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‘Become your Best’: On the Construction of Martial Arts as Means of Self-Actualization and Self-Improvement

Authors:

Esther Berg ,

Heidelberg University, DE
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Inken Prohl

Heidelberg University, DE
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Abstract

Martial Arts are accessible in terms of the ways they are mediated – through bodies, practices, discourses or institutions. With the establishment of (digital) media technologies and their subsequent global circulation and respective local reterritorializations, a new
dimension has been added to such processes of medialization. Martial arts ‘and/as’ media have become entangled in a mutually constitutive relationship, where the one cannot be analysed without taking the other into consideration. Taking this as a point of departure, this article analyses the (virtual) representation of ‘Shaolin Kung Fu’ in relation to the Shaolin Temple in Germany. We argue that this case provides a central vantage point from which to analyse the construction of martial arts as means of self-actualization and self-improvement. One of our assertions is that this understanding of martial arts is not inherent or essential, but an ascription that came into being and has gained plausibility in concrete socio-historical contexts. Following the analysis, we will therefore reconstruct three central transformation processes that led to the establishment of such an understanding of martial arts: Retracing (1) the provenance of the idea of martial arts practice as means of self-cultivation and religious exercise in China; (2) the integration of martial arts practices into discourses on how to ‘strengthen’ and ‘modernize’ China in the late 19th and early 20th century; and (3) the reconfigurations of martial arts discourses in the wake of their mediatization and worldwide circulation. We regard this work to be an example of what Thomas Tweed called a ‘translocative analysis’ (Tweed 2002; 2011) and want to highlight the importance of taking into account mediatization processes as well as images and discourses circulating in the global media sphere when approaching the field of martial arts studies.
How to Cite: Berg, E. & Prohl, I., (2014). ‘Become your Best’: On the Construction of Martial Arts as Means of Self-Actualization and Self-Improvement. JOMEC Journal. (5), p.None. DOI: http://doi.org/10.18573/j.2014.10264
Published on 01 Jun 2014.
Peer Reviewed

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