Author: chachrisboyd

Autoethnographic Research P.3 – Native Asian Sports: Bökh

Chris Boyd (CB988) DIGC330 Blog

In this weeks Autoethnography; I will be focusing on the sport of ‘Bökh’ – the folk wrestling style of Mongols in Mongolia. Bökh, meaning Mongolian wrestling, is a traditional sport for Mongolian ethnic groups in China. The activity actually dates back to the days of Genghis Khan – who considered wrestling to be an important way to keep his army in good physical shape and combat ready. Cave paintings in the Bayankhongor Province of Mongolia dating back to Neolithic age of 7000BC also show grappling of two naked men, surrounded by crowds. Local people living in grassland regions call wrestling “Bökh”(meaning “strength, solidarity and durability” in Mongolian). Wrestling is the most important sport of Mongolian people’s and is an indispensable activity for important occasions like sacrificial rituals and the Naadam Festival.

AbtaiPainting.jpg A 16th Century Painting Showing The Grappling Men

Brief Introduction of the rules:

  • The rules of defeat differ depending on the area of Mongolia you reside. In outer Mongolia…

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Autoethnographic Research P.2 – Native Asian Sports: Sepak Takraw

Part two of my Autoethnographic research into Native Asian sports focuses on ‘Sepak Takraw‘ – a game native to South-East Asia. For those with no past knowledge about the sport, the functions of Sepak Takraw can be best described as a cross between Volleyball, Hacky Sack and Soccer. The term ‘Sepak’ is Malay and basically means “to strike with the foot”, or, simply put, “to kick”. It is thought the sport originally dates as far back as the 15th century, played by Thai and Malaysian people. Recorded history of the game exists in Wat Phra Kaew – The temple that serves as a resting place for the Emerald Buddha. Other historical documents record the game being played during the reign of King Naresuan (1590-1605) [1]. In modern times, the sport is still predominantly played in the Southern- Eastern parts of Asia, however has national representation throughout the globe.  International play is now governed by the ISTAF, ‘the International Sepak Takraw Federation’. Major competitions for the sport such as the ISTAF SuperSeries, theISTAF World Cup and the King’s Cup World Championships are held every year. Sepak Takraw is now a regular sport event in the Asian Games and the Southeast Asian Games.

Brief Introduction of the rules:

  • There are several forms of the game, but the most popular is the Regu format, where opposing teams of 5 players (3 on-court with 2 substitutes) line up against each other.  The on-court players comprise a Striker, a Server, and a Feeder, each having distinct tactical roles to play during a match, and therefore possessing different playing skill sets [2].
  • Matches comprising 3 Sets each, with the winner of a Match being the first of the two opposing teams to win 2 Sets.  Each Set is played over 21 points. In the event of a score of 20-20, the set shall be won by the side which gets a lead of two (2) points, or when a side reaches twenty-five (25) points, whichever occurs first.
  • Following service of the ball, the opposing team has up to 3 ‘touches’ of the ball to return it across the net.
  • A point is awarded when the ball touches the opposing teams ground.

 

screen-shot-2016-09-21-at-1-56-59-pmField Map Showing The Positions and Player Roles

First impressions before-hand: 

The sport actually incorporates various popularised Western sports, such as hackey sack, volley ball and soccer. Since the game has reportedly been a tradition centuries ago, it is interesting to see the full extent of Western influence that has had an influence on the sports evolution. The fact that the game isn’t only limited to one country, rather all across South East Asia, suggests it has links to various cultural and geographical factors – such as the tropical weather or the body parts used, feet (dirty part of the body in Asia) opposed to hands (symbol of cleanliness in Asia).

Content accessed for this Auto-ethnographic experience:

Similar to last weeks blog (native sport of Bo-taoshi) content has been very easy to access, due to the extensive media coverage of the sport. It is interesting to note that opposed to last weeks blog, Sepak Takraw has been presented in the media without incorporating the terms ‘Obscure’ or ‘Weird Asian Sport’. This could be evident to the sports contagion into the mainstream world.

