Conference is Coming (and the journal too)

2015-06-14 12.07.35

Just a quick note about two things: first, the conference, which will be here before you know it; and second, an update about the next issue of the Martial Arts Studies journal, which will be arriving around the same time.

First things first, and most importantly: conference registration and accommodation booking both close, finally and definitively, in 48 hours.

If you have not registered for the conference and/or for accommodation before 22nd June, you will be unable to attend and/or take advantage of our accommodation offer. Don’t let this happen!

I am working out the conference schedule now. The main structure is set in place, but the schedule of individual papers and panels is yet to be finalised. But here are the headlines:

We will meet on the afternoon of 11th July in Bute Building for Registration and the first keynote. This will be Professor Peter Lorge. Timing is not completely finalised yet, but we are likely to start between 3pm and 4pm.

After this opening keynote, we will have a drinks reception, like last year (the one where we blew that horn a lot – and, yes, we will be doing it again). Then we will go over to the pub for food and drinks.

Day two (12th July) begins with a keynote, then panels, then lunch. After lunch there will be a similar structure of keynote, panels, breaks, and evening keynote. Then we will have a conference dinner in Aberdare Hall (where most of us are staying).

Day three (13th) will have the same structure in the morning, but in the afternoon we will have the conference workshop and closing roundtable debate. The title of this is ‘Communicating Embodied Knowledge’, and information about it is here.

The plan is this. I will first present the overarching theme of the workshop. Then, a few other people will follow up with their initial take on the problematic, its problems and possibilities. We will then have some initial discussion about this as one group, before breaking out into a few smaller groups for more focused discussion and debate on specific approaches. Afterwards, we all reconvene and hold a closing roundtable debate on all the matters raised.

After this, we go across the road The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama for our closing conference dinner.

So, that’s the conference. I am looking forward to it a huge amount.

As for the journal: issue four of Martial Arts Studies (Summer 2017) is coming together extremely well. We have some very exciting and important new work in this one, and we are really looking forward to sharing it all with you.

We had hoped that the issue would be out in June, but some unexpected extra pressures in work and life have slowed us down slightly, so it is now looking most likely to be a July publication. We hope that it might be out in time for the conference, but, of course, both Ben and I (along with Kyle) will be focusing much more on the conference itself in different ways the nearer it gets. After all, I have to organise the conference and Ben has to write his keynote and get to the UK from the US…

Either way, it’s all go! I may not have much time for general updates like this before the conference, but if you have any questions, please email me.

Got to go…!

All the best,




Martial Arts Researchers in Bath

Bowen Collection

Last week we held a Martial Arts Studies Research Network event in the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution. The event was a great success, with researchers from Japan, Korea, the US, the UK and Europe sharing New Research on Japanese Martial Arts.

Videos of some of the talks can now be found on the Martial Arts Studies YouTube Channel, here:

The day after the mini-conference I took the Japanese members of our research group to visit The Bowen Collection at the University of Bath. The librarian and collection manager, Lizzie Richmond, had set out a small display of a representative cross section of items from the collection, and the visit was extremely rewarding. Anyone interested in the very early days of judo and jujitsu in the UK should consider arranging a time to visit the collection.

Our next martial arts studies research network event is the conference in Cardiff, in under two months’ time! Register now, before it’s too late!

Martial Arts Studies Events, Journals & Books

I just want to update you all on a few things before I sign off for the Easter break.

First, the next event of the Martial Arts Studies Research Network, focusing on new research on Japanese martial arts, takes place in Bath in a few weeks’ time, on 3rd May. The schedule is now online, here.

I also want to remind everyone attending the Martial Arts Studies Conference in Cardiff [11-13 July] that it is really important for you to register for the conference and then book your accommodation as soon as possible. I have it on good authority that most of the hotels in Cardiff are sold out, and rooms that are available are now at extortionate prices. This is not because our conference is so popular, but rather because Coldplay are playing in Cardiff for the exact same three nights…

I’ve updated information about conference keynotes here and about all confirmed conference speakers here.

Finally, I want to note that the next issue of the journal Martial Arts Studies is in the pipeline, as are new books in the Martial Arts Studies Book Series  If you have an academic article on martial arts studies, please send it to the journal for consideration; and if you have a book proposal or draft monograph, feel free to send it to me for informal discussion.

Best wishes – and to all of you in countries that celebrate Easter as a national holiday, I hope you have a good break!


Schedule: New Research on Japanese Martial Arts

‘New Research on Japanese Martial Arts – From Inside Japan and Out’

Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution, Bath, UK, on 3rd May 2017.


