The Virtual Ninja Manifesto: Fighting Games, Martial Arts and Gamic Orientalism, by Chris Goto-Jones

We are delighted to announce that the first book to be published in the Martial Arts Studies book series will be The Virtual Ninja Manifesto: Fighting Games, Martial Arts and Gamic Orientalism, by Chris Goto-Jones.
The publisher’s page for the book is here:
Here are some of the endorsements for it:

Daigo Umehara, The Beast:Often misunderstood, marginalized, and mistreated, we, the gamers, train to acquire strategic thinking and analytical skills while making life-time friendship through fighting games. Goto-Jones uncovers this kind of engagement as the practice of pure discipline. This eye-opening and ground-breaking study is deeply significant to us, the gamers, revealing the connections between what we have gained through those experiences and the martial arts. As a gamer-philosopher, Professor Goto-Jones exposes the wonders of fighting games from an academic standpoint with unusual insight and passion. I completely agree that Street Fighter has made me the “better person” that I am today. Now kids have a legitimate reason to argue with their parents.”

Tom Lamarre, McGill University: “By turns playful and profound, The Virtual Ninja Manifesto sticks to the pragmatic question: what sort of truths do we make playing video games? Demonstrating that the truths of video games cannot be judged in isolation from the benefits they produce for individuals in their everyday lives, Chris Goto-Jones overturns everything you thought you knew about video games but to forge a new path: this is everything you are already doing with video games but were too afraid to know!”

Ian Bogost, Professor, Georgia Institute of Technology“There’s been a lot of talk about competitive gaming as ‘eSport’ lately, but the connection between videogames and sports has always been rhetorical more than material. Goto-Jones offers a creative and smart correction, thanks to Street Fighter: maybe mastery in competitive games can be re-interpreted as mastery in the martial arts, rather than expertise in sports. Anyone who’s interested in contemporary competitive gaming, from CounterStrike to WarCraft, Street Fighter to League of Legends, needs to read this book.”

Ian Condry, MIT: “This magnificent book does what I thought was impossible: it makes virtual ninja real. For aren’t fighting games spaces of deep learning and transformation, the training grounds for a prosthetic selfhood that is both virtual and real? Isn’t synthetic violence a mode of personal cultivation that deserves respect? Chris Goto-Jones succeeds with his own ‘miraculous reversal play,’ bringing the virtual worlds of ninja into a contemporary, living public sphere, and offering a deep meditation — both philosophical and spiritual — on the timeless desire to face worthy opponents. For all you would-be ninja, this is a a must-read gem.”



Tamiaho Herangi-Searancke 2016

Maori Warrior Epistemology (Triangulation of Meaning; Body, Mind & Spirit).

Epistemology as viewed by the Maori Warrior as an ancient stream of knowledge that continues through (living & dying) like the sacred staff, illuminating insights and wisdoms through lived experiences. Maori Epistemology is a spiritual principle that nests itself in a wider and wider space of Truth in deeper and deeper dimensions. The Triangulation of Meaning; the synergy of Body, Mind & Spirit, then lends itself to the quantum (authentic) leap into new ways of viewing reality and challenging what is perceived as time, space and knowing – where the eternal struggle of forms objective, subjective and cultural are in direct collision. Genuine knowledge must be experienced directly, as it assists in the organisation of Triangulation to become the Architects of meaning shaping spaces yet unseen.

Tamiaho Herangi-Searancke Biography:

Tamiaho was born February 2nd, 1979, beneath the sacred rising Sun star of Sirius which signals harvest is in abundance. He is a Master of all traditional Maori Weaponry (short and long staff), Sports Athlete, Academic, Culturally and Spiritually Leader.

In other forums of National & Central Government Education, Health and Business, Tamiaho is a National Director in Sport Fitness & Health, Traditional Weaponry Martial Arts, Traditional Game Skills, Traditional Warrior dance and performance arenas.

