TDPT Issue 13.3 – Martial Arts Revisited, Now Published

Martial Arts Revisited

Theatre, Dance and Performance Training
Volume 13, Issue 3, September 2022
Special issue ‘Martial Arts Revisited’
Guest editors: Prof. Paul Allain and Prof. Grzegorz Ziółkowski
Training Grounds editor: Thomas Wilson

To the Ukrainian fighters bravely opposing Russian aggression

Julia Lewandowska (Poland) and Mohammad Reza Aliakbari (Iran) during the ATIS 2015 in Brzezinka. Photo: Maciej Zakrzewski.

Since the 1960s, various non-Western forms of martial arts and their adjunct activities related to healing and meditation have been increasingly adopted in Western performer training. Their diverse influences on actor preparation and manifestations in this context have already been widely discussed (for a summary, see ‘A Bibliography’ and ‘Voices Advocating Martial Arts in Actor Training’), including in the pages of this journal (see TDPT articles devoted wholly or in part to aikido 2.1, 2011; boxing and capoeira 3.2, 2012; and tai chi 4.1, 2013). Nevertheless, we decided to reinvigorate discussions about martial arts’ applicability and usefulness in training contexts as well as related ethical issues.

As a consequence, this special issue explores specific martial arts forms and their suitability for different performance contexts, the situations from which they have arisen and in which they exist and any implications of this in a highly interconnected world. The issue includes contributions which confront not only those practices most commonly associated with martial arts and most frequently employed in performer training contexts, such as Japanese aikido and Chinese taijiquan (widely known as tai chi), but also lesser-known styles and schools as well as other less obvious martial arts approaches, attitudes, ideas and techniques.


Paul Allain, Thomas Wilson and Grzegorz Ziółkowski

Leaving the cave
Marco Adda

Is the readiness all? Revisiting martial arts in actor training
Grzegorz Ziółkowski

‘Let go lightly’: the absent presence of taijiquan in the artistic practice of ROSA and ATIS
Grzegorz Ziółkowski

Interview with Adrian Lester: taekwondo in actor training
Paul Allain and Grzegorz Ziółkowski

The applicability of historical Japanese and Polish fencing to the development of acting competences
Wojciech J. Cynarski

Training Historical European Martial Arts
Gabriella McLean

Martial art-acting in dictatorial Indonesia: Antigone (1974) and Lysistrata (1975) directed by W. S. Rendra
Marco Adda

Judo as a devising practice: Yves Klein, La Mancha and Chile
Ellie Nixon

Leaving the script behind
Théo Aiolfi

Aikido in Kokyu Studio’s practice
Przemysław Błaszczak

A place of practice – a report from Kokyu Studio
Marie Walker

Spatial projection: extended perception for theatre creators through the practice of Chinese martial arts
Daniel Mroz

太极推手: taiji pushing hands
Stefanie Gabriele Sachsenmaier

Accessing Psychophysical Identities through Russian Martial Arts in actor training
Slade Billew

Postcard to a friend
Jonathan Grieve

Humanity and animality in Chinese martial arts
Gabriel Guarino de Almeida

Martial arts training during the pandemic and beyond: towards practices of virtuality
Martin J. Meyer


Guest editors

Paul Allain is Professor of Theatre and Performance at the University of Kent, Canterbury, UK. He collaborated with the Gardzienice Theatre Association of Poland from 1989 to 1993 leading to his first book Gardzienice: Polish Theatre in Transition (1997). His research since has focused on actor training, including Tadashi Suzuki and the legacy of Jerzy Grotowski. He has been a research consultant internationally and recently advised WAAPA in Perth, Western Australia on their research strategy. His latest project for Methuen Drama Bloomsbury’s Drama Online platform is ‘Physical Actor Training – an online A-Z’, containing over 60 films of training, supported by the website The Digital Performer. He wrote about the A-Z in an article in the TDPT special issue ‘Digital Training’ 10.2, 2019.

Thomas Wilson is Co-Programme Director for BA (Hons) European Theatre Arts at Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance, and an Associate Editor for Theatre, Dance and Performance Training journal. He has a diverse performance background, initially competing internationally in voltage (equestrian gymnastics), before training in a range of physically-rooted practices (contact improvisation, butō, theatrical biomechanics) and making work at the intersection of theatre and dance. He served on Accademia Teatro Dimitri’s Educational Advisory Commission from 2016–2020. His book Juggling Trajectories: Gandini Juggling, 1991–2015 was shortlisted for the Society of Theatre Research Book Prize in 2016.

Grzegorz Ziółkowski is professor of theatre and performance at the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Poland. Alongside his latest book, A Cruel Theatre of Self-Immolations: Contemporary Suicide Protests by Fire and Their Resonances in Culture (Routledge, 2020), he has published monographs in Polish on the work of Peter Brook and Jerzy Grotowski. He has also co-edited special issues of Polish Theatre Perspectives (Voices from Within), Performance Research (On Performatics), and Contemporary Theatre Review (Polish Theatre After 1989). From 2004–2009 he worked as Programme Director of the Grotowski Centre, later Grotowski Institute, in Wrocław. From 2012–2017 he directed theatre explorations in the framework of the Study ROSA and the Acting Techniques Intensive Seminar ATIS. He has practised Yang style taijiquan for more than 25 years.