Registration, Tea and Coffee



Welcome and Introduction

Cardiff University, Waseda University



Enlightening the World: Narrating and (Re)presenting the Life of Kanô Jigorô and Ueshiba Morihei in Manga

Ghent University



Critique of Violence in Asian Martial Arts Films: How Mythopoeia Has Displaced It

Rikkyo University



Yasuhiro SAKAUE

The Creation of Kendo’s Self-Image: 1868-1945

Hitotsubashi University



An Ethnographic Study of Shinkage-ryu

Ibaraki University


Lunch (buffet lunch provided)


Bok Kyu CHOI

Dissemination of Japanese Martial Arts to Korea

Korean Institute for Martial Arts


Kotaro YABU

The Dissemination of Judo in Early Twentieth-Century America: The Mission and Struggles of a Pioneer Judoka

Sendai University



Bartitsu and Suffragette Jujitsu of the early 20th Century

Independent Researcher




Orientalising the Orient: Searching for Karate’s Budo Roots in Contemporary Egypt

National Museum of Ethnology, Japan



Japanese Philosophy and Global Sociology: Possibilities for an International Martial Arts Studies

Cardiff Metropolitan

Review of Kendo: The Culture of the Sword (2015)


Reviewed by Paul Bowman, Cardiff University,

Alexander C. Bennett’s monograph, Kendo: The Culture of the Sword (University of California Press, 2015) is an ideal starting point for students or researchers beginning to look into Kendo and other Japanese martial arts. It assumes no prior knowledge and walks the reader through a narrative arc beginning from kendo’s relationship with other Japanese budō arts (1-25), into kendo basics (xvii-xxxv), through swordsmanship in medieval Japan (26-56) to early modern kenjutsu (57-85), the fall and rise of samurai culture and kenjutsu’s nationalisation (86-122) to its place in Japanese imperialism (123-162), the passionate 20th century debates about kendo and/as sport (163-199) and the current vicissitudes of kendo’s global diffusion (200-237).

As a principally chronological history, framed by statements of the author’s personal introduction to kendo at one end and concluding reflections on kendo within the cultures of the contemporary world at the other, Bennett’s work is reliable, accessible and to be recommended. Each chapter is informed by pertinent theoretical debates from the fields of sociology, anthropology and cultural studies, but none of these debates are centralised, nor are they allowed to dominate the historical perspective. So, although we frequently encounter concepts from the likes of Pierre Bourdieu (87, 195, 197), Dipesh Chakrabarty (232, 236), Eric Hobsbawm (87, 121), Joseph Svinth (206), Denis Gainty (23, 116) and Brian McVeigh (22, 182, 199, 219, 225, 229), these encounters are mainly brief and tantalizing. The theoretical dimensions of the work have the status of occasional descriptive stepping stones as we walk through the historical narrative.

Aside from a rightly recurring attention to nationalism, which Bennett approaches in multiple ways, perhaps the most frequently mentioned thinker is Norbert Elias (57, 69, 70, 73, 125), whom Bennett frequently cites on matters such as boxing (83), games of war as displays of warrior virtues (82), etiquette, rituals, protocols (120–21,152, 153, 184, 189, 191), and so on.

Bennett’s use of Elias is exemplary of his use of perhaps all other theoretical concepts and arguments. That is to say, Bennett takes a reasonable, non-controversial interpretation of, say, Elias on civilizing processes, and deploys that interpretation descriptively throughout. The problem here is that sometimes the descriptive gain comes at the cost of an analytical loss. So, although approaching kendo in terms of a binary between civilizing and de-civilizing dimensions is interesting, it is based on a slightly reductive (binary) reading of Elias – a reduction that other recent studies of martial arts have fruitfully sought to challenge (Gong 2015). The point to be emphasized is that, sometimes at least, it could have been beneficial for the study if Bennett had done more with theoretical problematics than use them to add a richness of description.

Conversely, at other times Bennett makes valuable contributions to theoretical and analytical debates – albeit perhaps unintentionally. For instance, I am confident that Bennett’s opening discussion of his own introduction to kendo, whilst visiting Japan on a study exchange as a child, is merely intended to set the scene and describe a ‘baptism of fire’, that started as trauma but ended in his love of and devotion to kendo. But whilst reading it I was immediately reminded of recent attempts in martial arts studies, sociology of the body and sociology of sport to describe and account for any kind of ‘martial habitus’ (García and Spencer 2014).

To my mind, most sociological attempts to demonstrate the existence and operation of a ‘martial habitus’ have failed. This is because the concept of habitus used in these studies is derived from Bourdieu but refracted through Wacquant’s ethnography of boxing (Wacquant 2004), a study that centres on the intense and overwhelmingly closed communal world of a boxing gym in a poor pre-21st century ghetto community in Chicago.

Few social situations in the contemporary world truly meet the requisite criteria of the stiflingly closed context required to make the (pre-internet and media-blind) concept of ‘habitus’ analytically useful. But Bennett’s opening account of being thrown in at the deep-end of intensive and extensive kendo training, from which he could not really escape, certainly does. In this sense, I found in this dimension of the book a way to articulate more clearly my sense that ‘habitus’ is essentially a historically bounded concept that, other than in specific intense contexts, is less pertinent to social and cultural analysis today than it may have seemed in the past (Bowman 2015).

Overall, I found the final chapter of the book to be the most wide ranging and stimulating. In this chapter, Bennett moves much more freely out of the historical narrative and into reflections on the contemporary cultural issues, problems and dynamics of kendo’s present states of existence and elaboration, in which all the forces of globalisation, nationalisation, sport and identity politics are currently condensed.