Tamiaho grew up in the heartland of Northland New Zealand under the chieftainship of his Grandfather (renowned World War 2 Commander) and his High Ranking Nana (Dame Whina Cooper – Paramount Chieftainess of the Northern Tribes). The Eldest of 10 children he was thrust into Leadership roles and obligations from an early age, and before he was 10 years old he had powerfully memorized over a 5000 years of genealogy and sacred history of his people. He now spends every waking moment passing on this rare intelligence to the young people for preservation for generations to come. In his Adolescence years Tamiaho purposefully moved to live within the tribal lands of his central Waikato people. At an early age he was inducted fully into the tribes Warrior Class house of learning skills at arms, to which he would later (currently) hold the prestigious role of Guardianship, Protectorate and Master in Rituals to the New Zealand Maori King Tuheitia Paki.

At 36 years of age Tamiaho believes he still has much to learn about life and the values handed down through the passages of time by his ancestors. As that journey continues to unfold, he will give everything he has to the positive development and advancements of potentials of all peoples of Aotearoa New Zealand and indeed the world in which we live.

Alex Stewart 2016

Embodying the fight game:

The social construction of desire among English professional boxers

This paper draws on the findings of ethnographic research conducted over a five year period among amateur and professional boxers based in and around London, England, to outline reasons why boxers willingly risk harming their body in pursuit of the often brutal athletic practice of professional boxing. The strategic rationale for conducting this ethnography was from the outset premised upon my ability to adopt an ‘insider’ research role having garnered many years’ experiences as a reasonably successful amateur boxer. I was thus able to gain a professional boxers licence to investigate, and endeavour to make sense of, the relationships between wider (popular) cultural and social forces and the embodied practices and interactional nuances through which boxing-practitioners constructed patterns of meaning informing their worldviews, values and actions. This ‘insider’ ethnographic journey entailed a necessarily introspective journey through which I reflexively grappled with the realities I upheld as a male and heterosexual ‘boxer’, of Anglo-Greek heritage, with fieldwork experiences grounded in complex social and cultural factors related to the sport ethic, media representation and commercialization, gender ideology and ideas about masculinity, and the cultural dynamics of social class in England. This paper seeks to inspire an open forum of discussion on the significance of sensuous, aesthetic and symbolically creative dimensions through which desire, and understandings of violence, are socially constructed by boxers in and through their sporting experiences.



Having conducted a five-year ethnographic study of amateur and professional boxers in England, my central research interests now lie in the examination of cultural and social aspects of the sporting experience. Reciprocally my academic interests and teaching competences take in the following related areas: the socialisation process into and through sport; embodiment and identity formation; sport violence; sporting subcultures; and sport development in relation to aspects of inclusion/exclusion; athlete welfare; youth development; crime reduction and education. In a previous life I spent my time split between boxing competitively as an amateur and briefly a professional boxer and backpacking and working my way around the globe.

April Updates


The next Martial Arts Studies Conference is exactly three months away, so I thought I’d take a few moments to give you all a quick update about both this and a few other developments in martial arts studies.

First things first: the conference schedule is taking shape nicely. As always happens, a few people have recently had to drop out and a few more people are currently jostling to get in – but such is life, and hopefully we’ll have absolute clarity in good time before the conference actually arrives!

The other big news about the conference is that I’m looking forward to showcasing some short films and filmmakers, some of whom will be joining us and on hand to discuss their works with us. So we will be able to spend some time watching a range of short films about different aspects of martial arts (and martial arts studies) in the company of filmmakers including Scott Park Phillips, Iveta Karpathyova and Philip Loy. I’m hoping that Soo Cole from Curzon films will also be able to join us, and that she will be bringing one or two short films that we can add to our list. I will try to remember to bring popcorn.

In the near future I will also be finalising plans for dinners for the three evenings of the conference. This is always the most tricky bit, I find, because not everyone wants to dine with everyone else. Consequently, I will organise dinners as an extra, and only for those of us who have the inclinations and energies to keep ‘conferencing’ into the night. Watch this space.

In other news, the martial arts studies book series is developing well, issue two of the Martial Arts Studies journal is on its way, and the third event in our Martial Arts Studies Research Network series has been confirmed: focusing on ‘mindfulness and martial arts’, it will take place at the University of Huddersfield on Saturday 19th November, in collaboration with Dr Ben Spatz and colleagues in drama, theatre and performance studies.

