Special issue: Martial Arts Re-Visited to be published in September 2022
Call for contributions, ideas, proposals and dialogue with the editors
Prof. Paul Allain, University of Kent, Canterbury (P.A.Allain@kent.ac.uk)
and Prof. Grzegorz Ziółkowski, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Training Grounds Editor: Thomas Wilson, Rose Bruford College, London (Thomas.Wilson@bruford.ac.uk).
Martial Arts Re-Visited (Issue 13.3)
This special issue wishes to reinvigorate discussion about the applicability and usefulness of martial arts in actor, dancer and performer training. It opens the door particularly wide to contributions which intend to critically re-evaluate and re-examine martial arts’ role and place in performing arts training approaches and schemes.
Following in the footsteps of proponents of the newly established scholarly discipline of martial arts studies, such as Paul Bowman, Benjamin Judkins and Sixt Wetzler, we see the widely used and discursively constructed notion of “martial arts” as inclusive rather than exclusive, embracing traditional martial arts, competitive combat sports, military and civilian self-defence systems, as well as many activities straddling the boundaries between these. Moreover, for us the term “martial arts” denotes not only those practices and techniques which when skilfully executed may prove effective in physical struggle/contests, but also a vast pool of adjunct activities related to health, wellbeing, meditation and performance broadly construed that have their roots in or are connected with combat methods. Borrowing from Wetzler, we advocate that “martial arts” activate several dimensions which often interrelate and intersect, including: (a) physical and psychological preparation for confrontation with violence, usually carried out according to systematic and reproducible protocols and schemes, (b) combat competition adhering to set rules and frameworks, performed for fun or to determine a prize winner, (c) the display of martial skills and techniques in front of others, (e) pursuit of transcendent goals, consisting of cherishing specific philosophies and worldviews as well as character formation, (f) therapies and illness prevention. Furthermore, we note that martial arts cannot be reduced to their Asian or – more narrowly – East Asian incarnations since the phenomenon pertains to every corner of the world and as such strongly questions the dominant East-West axis, just as it unsettles the South-North axis too, with highly influential forms such as capoeira practised worldwide.
We are therefore open to proposals which confront not only the practices most commonly associated with martial arts and most frequently employed in performer training contexts, such as Japanese aikido and Chinese taijiquan, but also lesser known styles and schools as well as other non-obvious manifestations of martial arts’ approaches, attitudes, ideas and techniques.
In the turbulent 1960s, with a hunger for alternative models of organizing socio-political realities and related fascination with Eastern philosophies and practices of bodymind cultivation, elements of various (mainly East Asian) martial arts started to populate various Western actor, dancer and performer training programmes and regimes carried out both in academia and professional studios. Over time, as Robert Dillon observed in 1999, “the notion of ‘martial arts for actors’ has gone from being alternative in every sense of the word to being mainstream” and presently martial arts are a well-established component of many theatre, dance, circus or performance training routines, often part of a larger programme of psychophysical activities and approaches. Different artists, practitioners and scholars (sometimes in one body, as in the case of theatre scholar and practitioner Phillip B. Zarrilli) have listed the numerous physical and/or psychological benefits of employing martial arts in the formation of performance artists. The most often cited examples include: (a) heightening psychophysical awareness, sharpening perception and a sense of being here and now (presence), (b) cultivation of bodily and mental flexibility, (c) integration of body and mind, (d) development of focus, rootedness, balance and a sense of timing, (e) elaboration of respect for discipline, (f) improvement in terms of stamina and movement capacities, etc. This long list of advantages, however, does not dispel doubts which arise when considering the presence of martial arts in performer training and should not make us overlook related questions. These dilemmas comprise, for example, risk of injury, the presence of violence (even in a nascent form) and the subjugation of critical thought in confrontation with (often mythologized) practices and attitudes enshrined in (often esoteric) traditions. In an age when hierarchies are being acutely questioned and overturned, in life as much as in the training studio or classroom, when inclusivity and equality determine our every move, how do the structured forms of martial arts and their related pedagogical or dissemination models speak to such concerns? Can they only reinforce authority, or can they overcome such binary models? How might martial arts help shape the performance revolution that is yet to come? And how do martial arts impact on wider notions and practices of gender and sexuality? Are they purely conformist, homogenizing, or can they offer possibilities for transgression and transformation? We are convinced that these problems and issues deserve attention and careful scrutiny.
