Each week, progressively – my personal understanding revolving the autoethnographic process of research steadily improves, spurred by the routine experience of different texts from various Asian cultures. With this new found knowledge of experience based writing, it is now time for me to conduct an autoethnographic study of my own – and I couldn’t be more excited! The study will explore my experiences of researching, recounting and viewing the most ‘obscure’ but otherwise popular sports native to certain Asian cultures. These sports are ingrained into the social and cultural constructs of their respective Asian nations, and the observation from a different cultural lens will expose these wider traditional, political, and social understandings.
My fascination of sport is deeply cemented into my personal interests and daily interaction– I am always happy to talk sport! – With rugby league being my favourite (see my YouTube channel here). However Australia is such a multi-cultural nation and it’s clear that most of our sporting dialect become lost in translation when speaking to someone from a different cultural background. This is an obvious reflection of a diverse social upbringing and a simple unfamiliarity to our sports. Without assuming anything, try saying ‘Bring back the biff’ to your Chinese roommate. While watching the Rio Olympics and with the autoethnographic task in the back of my mind, I deliberately avoided some of the more mainstream sports (Swimming, Athletics, Basketball) and focused my attention to some of the more ‘obscure’ sports making up this year’s games. I firstly sat through Trampolining – despite seeming like an activity you did in your backyard when you were 10 (trampoline debuted as an Olympic sport in 2000). This began an ongoing series of events consisting of Race-walking (pretty self-explanatory) and a modern pentathlon which incorporated fencing, swimming, shooting, equestrian and cross country running. This experience not only took me out of my comfort zone, but it opened up my eyes to a vast array of sporting cultures around the world.
With this being said, these sports aren’t necessarily native to particular countries; which is why focusing on native Asian sports can be such an interesting topic – relevant to autoethnographic study. The sports examined will showcase the passion and widespread support (in Asia) for ‘uncommon’ but native sport. It will also hope to explore how the sporting culture relates to much more beyond games but rather religious and traditional beliefs. For research, I have retrieved several sources including social media blogs that introduces these sports, reported articles with descriptive detail and specific websites that cater for the particular sporting organisation that explain the game rules and further ins and outs. The sports I will be exploring:
Origin: In 1880s Japan, during the Freedom and People’s Rights Movement, bo taoshi (literal translation: knocking-pole over) developed as an expression of rebellious energy aimed at toppling the Meiji oligarchy.
Two teams are split into offensive and defensive groups, and two poles are placed at two ends of a large field. The attackers and defenders then scrum for control of the pole. Victory is attained when the attacking team brings down the pole to 30 degrees (relative to the ground). Shirts optional, no shoes allowed.
Origin: Malacca, Malaysia, circa 15th century C.E.
A sport native to South-East Asia that resembles soccer, volleyball and gymnastics all in one game. The Takraw ball is about the size of a 16” softball and usually made of rattan or hard plastic stems.
Origin: Mongolia (North of China).
Is the folk wrestling style of Mongols in Mongolia, Inner Mongolia and other regions where touching the ground with anything other than a foot loses the match.
Origin: The Japanese Onbashira festival is reputed to have continued uninterrupted for 1200 years. It is held once every six years, in the years of the Monkey and the Tiger in the Chinese zodiac
Involves moving enormous logs over difficult terrain completely by hand with the help of thickly braided ropes and then riding that log back down a dangerous hill.
Origin: A traditional Indian sport in which a gymnast performs feats and poses in concert with a vertical wooden pole or rope.
Access to the sporting videos will remain my most important obstacle. At the moment my most reliable resource for visual research is YouTube. Some of the various websites for these particular sports also provide videos and images – which I will utilize to my advantage.
My method will require me to sit down and watch the gathered footage retrieved for each individual sport. I will be experiencing each sport individually and before I start each sport I will read through the rules to enhance my understanding beforehand. I will record and write down my experiences and draw knowledge from my own cultural norms in order to analyse the different traditional, political and social values.
In summary, the exploration of sport (a topic I ooze passion for) in other cultures different from my own will no doubt enhance my understanding of the autoethnographic process of research.
If the Olympics have room for more esoteric, even dubious events like trampolining, why shouldn’t practices like Mongolia’s bökh, India’s mallakhamb or Malaysia’s sepak takraw be given a shot at the world stage?
Bo taoshi– http://www.mnn.com/health/fitness-well-being/blogs/bo-taoshi-exploring-the-beautifully-dangerous-sport-of-pole-toppling
Sepak-Takraw – http://www.sepaktakraw.org/about-istaf/how-to-play-the-game/