Mindfulness is both big business and a hugely contagious buzzword at the moment. In Huddersfield we will be exploring into its relationships with martial arts and other practices and discourses of the mind and body.

Watch this space for updates! Any questions – let me know!

Report on ‘Kung Fury: Contemporary Debates in Martial Arts Cinema’

Kung Fury: Contemporary Debates in Martial Arts Cinema

Birmingham City University

Friday, 1st April 2016


A key aim of the Martial Arts Studies Research Network ( is the forging connections; and specifically of two kinds of connection: on the one hand, connections between academics approaching martial arts from different perspectives and different disciplines; and on the other hand, connections between those working on martial arts inside the university and those on the outside. The first Martial Arts Studies Research Network event at Brighton University in February 2016, saw academics from the social sciences in particular enter into discussions and debates on issues related to gender, youth, sexuality and class with a range of teachers, coaches and practitioners from outside of academia ( The second event, at Birmingham City University on 1st April 2016 brought scholars, researchers and teachers of martial arts in film and visual culture into dialogue with film-makers, distributors, festival organisers and other industry professionals.

The event was hosted by Drs Simon Barber and Oliver Carter from Birmingham City University, who arranged a fast-moving and fascinating day, involving keynotes, panels, plenaries, buffets, receptions and a film screening, all of which went off without a hitch.

The first main event was a keynote address by Bey Logan – a writer, martial artist, actor, director and producer, who is well known for his wide-ranging work within all aspects of the Hong Kong film industry. He began by reporting that his presentation title was initially going to be something along the lines of ‘Why Kung Fu Movies Matter’, but that he changed it to ‘Why I Love Kung Fu Movies and Why They Matter’.

In his talk, Logan’s argument was that although kung fu movies are obviously so much fun for the viewer, they also ‘propose dreams’, dreams that kung fu training itself can in a way make real. I found myself to be in complete agreement with Logan throughout his discussion of the relations between cinematic fantasy, escapism and real life, and I have made similar arguments myself, many times. However, just because Logan’s argument was familiar to me, does not mean it was predictable. Rather, Logan spiced his presentation with a range of interesting and often hilarious biographical and industry references and anecdotes that made for a very fresh and lively presentation. In the process, he also proposed an image for one useful way to understand the logic of the development of martial arts cinema in Hong Kong. The image is that of a bending and stretching mirror. If we think of this image, he proposed, it is possible to see the ways that film production develops, with new films mirroring earlier films, but not identically. Rather, because of the variations and angles of reflection, different films produce exaggerated or stunted dimensions, some flip over from serious to comedy, and others flip back from comedy to serious, and so on, and so forth, in endless dialectical permeations and permutations. (In a way, this image mapped onto an image proposed by Susan Pui San Lok’s later presentation of her artwork projects, in a paper entitled ‘RoCH Fans and Legends’ [See:]).

I cannot easily do justice to the richness and diversity of Bey Logan’s presentation. But hopefully we will see it in print in the not-so-distant future – Simon Barber and Oliver Carter are keen to develop the conference proceedings into a special issue of the journal Martial Arts Studies ( Suffice it to say that Logan discussed a wide range of films and issues, ranging from accounts of the personalities of key figures in the Hong Kong film industry to an argument in favour of the specific variant of feminism that he sees as unique to Hong Kong martial arts films.

The following panel saw papers by Jonathan Wroot, Hyunseon Lee and Felicia Chan. Wroot discussed issues in the distribution of Hong Kong films in the West in general; Lee explored the transnational and intermedial connections between martial arts film and Chinese opera; while Chan asked the question ‘Must a Chinese (Auteur) Filmmaker make a Martial Arts Film?’

All three papers were stimulating in different ways; but I think that Chan’s paper spoke most directly to my own interests, as it essentially operated at the level of discourse, proposing that not only is the category of the ‘auteur’ socially constructed, and not only does it serve a range of interests, but it also – when we think of how many East Asian ‘auteur’ directors turn to making a martial arts film or two at the mid to late points of their careers – shows us the ways in which a range of forces, expectations and gratifications play themselves out in the types of film production we can see from certain figures in certain times and places. Chan also rather deftly deployed a reflection on the growth of ‘simplified Chinese script’ in such a way as to pose questions of the ways Chinese ‘auteur’ (and) martial arts films are elaborated.