Photo 1  Photo 2

Video 1 Video 2 Video 3

Video 4 Video 5 Video 6

Video 7 Video 8

My experience of the media content:

  • Traditional ball utilises natural physical elements found in South East Asia, Wood and Bamboo. Meticulously hand crafted, like a piece of art. Photo 1
  • The ball in fact seems to have more of significance than I firstly presumed. Video 6 showcases how the ball could possibility be used as a icon or signal communicating a message relating to the countries culture or religion.
  • Photo 2 shows the limited resources needed to play the game. The net seems to be made with two sticks and a piece of rope.
  • The fact that video 1 shows clips broadcasted on Euro sports is evident of the growth of the game into the Western media.
  • Incredibly athletic, equally flexible and agile. Going to add gymnastics to the combination of sports integrated. “Where aggression meets grace’’ Video 3. Absolutely incredible!
  • Although players most of the time land on their feet, it is interesting to note the hard appearance of the surface. The player’s fall from a substantial distance creates a presumed danger.
  • When you play the footage in slow motion, it looks so artistic – much like a traditional dance routine.
  • Level of presented sponsorship and advertisement suggests how mainstream the game has become.
  • The opening ceremony presented in video 4 showcases how deeply rooted the game connects to culture and religion (traditional Thai dancing).
  • Video 7 to me showcases how the sport connects with family inclusion and community spirit. Although the striker is the youngest player (probably due to age affecting athletic ability) the game appears inviting to young and old.
  • The last video displays the amount of advanced skill needed to excel in the game on a elite level. Very interesting to track the evolution of skill needed in the game, going back generations. Would the players in the 16th century implement front backflip, behind the head kicks like today?

Interpretation of South- Asian sporting culture compared to further research:

Off the basis of this cultural experience, sports native to South-Eastern Asia appear simplistic and resource friendly. The culture of sports is deeply rooted into their respective cultures – that also tie into other social aspects such as religion and education [3]. Today, it is interesting to note that the sports native to countries such as Thailand are now very much part of the growing tourism trade, a industry that showcases Muay Thai, Kite flying and of course Sepal Takraw [4]. Sporting activities of Thais blend well into their agricultural way of life.

Auto ethnographic reflection: 

A aspect that I have taken away from conducting this weeks Auto ethnography relates to the various forms of media content that is openly free for consumption. It is the first time I have included a different media form other than video clips, in this case two picture files, which will further assist in a more well rounded research task.

References:

[1] http://www.takraw-association.org.uk/information/history-sepak-takraw

[2] http://www.sepaktakraw.org/about-istaf/how-to-play-the-game/#!

[3] http://www.columbia.edu/cu/thai/html/tsa_sport.html

[4] http://factsanddetails.com/southeast-asia/Thailand/sub5_8e/entry-3271.html

Autoethnographic Research P.1 – Native Asian Sports: Bo-taoshi (British Bulldog on steroids)

The first sport I will be focusing on in my Autoethnographic research task is a capture-the-flag-like game, played on sports days at schools and defense academies all around Japan. Bo-taoshi is a beautifully dangerous sport consisting of teams up to 150 people (a team has 75 attackers and 75 defenders) with the main goal of toppling the opponents pole. The game was invented in the 1950’s as a way of training new military recruits for war.

Brief Introduction of the rules:  

  • Played on a rectangular field
  • Two poles are placed in direct line with each other. 75 defenders from each team stand around their pole – attempting to stop the 75 opposing attackers from toppling their pole. The methods of stopping the attackers fall upon grappling, tackling or any form of military physical defense.
  • No equipment is used aside from a large wooden pole
  • Shoes are not worn
  • Helmets are encouraged
  • Defensive team wears plain white, and the offensive wears their team colour (red, orange, green or blue).
  • Two teams of 75 players attempt to knock to opposition’s pole to at least a 30° angle towards the ground, in under 3 minutes. [1]

First impressions before-hand: 

Even before viewing content of the sport, I get the sense from reading the rules, Bo-taoshi is very chaotic and hard to control. The fact you have so many people occupying such a little space just screams bone dislocation. Never has color coded uniform been so important in sport –  as otherwise you’d be buying a lot of beers for your team mate you recently knocked out cold. I also understand why the game is employed by military students, as it does sound like a survival of the fittest scenario. For me this is a sport that I would never expect to be regulated in Australia.

download

Content accessed for this Auto-ethnographic experience:

Surprisingly, accessing content online for Bo-taoshi was very easy. It seems that the sport has already made a big splash around the world with many videos and articles showcasing the entertaining game. I will be experiencing this sport through several videos accessed on YouTube.

