiment” (Spatz 2015, 16). In his recent contribution, Ben Spatz distinguishes between the unique moments of concrete practice and the knowledge in form of technique that structures these moments. From a perspective of cultural history we are yet confronted with the problem that past practice and technique can only be analysed on the basis of surviving material traces or records.

My point of departure is the growing scene of Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) practitioners who try to reconstruct medieval body techniques of combat based on their interpretation of surviving technical literature of the 14th and 15th century. This modern practice of swordplay is often performed by what can be called “scholarly practitioners” and there is currently a trend to formulate distinct methodologies of reconstruction to get to more reliable and thus “authentic” interpretations of the medieval techniques.

Relying on the works of Michael Polanyi, I will focus on the question of whether technique can be recorded as explicit knowledge. My aim is thus to mark certain pitfalls and limits of understanding in HEMA studies and to discard the claim of historical authenticity which is still explicitly or implicitly linked with the undertaken attempts of modern (re)construction.

I will try to argue for this position by first mapping the communication strategies within the medieval fight books as a genre of specialised technical literature. I will also focus on the epistemological framework and the hermeneutic problems underlying modern attempts to understand these documents as references to past body movements. And finally, I will address the problematic notion of authenticity by drawing parallels to the research conducted on musical compositions and notation systems of the Middle Ages which has many features in common with the study of HEMA.


Biographical note:

Eric Burkart (M.A.) is a postdoctoral researcher and lecturer in medieval history at the University of Trier. From 2013 to 2015 he was research assistant in a DFG-financed project on ritualized combat in the Middle Ages (“Der mittelalterliche Zweikampf als agonale Praktik zwischen Recht, Ritual und Leibesübung”) at Technische Universität Dresden. In July 2015 he defended his PhD thesis on crusading discourses in late medieval Burgundy („Kreuzzugsbereitschaft als Selbstbeschreibung. Die Verteidigung des Glaubens als Element burgundischer Statuspolitik in den Traktaten des Jean Germain († 1461)”) at Goethe-University Frankfurt. He specialises in cultural history, symbolic communication and propaganda in 15th century Burgundy and European martial arts traditions.



Martial Arts Studies, issue two – Out Now


We are delighted to announce that issue two of Martial Arts Studies is out now! It is currently live at and will also be published on Cardiff University Press later this week.

You can download the whole issue or individual articles at the website.

Feel free to share widely!

The editors would like to thank all of the contributors for making the issue such a success, Hugh Griffiths for making it look so beautiful, and Kyle Barrowman for critical comments and eagle-eyed proof reading.

Evelina Kazakevičiūtė 2016

Title: “The (Un)translatable Poetry of War: Hagakure as a Samurai Text in Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai.”

Abstract: This presentation examines Hagakure as a samurai text in the Jim Jarmusch film Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999). Animating this presentation is the question of whether or not cultural knowledge can be transmitted via a translated text as well as the corollary issue of what happens to the teaching of a tradition during the processes of translation and “deterritorialization.” Furthermore, this presentation explores the way a reader’s identity is (trans)formed by their encounter with a translated text. In the film, Hagakure is referred to as “the poetry of war.” On the basis of this conception of the text, this presentation interprets Hagakure as (un)translatable poetry and demonstrates from a poststructuralist vantage point the unavoidable transformation of texts in the process of translation. Translation, in other words, is conceptualized as poiesis, as a process which invariably creates new meanings and forms new identities. Finally, this presentation considers the way the titular character played by Forest Whitaker turns into an urban samurai through his reading of “the poetry of war,” thus becoming a Western warrior with an Eastern spirituality.

Bio: Evelina Kazakevičiūtė is a PhD student in the School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies (JOMEC) at Cardiff University. Her thesis is entitled The Poststructuralist Conception of Communication as Reflected in Jim Jarmusch’s films. She holds a BA in English Philology from Vilnius University, Kaunas Faculty of Humanities, and an MA degree in Journalism from Vilnius University, Faculty of Communication. Her areas of interest are communication theory, philosophy of communication, poststructuralism, and film.

Accommodation Offer Ends Today


I have just been informed that the University now needs to stop taking accommodation bookings for the conference in July.

So if you would still like to to take advantage of our discount conference accommodation offer at Senghennydd Hall (at £21.36 per night), you need to make the booking within the next twenty four hours.

As I have mentioned before, this hall is in the ideal location both for the conference venue and for Cardiff City Centre. So, to avoid disappointment please book your rooms before Friday.

See you next month at the conference!

Conference Dinners 2016

2015-06-11 12.55.54

I hope you are all very well. I’m sorry to have been rather quiet recently, but I have been incredibly busy trying to finish a number of surprisingly time-consuming projects, including issue two of Martial Arts Studies (which should hit your virtual and open access shelves soon) and a new book of my own, entitled Mythologies of Martial Arts, which will be published in the martial arts studies book series from Rowman & Littlefield International (in time for Christmas).

Anyway, the business of the day today is to find out who among you would like to come to our two conference dinners at the Martial Arts Studies Conference in July.

The first dinner will be on Tuesday 19th July, at 29 Park Place, immediately after our opening events. 29 Park Place has a very relaxed atmosphere – both pub and restaurant – and they are happy for us to screen some short martial arts studies films, a number of which were submitted to us for our film competition. Several of the film makers will be at the conference with us too, so we will be able to chat with them about their work.

Everyone who is registered for the conference is cordially invited to join us there. Just click here to register and to let us know if you are vegetarian or vegan. (If you are not registered for the conference, you will not be able to attend this event.)

The second dinner will be on Thursday 21st July at Cardiff University’s Aberdare Hall. Those of you who attended last year’s conference will remember it. Again, just click here to register and to let us know if you are vegetarian or vegan. (If you are not registered for the conference, you will not be able to attend this event.)

Just in case you cannot see any of the links, here is the direct link to the Doodle Poll:

Please take the time to consider whether you are serious about attending or not attending the conference dinners, because these dinners are 100% subsidised by funds that are completely separate from your conference registration fee. So, if we can gather correct numbers, it will be a great help.

Please note also that we will not be able to add anyone to the Aberdare Hall dinner at the last minute. We need to know exact numbers for Aberdare Hall well in advance.

As ever, if you have any questions, please feel free to email me at

Looking forward to seeing you all in July!