George Jennings lecture on Xilam


Lecture on ‘Xilam’ by George Jennings

4-6pm, 7th November, Glamorgan Building, Cardiff University


Xilam is a recently created martial art that was invented and is led by a Mexican woman, Marisela Ugalde, in hope of inspiring pride and interest in Mexican’s ancestral and indigenous identities for future generations of practitioners from Mexico and the world at large (Jennings, 2015). It draws upon elements of native and pre-Hispanic culture and warrior philosophy that are often perceived as being dead or long forgotten, which are argued to be the foundation of Mesoamerican society: A deep, profound Mexico (México Profundo) beneath the surface of a seemingly Western nation (Jennings, 2016). It is structured according to seven animals indigenous to Mexico: The snake, the eagle, the jaguar, the monkey, the deer, the armadillo and the iguana, and each animal has its corresponding physical exercises and drills. Accompanying this systematic approach to teaching this martial art and body culture are specific physical games that enact the Mexican love of laughter, jokes and play: the blend of spontaneity and creativity known as Mexicanidad. Using the notion of play as a pedagogical strategy, practitioners of different ages, physical sizes, skill levels and gender identities actively engage with interactive and challenging games in order to acquire the embodied dispositions desired in this art form, such as agility, posture, reflexes, aggressiveness and craftiness. In this seminar, I aim to introduce how games are used to support learning and development for both adults and children in a little-known physical culture. Engaging with the theories of Henning Eichberg’s body cultures and Michael Atkinson’s post-sport physical cultures, I will illuminate data from fieldwork in Mexico City since 2011 by considering issues of space, time, movement and resistance to measurement and records. Accompanying this data analysis, my talk will be illustrated by live demonstrations and a potential participation from the audience in order to feel the sense of the games in question and encourage lively debate.