Video 1 Video 2 Video 3

Video 4 Video 5  Video 6

Video 7

My experience of the media content: 

  • First thing that hits me instantly is the level of noise. Shouting, screaming blaring from the participants as they grapple and tackle each other. This is spurred on by the crowds synchronized  chanting – so chaotically ruthless yet systematically controlled.
  • How fast it goes from zero the hundred. Sound of the gun signalling war evident in all videos.
  • Kids laughter, evident that the game has been culturally indented as a family sport. All videos take place as a daytime family event.
  • All sense of human morals are thrown out the window, stepping on each other, hurling them selves over people. Kicking the other members.
  • This is like my childhood game ‘British Bulldog’ – but on steroids.
  • In Video 2 , when the whistle is blown after the time limit expires, the match is called a draw. I feel a overwhelming sense of futility, as all this warrior like efforts amount to nothing.  Hands raised after the match also signifies a surrender in battle – also evident in Video 2.
  • Signal of bowing beforehand, represents the importance of respect in Japanese culture. Also evident in most martial arts.
  • Both teams also present some sort of ceremony or dance before the match. This consists of jumping, hand movements and vocal screaming. Can only assume it is a representation of a teams desire to win, much like a Haka in Polynesian rugby. Evident from Video 3.
  • No real sense of self-care. People place themselves in imminent danger; such as the men who remain crouched on the ground that hold the poles up and the 3 or 4 men standing at the top of the pole.
  • No identifying features on the uniform. Juxtaposed to western sports were each player has a number or name on the jerseys. Might relate to the notion of equality in Japanese sport. No individual scoring whatsoever, either the team wins or the team loses, there’s no way to distinguish yourself other than that.
  • Video 4 showcases a halftime like show of military planes dropping parachutes and a gun toting presentation. Adds to the atmosphere of a rally for the Japanese army. Almost to the point of propaganda .

    maxresdefault

    Gun toting show at the event

Interpretation of Japanese sporting culture compared to further research:

A lot of pride in these young men participating in the game. They are representing their battalions, so winning is of up-most importance. This can account to most of the aggression and violence. Recently, schools have prohibited punching and kicking as a way to crack down on the violence in the sport. However it seems that this is more of a battle than a sport. I get a sense that Bo-taoshi relates to the very traditional nature ingrained in Japanese sports. The presentation of ceremonies and cultural signifies (such as bowing) add to the notion of heritage and cultural routine. From further research, it appears sport plays a significant part in the fabric of modern day Japanese life. From a young age children join school teams, instilling a sense of camaraderie, character, pride, hard work and dedication [2]. Respecting your opponent is another aspect reoccurring through further research. Other sports native to Japan  such as: Karate, Sumo Wrestling and Kendo all require a great showcase of respect to your opponent. You know the saying ‘its more than just a game’? Well in the Japanese sporting culture – this takes a literal sense.

Autoethnographic reflection:

For me, ethnographers are like sponges. Observation through all your senses account for everything. Since you approach the experience with a totally open mind with a desire to soak up the cultural juices of another nation, ‘signifiers’ play a huge role in cultural interpretation.

Next time I will be looking at my second sport: Sepak Takraw; a sport native to South-East Asia.

References:

[1] https://prezi.com/bis0gdx8uynn/bo-taoshi/

 

[2] https://www.insidejapantours.com/japanese-culture/sports/

Mistakes are a fundamental basis of learning

Let’s take a look at some of my different understandings based on the contextual account that introduced the research task in week 5.  From my first initial blog post focusing on the autoethnographic research into native Asian sports, it is clear some perceptions and  my individual thought process have changed based from further research into the understanding of ‘native sports’ and the procedures involved when conducting a successful autoethnography. This involves the reasoning of why native sports are more than just sports in some countries and why mainstreaming these sports might remove all cultural importance. The methodology of my research task will also be altered in the best interests of producing an improved autoethnography.