After lunch came an industry panel discussion on the making and distribution of martial arts film, featuring Bey Logan, Paul Smith, and Spencer Murphy, each in their own way representing the realms of film production, promotion, and distribution.

The final session of the day featured presentations from Susan Pui San Lok, Kyle Barrowman and Colette Balmain. Lok showed sections of short films she had made from myriad jumping and flying scenes from the many episodes of different versions of the Condor Trilogy / Return of the Condor Hero, alongside discussion of her ongoing art practice (, in a complex argument about the (re)iteration and dissemination of textual elements.

Kyle Barrowman followed, with a paper that he proposed took issue with aspects of Bey Logan’s arguments about the supposed differences between Hong Kong and Hollywood film. Barrowman argued – contra Logan – that MMA is not an ethically or morally barren world compared to traditional martial arts, and that signs of its complex lifeworlds can be discerned in the emerging movement of MMA films. Barrowman’s overarching project involves reconsidering the American martial arts film, and obviously MMA films seem to map onto this concern; but Logan proposed that MMA has clearly been incorporated into a number of Donnie Yen films, which suggests that there is no necessary correlation of ‘MMA film’ with ‘Hollywood’. In a similar spirit, I proposed – only half joking – that perhaps the best example of a film about MMA and/as ‘culture’ might be Keanu Reeves’ directorial debut, Man of Tai Chi.

Colette Balmain concluded the academic proceedings with a discussion of the heroines of Hong Kong cinema, in an enjoyable and challenging paper that sought to examine the problems and possibilities of female agency within the traditional martial arts film. Her argument was that such cinematic feminism is at once gesturing towards a kind of emancipation whilst always operating within the strictures of certain established representational codes and conventions.

In many ways, then, Bey Logan turned out to have been the ideal keynote for this event. His opening keynote unexpectedly set the scene – and many of the terms – of and for the ensuing academic and industry discussions and debates, all of which made for a wonderfully interconnected and cross-fertilizing day.

But the day was not over yet. After a Chinese buffet and drinks reception, Oliver and Simon led us across to the next building, an erstwhile IMAX cinema, where we watched the eponymous yet hitherto largely unmentioned or undiscussed star of the day – the half hour film Kung Fury (

Ben Spatz 2016

Embodied Research: An Epistemic Context for Martial Arts Practice

This talk will place martial arts practice and studies in the context of an ongoing sea change in the university as a social institution. A generation of embodied practitioners — across the martial, healing, performing, ritual arts and more — is entering academia. Individually these hybrid scholar-practitioners and artist-researchers are developing exciting new ways of combining theory and practice, or of transcending or cutting through that binary altogether. But in many cases such innovative methodologies lack historical context and are not yet in conversation across disciplines.

Drawing on the framework of social epistemology developed in What a Body Can Do (Routledge 2015), this presentation will argue for an understanding of martial arts themselves as active fields of knowledge sustained by a dialectical relationship between training and research. According to this model, martial arts studies is to martial arts practice as performance studies is to performing arts and as science studies is to scientific research. Once we place martial arts practice in this context and examine its interdisciplinary relationships both to conventional academic disciplines and to neighboring fields of embodied research, a host of new questions arises regarding the ethical, political, and epistemological role of embodied research in the twenty-first century.


Important Info: Conference Accommodation

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Please note this important information about the conference:

If you are attending the conference in July and wish to take advantage of our discount conference accommodation offer at Cardiff University’s Senghennydd Hall (£21.36 per night), please could you make your booking as soon as possible.

This hall is in the ideal location both for the conference venue and for Cardiff City Centre, but I have just been advised by Cardiff University that they cannot hold onto the rooms indefinitely. So, please book your rooms before the end of March.

For first time visitors to Cardiff, you can find information about our location here, or, if you prefer to use something like Google Maps, then your key search terms would be ‘Bute Building’ and/or our postcode, which is CF10 3NB.