We would also like to highlight the following questions to be – potentially – tackled by contributors to the special issue:
• Are martial arts in performer training gender, race, class, age, (dis)ability determined? If they are, how does this manifest itself and what are the implications of this?
• How do cultural, political and social contexts play out in martial arts as part of performer training? Amateur and youth involvement in martial arts is extensive; how does this feed into performer training?
• How do social distancing and isolation as consequences of the global pandemic affect martial arts’ presence in performer training curricula?
• Which style(s) or school(s) are better/worse suited for performer training? Are any not suited at all? If so, why?
• Are martial arts primarily used as a movement training substitute? Are other dimensions of martial arts, such as meditation, work with energy, ethical dimension, etc., included in performer training regimes as well? How might work on martial arts support vocal practices and training?
Other important problems which we think could be addressed in this issue include:
• Strategies, consequences and risks of adaptation of martial arts or their elements for performance training needs;
• Interrelations between martial arts and other training systems within one curriculum (the problem of syncretism);
• Martial arts in training for a specific performance type in terms of aesthetics and/or philosophy;
• Martial arts’ performance pedagogy and its organizational milieus: drama school, university, studio theatre, workshops, etc.
• Usefulness of the martial arts’ pedagogic strategy of dialectics of form and improvisation in performing arts training contexts; issues around imitation, form and discipline in martial arts – how do these aspects prepare performers for rehearsal and creative processes, if they indeed do?
We welcome submissions from authors both inside and outside academic institutions, from professional practitioners and those who are currently undergoing training or who have experiences to tell from their training histories. To signal your intention to make a contribution to this special issue in any one of the ways identified above please email an abstract (max 250 words) to Paul Allain and Grzegorz Ziółkowski at: P.A.Allain@kent.ac.uk and email@example.com. Training Grounds proposals are to be made to Thomas Wilson (Thomas.Wilson@bruford.ac.uk), copied to Paul and Grzegorz.
Our deadline for these abstracts is 16th June 2021.
Theatre, Dance and Performance Training has three sections:
- “Articles” features contributions in a range of critical and scholarly formats (approx. 5,000-7,000 words)
- “Sources” provides an outlet for the documentation and analysis of primary materials of performer training. We are particularly keen to receive material that documents the histories and contemporary practices associated with the issue’s theme.
- “Training Grounds” hosts shorter pieces, which are not peer reviewed, including essais, postcards, visual essays, speaking image (short text responding to a photo, drawing, visual score, etc.) and book or event reviews. We welcome a wide range of different proposals for contributions including edited interviews and previously unpublished archive or source material. We also welcome suggestions for recent books on the theme to be reviewed; or for foundational texts to be re-reviewed.
Innovative cross-over print/digital formats are possible, including the submission of audiovisual training materials, which can be housed on the online interactive Theatre, Dance and Performance Training journal blog: http://theatredanceperformancetraining.org/.
About Theatre, Dance and Performance Training (TDPT)
Special Issues of Theatre, Dance and Performance Training (TDPT) are an essential part of its offer and complement the open issues in each volume. TDPT is an international academic journal devoted to all aspects of ‘training’ (broadly defined) within the performing arts. It was founded in 2010 and launched its own blog in 2015. Our target readership comprises scholars and the many varieties of professional performers, makers, choreographers, directors, dramaturgs and composers working in theatre, dance, performance and live art who have an interest in the practices of training. TDPT’s co-editors are Jonathan Pitches (University of Leeds) and Libby Worth (Royal Holloway, University of London).
- 16th June 2021: 250 word proposals to be submitted to Paul Allain and Grzegorz Ziółkowski at: P.A.Allain@kent.ac.uk and firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Early July 2021: Response from editors and, if successful, invitation to submit contribution.
- Early July 2021 to end October 2021: Writing/preparation period and submission of first drafts.
- End October-End of December 2021: Peer review period.
- January 2022: Author revisions, post peer review.
- September 2022: publication as Vol. 13, Issue 3.
We look forward to hearing from you.