Throughout the initial blog, the word ‘obscure’ is repeated several times. However it should be said that this term shouldn’t be used loosely in a broad manner. The word shouldn’t be universally attached to these native sports as it is only considered obscure through my culturally different lens. They don’t fall into a category labelled ‘obscure’. They are only considered obscure dependent on that person’s familiarity of the sport and that national culture. A native sport is considered to be an intrinsic part of the culture of a nation. It is something much beyond materialistic value. These sports connect to a countries tradition. They do not have to be necessarily the most played or most followed sport, rather they are widely considered to be important to the country or significant for its culture.

I would also like to retract my comment about the interests of bringing some of these native sports into the mainstream light – on the main stage of the Olympics.

Original statement: “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?”

When you globalize a particular sport that holds such a significant value to a nation’s traditional ethos, that sport can risk losing its cultural authenticity. ‘’Traditional and popular culture is increasingly seen as a fruitful raw material for the development of events. Existing celebrations are extended and repackaged, and new ‘traditions’ are created to develop tourism demand.’’ –  Greg Richards [1]

Imagine replicating the Japanese Onbashira festival in other nations on an annual basis. The value of the festival will be lost as will the uniqueness of Japans festival culture.

When looking at my methodology and the processes I have outlined to conduct this autoethnographic study, some changes relating to the timing of my text consumption need to be altered – in order to improve my overall experience and the quality of the product. This means instead of experiencing each sport individually within a few hours, I will extend this time period into a weekly thing, perhaps viewing two sports a week. This allows for more research time and a deeper focus on each individual sport. Autoethnographies are easier said than done. They are a time-consuming, resource-intensive, lengthy procedure and there’s no way around it, so spreading out the level of consumption will no doubt benefit this process. After a while of contemplating to increase the number of sports from 5 to 10+, I have chosen to stick with the original number as their needs to be a fine line between the level of content and quality. Basically, an over emphasis on content – in this case the number of sports chosen to study – the quality has the potential to decrease due to time constraints of the task.

As a whole I am pleased with the sports chosen as they all bring something culturally unique about their particular nation. The more I blog about experiences and how I understand particular cultures, my understanding of the autoethnographic method of research continually improves. This form of reflective writing assists the overall process. Mistakes are a fundamental basis of learning and practice forms the basis of success.

Exploring native Asian sports

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:

 Bo Taoshi

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.

Sepak Takraw

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.

Bokh

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.

Onbashira

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.

Mallakhamb

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?

 

References-

Bo taoshi–  http://www.mnn.com/health/fitness-well-being/blogs/bo-taoshi-exploring-the-beautifully-dangerous-sport-of-pole-toppling

Onbashirahttp://www.thisiscolossal.com/2016/05/onbashira-log-moving-festival/

Bokhhttp://kaleidoscope.cultural-china.com/en/142Kaleidoscope302.html

Sepak-Takrawhttp://www.sepaktakraw.org/about-istaf/how-to-play-the-game/

Mallakhambhttp://sports.indiapress.org/mallakhamb.php

 

 

The concept of Authoethnograhic research re-visited

Conducting an Autoethnography always leads to the feeling that particular culture systems just ooze endless amounts of knowledge and we realize how much more there is to know. It is also appropriate to recognize that every ethnographic description is partial, incomplete and always in need of further revision [1]. Revisiting week one’s blog about my personal understanding of the concept of Autoethnography – although I received no feedback or suggestions – some minor adjustments can be made when translating my experience of both Asian texts (State of Play & Gorija) in a way that enables me to fully communicate the cultural meanings discovered to readers who are unfamiliar with that cultural scene.

One crucial thing all ethnographers need to consider while writing an experience-based text is the importance of coming to understand the perspectives of the people being studied, and their reasoning behind the actions and activities they adopt. [2]

In my blog, I wrote a lot about the differences of perspectives and values between generations within the Asian culture – purposely avoiding the comparison of American and Asian traditions (to an extent). When I recount my observation of the film Gorija, I mentioned that the cultural similarities between the Japanese elders and their younger generation were somehow lost in a gap filled with altering perceptions and beliefs. I also wrote about my observation of e-sports champion Park Yo Han and his struggle to convince his family members about the legitimacy of playing Warcraft as a job. However these are both just observations and nothing else. For a Autoethnography to work, I need to delve into the reasoning’s behind their altering perspectives and why these certain things happen- then contrast the findings to my own culture and further discuss why a difference exists. Further research suggests that the Generation Gap is a more global phenomenon, heavily impacting Asia due to the impact of traditional culture with a new global culture. The result is that young people are bridging the gap and thus creating a palpable generation gap, which far exceeds those in developed countries.