Bowman, Paul. 2015. Martial Arts Studies: Disrupting Disciplinary Boundaries. London: Rowman and Littlefield International.

García, Raúl Sánchez, and Dale C. Spencer. 2014. Fighting Scholars: Habitus and Ethnographies of Martial Arts and Combat Sports. Anthem Press.

Gong, Neil. 2015. ‘How to Fight Without Rules: On Civilized Violence in “De-Civilized” Spaces’. Social Problems, September, spv014. doi:10.1093/socpro/spv014.

Wacquant, Löic J. D. 2004. Body and Soul: Notebooks of an Apprentice Boxer. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.

Keynotes 2017

Keynotes for our July 2017 conference include:

  • Benjamin N. Judkins (Cornell University), co-founder and co-editor of the journal Martial Arts Studies, founder and editor of the long-running martial arts studies blog, Kung Fu Tea (, and co-author of The Creation of Wing Chun (SUNY Press).
  • Gitanjali Kolanad (Shiv Nadar University). Gitanjali Kolanad was involved in the practice, performance, and teaching of bharata natyam for close to forty years, performing in major cities in Europe, America and India. Her short story collection “Sleeping with Movie Stars” was published in January 2011 by Penguin India. She has written numerous articles on aspects of Indian dance for well-known Indian publications. She is the 2016 Singapore International Writer in Residence with NUS University Scholars Program and The Arts House. She co-founded IMPACT, which teaches and promotes Indian martial art forms. Presently she a professor at Shiv Nadar University, developing their performing arts program.
  • Professor Peter Lorge (Vanderbilt University), author of The Reunification of China: Peace Through War under the Song Dynasty (Cambridge, 2015), Chinese Martial Arts: From Antiquity to the Twenty-First Century (Cambridge University Press, 2012), The Asian Military Revolution: From Gunpowder to the Bomb (Cambridge University Press, 2008), and War, Politics and Society in Early Modern China (Routledge, 2005), co-editor of Chinese and Indian Warfare: From the Classical Age to 1870 (Routledge, 2014), and editor of Debating War in Chinese History (Brill, 2013), Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms (The Chinese University Press, 2011), and Warfare in China to 1600 (Ashgate, 2005).
  • Professor Meaghan Morris (University of Sydney). Professor Meaghan Morris is a figure of world stature in the field of Cultural Studies. She was recently Chair of the Inter-Asia Cultural Studies Society and of the international Association for Cultural Studies (ACS), 2004-08. A Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities, the Hong Kong Academy of the Humanities, and a former ARC Senior Fellow, from 2000-2012 she was founding Chair Professor of Cultural Studies at Lingnan University, Hong Kong.
  • Sixt Wetzler (Deutsches Klingenmuseum – German Blade Museum, Solingen). Sixt Wetzler studied religious studies, Scandinavian literature, and medieval history at the universities of Tübingen, Reykjavík, and Freiburg. He finished his PhD on ‘The Martial Arts of Medieval Iceland: Literary representation and historical form’ in 2016. Wetzler is a member of the board of spokesmen of the commission Kampfkunst und Kampfsport (Martial Arts and Combat Sports) in the dvs (German Association for Sports Sciences). He works as curator for the Deutsches Klingenmuseum (German Blade Museum), Solingen, with a focus on the European fencing tradition and other blade fighting systems, and is among the highest ranked European practitioners of Pekiti Tirsia Kali, a Filipino martial art.


  • To see a list of all confirmed speakers, click here

Confirmed Speakers: Bath Event on Japanese Martial Arts

edith-garrud-suffragettes-700Edith Garrud, jujitsu trainer to the Suffragette bodyguard, born in Bath, UK

Here is the final line up of speakers (in alphabetical order, not running order) for the next Martial Arts Studies Research Network Event, ‘New Research on Japanese Martial Arts’, which will take place on 3rd May 2017, at the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution.


Paul Bowman (Cardiff University), Michael Molasky (Waseda University)

Confirmed speakers and titles:

Bok Kyu CHOI (Korean Institute of Martial Arts): ‘Dissemination of Japanese Martial Arts to Korea’

Emelyne GODFREY (independent researcher): ‘Bartitsu and Suffragette Jujitsu of the early 20th century’

George JENNINGS (Cardiff Metropolitan University): ‘Japanese Philosophy and Global Sociology: Possibilities for an International Martial Arts Studies’

Tetsuya NAKAJIMA (Ibaraki University): ‘An Ethnographic Study of Shinkage-ryu’

Andreas NIEHAUS (Ghent University): ‘Enlightening the World: Narrating and (Re)presenting the Life of Kanô Jigorô and Ueshiba Morihei in Manga’

Keiko NITTA (Rikkyo University): ‘Critique of Violence in Asian Martial Arts Films: How Mythopoeia Has Displaced It’

Yasuhiro SAKAUE (Hitotsubashi University): ‘The Creation of Kendo’s Self-Image: 1868-1945’

Kotaro YABU (Sendai University): ‘The Dissemination of Judo in Early Twentieth-Century America: The Mission and Struggles of a Pioneer Judoka’