I’m always interested when academics look at the martial arts. I had a friend who once commented that in East Asian Studies, it was far more legitimate to write about the artistic decoration of a sword than how it was used. The exotic “material culture” is acceptable, while methods of violence are déclassé. For this and many other reasons, the majority of martial scholarship is incomplete, inaccurate, and/or biased.
So I was quite pleased to read this article that explores the reasons why martial artists seem to have an aversion to digging for the truth. The title is a bit of a buzzword-mouthful, but it thoughtful and written for a popular audience (i.e., it is low on jargon).
“Epistemic Viciousness in the Martial Arts” by Gillian Russell
I stumbled upon this paper because this blog was referenced in a comment on to a post about the paper on the blog “Less Wrong”. Oddly, while I had never read “Less Wrong,” I follow its sister publication “Overcoming Bias.” Such is the circular nature of the “Blogosphere.”
I just wanted to let folks know that Gary and I are still here and haven’t given up on writing, we’ve just both had a busy year with small children and haven’t had a lot new to say. It’s been a time to refocus on the basics.
It seems to me that we aren’t the only ones at a loss for words recently. There haven’t been many interesting discussions in the past year or so on blogs and message boards. I am curious to what degree this is cyclical, as folks have gotten tired of the boards and the arguing (just as there was a lot of discussion over email lists in the ’90s that descended into sectarian arguments and then dissipated). Or perhaps traditional martial arts are just in a lull with shifting cultural trends and the dire economy.
The one big exception is there have been some long simmering discussions, largely on the Non-Aikido forum of AikiWeb, about developing internal strength in the aiki arts. It seems that some practitioners are trying to apply both modern science and the theories of Chinese internal martial arts to understand deep aspects of the Japanese arts. If one can sift through repetitive arguments, there’s some useful gems. I’m hopeful that there’s an intellectual movement happening that could bear fruit in the future.