Marco Adda is an independent researcher, actor trainer, director, and actor with a core focus on bodymind, movement, actor’s dramaturgy and martial arts in actor training and composition. With Neapolitan origins, he has explored and studied Asian traditions since a young age. He is a member of the PGB and an instructor of Bangau Putih silat. From 1994, he worked as a professional in theatre, cinema, actor pedagogy and social theatre. Since 2009, he has travelled and collaborated globally with universities, academies and other organisations. Other areas of his interest include: anthrozoology, ethology, psychophysiology, neuroscience, and integrative health.

Théo Aiolfi is an early career fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) of the University of Warwick. He has been a practitioner of aikido for 15 years and holds a black belt in aikido from the Hombu Dōjō (Tokyo).

Slade Billew is a physical theatre artist, director, fight choreographer, and intimacy choreographer. They teach acting and movement at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, TX. Slade holds an MFA in Theatre Pedagogy from Virginia Commonwealth University and a PhD in Theatre from Bowling Green State University. Their creative work has been seen on a variety of professional and academic stages. Slade’s scholarship theorizes actor training through the lenses of somatics, sports science, and performer autonomy. They have presented research at the American Society for Theatre Research, the Association of Theatre Movement Educators, and Mid-America Theatre Conference.

Przemysław Błaszczak is an actor, director, aikidoka, pedagogue with a degree in philosophy. He has been associated with the Grotowski Institute in Wrocław, Poland since 1995 and is the founder of Kokyu Studio.

Wojciech J. Cynarski is Professor at the Institute of Physical Culture Studies of the University of Rzeszów (Poland), where he heads the Chair of Socio-Cultural Foundation for Physical Culture. He is a founder and president (since 1993) of the Idōkan Poland Association, editor (since 2000) of Ido Movement for Culture: Journal of Martial Arts Anthropology, and cofounder (in 2010) of the International Martial Arts and Combat Sports Scientific Society (IMACSSS) which he currently leads. He has been teaching martial arts since 1987 and has published extensively on them as well as on the sociology of culture, leisure and sport, coaching, and pedagogy.

Jonathan Grieve is a post-industrial experimental musician and composer, theatre artist, director, deviser, and lecturer since 1987.

Gabriel Guarino de Almeida is a martial artist (an apprentice and instructor of Eagle Claw kung fu and Chen taijiquan), anthropologist and poet. Currently, he works at the EstetiPop (Research Laboratory in Aesthetics, Anthropology and Popular Culture) at the Pontifícia Universidade Católica (PUC-Rio; Pontifical Catholic University) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He is writing a PhD in the Education Department of the PUC-Rio and is a research fellow at the CAPES Academic Excellence Programme. He holds a master’s degree in Legal and Social Sciences with a thesis on qualitative research in legal anthropology. He is a former athlete of the Brazilian Kung Fu National Team (2016–2018) who was elected Athlete of the Year in 2018.

Adrian Lester (b. 1968 in Birmingham, England) CBEis a British multi-award-winning theatre and film actor, director and writer who starred in, among others, Cheek by Jowl’s all-male production of As You Like It (1993), Peter Brook’s performance of Hamlet (2000) and its film version (2002) as well as in Othello at the National Theatre in London (2013). His television and film appearances include roles in the BBC series Hustle (2004–2012) and the drama Bonekickers (2008) as well as Mike Nichols’ film Primary Colors (1998) and Kenneth Branagh’s Love’s Labours Lost (2000). Most recently (2022) he has read The Empty Space for Nick Hern’s audio book of Peter Brook’s seminal work. He is married to actress and writer Lolita Chakrabarti. He holds a third degree black belt in Moo Duk Kwan taekwondo.

Gabriella McLean is a theatre-maker and voice actress interested in immersive sensory theatrical experiences. Last year she completed intensive HEMA training in Italy supported by an ERASMUS+ grant. [email protected]

Martin J. Meyer is lecturer at the University of Vechta, Germany. His martial arts research follows a multidisciplinary approach, psychological, didactic and ethnographic to historiographical. After his 2012 doctoral thesis on motives in karate, Meyer accepted a research fellowship from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science at Kanazawa University under Professor Heiko Bittmann in 2017. For him, the central issue is what martial arts are in essence and under what conditions they are practised and for which purposes. Meyer published his major work on this topic ‘What Is Martial Arts?’ in 2020.

Daniel Mroz directs original theatre in Canada and teaches actors, directors, dancers, and choreographers internationally. He began practising Chinese martial arts in 1993. He has been a professor in the Department of Theatre of the University of Ottawa since 2005. He is the author of The Dancing Word (2011), a book about the Chinese martial arts in the creation of contemporary theatre, and he contributes regularly to the scholarly research area of martial arts studies.

Ellie Nixon is Programme Director of Film and Performing Arts at Norwich University of the Arts. Her research explores embodied approaches to contemporary performance practice and performer training. Drawing on a range of interdisciplinary perspectives, material engagement theory and environmental humanities, Ellie seeks to articulate the projective interplay between the sensate imagining body and the material world as a dynamic force for creative practice. She is currently writing a monograph titled Imagining Bodies and Performer Training: The Legacy of Jacques Lecoq and Gaston Bachelard, as part of the Perspectives on Performer Training Book Series (Routledge).

Stefanie Gabriele Sachsenmaier (PhD, DEA, MA, BA, SFHEA) is Associate Professor in Contemporary Performance at Middlesex University, London.

Marie Walker is an actress who graduated from Rose Bruford College. Since 2019 she has worked with Kokyu Studio, affiliated with the Grotowski Institute in Wrocław, Poland, as a performer and practitioner.