The autumn leaves are falling like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are always two cups at my table.

T’ang Dynasty poem

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~


Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Impact of Youtube On Martial Arts Practice

Ben Judkins, over at Kung Fu Tea unearthed this one. It's a scholarly paper written on the topic of how Youtube has had an impact on the way modern martial arts is taught and practiced. The paper specifically looks at Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, but may certainly be applied to virtually any martial art. An expert is below. The full article may be read here.

I have participated in the ‘arte suave’ – the gentle art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) – since late 2006. My involvement began as part of an ethnography of mixed martial arts (aka cage fighting), but I have maintained my participation in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu long after the summation of this ethnography.1 BJJ maintains a central place in my life. When I started BJJ, the mats and positions felt hard and unfamiliar. I now inhabit the world as a BJJ practitioner. I now feel and move across the mats in ways that have been learned through continuous repetition. In stepping on the tatamis, I train my senses in ways that only the intersection of sport and art can (Sparkes 2009). BJJ vitalizes my life and gives me tools to deal with day-to-day struggles. I now possess a BJJ habitus (cf. Hogeveen 2013).

None of what constitutes BJJ is natural. Inverting along the shoulders, fighting off one’s back, or relying on leverage and flexibility rather than strength and brute force, all run against doxa in Western culture. This is to say that everything involved in BJJ is learned. A practitioner must break with old habits and create new ones (Spencer 2011). Becoming an adept BJJ practitioner involves absorbing all the complex processes and improvisation that Alfred Schutz (1951) associated with jazz musicians. While BJJ was first introduced to North America in the early 1980s in a club in Torrance, California, the ‘arte suave’ has since spread with clubs popping up in cities across the world, housing BJJ black belts. It is widely recognized that BJJ remains one of the few martial arts where it is extremely difficult to get a black belt, demanding over a decade of training and dedication.

BJJ consists of a practical self-defense side and a sport, competition side. In relation to the latter, thousands of videos of BJJ matches have found their way on the Internet via YouTube. But this is not the only form of content related to BJJ that is on YouTube. While Hogeveen (2013) has been somewhat skeptical of what BJJ techniques can actually be learned from YouTube, in this article I explore how YouTube is utilized for learning, creative, and imaginative purposes. Analyzing YouTube as a community of practice, I show how the medium is used as a stage for BJJ practitioner identity-formation.

This article is structured in four main sections. In the first section, I offer a brief overview of YouTube and previous literature on its use for creative production, learning and communication.

In the second section, I define communities of practice and stages of learning and mastery. In the third section, I elucidate BJJ, its development and the contours of this martial art. In the last main section, I describe where YouTube fits in the development of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and how BJJ practitioners are using YouTube as a tool for communication, expression and identity formation.

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