Another noteworthy thing I would of liked to add to my original post was the importance of English subtitles in Gorija. The aspect of relating foreign cultures to your own culture is fundamental in the process of autoethnographic experiences. Without the subtitles, it would have been near impossible to achieve this.

Furthermore, going into future ethnographic experiences with a more open mind will no doubt broaden the capacity of knowledge – more so than assuming you know all that there is to know. Knowing a little bit about Asian cultures already I was guilty of going into Gojira with assumptions, as I have already watched the original movie a few times. However with the principles learnt through the research method of Autoethnographys, no such assumptions will exist in future experiences.

 

 

Sources:

[1] http://www.bethelcollege.edu/users/blowers/Writing%20an%20Ethnography.htm

 

 

[2]

https://www.google.com.au/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&ved=0ahUKEwjM6rPvx9HOAhXFmJQKHZ9JBgwQFggxMAI&url=http%3A%2F%2Feprints.ncrm.ac.uk%2F28%2F1%2F20.01.05EthnographySeminar-EthnographyProblemsandProspects.doc&usg=AFQjCNFGPtTW0gEv8ICujUWTtzBtv2EsmQ

 

“We don’t really play for fun. Mostly, we play for work”.

The notion of the term Autoethnography relates to my personal interests in studying the differences or similarities within different cultures, particular in the film industry. It is clear a cultural bridge still needs to be formed between different nations and the research methods and processes involved in Autoethnography builds a perfect foundation to achieve this goal. It’s funny how upon searching the subjects second research movie ‘State of play’, the results return a thriller/drama from 2009 starring Russel Crowe. Although both texts have the same title, it isn’t until you write the words ‘Korean Movie’ afterwards will you find the correct film.  Ellis, et al. 2004 understands this method as the removal of one’s self form their comfort zones and analyzing the experiences within different cultures through your own traditional lenses and using this as a tool of research. This means that although a language barrier may exist, the experiences and accounts gained while being engaged and involved in diverse practices also become the end product. This relates to the analyzation of the 1954 classic film ‘Gojira’. The entire movie contained no English bar the subtitles, but when you engage yourself with foreign content, you broaden your horizons – opening up your mind into an entirely different world.

Whilst watching ‘Gojira’, it becomes very easy to draw dissimilarities when comparing the culture against the typical 50’s films enjoyed in the western hemisphere. The same can be said with the South Korean film ‘State of Play’ which follows the manic nature of computer gaming as a sport in a way that some western cultures might find taboo. But what was interesting in both movies were the differences in the traditionalism and social interests found within both Asian cultures, depending on the age group they belonged to. For example, the cultural similarities between the Japanese elders and their younger generation were somehow lost in a gap filled with altering perceptions and beliefs. This was evident in the different methods in how the traditional tribe’s people dealt with the large beast, as the younger generation had no interest in the almost comical practices of human sacrifices. It’s almost as if the film conveys the negative vicissitudes resulting from cultural change and their lasting impacts – just like how the movie in context can also be viewed as a possible warning to future generations about the dangers surrounding nuclear weapons.

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Fast forward 60 years later and the same cultural variances in different generations still exist in the 2013 Korean film  ‘State of Play’, as the young Korean gamers struggle to convince their elders about the legitimacy of professional gaming. Although eSports champion Park Yo Han earns a steady salary and appears comparably rich to his father and uncles, they fail to understand the culture of online gaming, and reject the notion that playing Warcraft is a job. This is particularly amplified when one of Yo Hans uncle satirically mentions he should retire at the age of 28.

sos_topearner_01

“We don’t really play for fun. Mostly, we play for work. It’s the same for other jobs where you have to survive in competition. This work just happens to be a game”. – Park Yo Han.