The physicality of Asian MMA was something that intrigued me. After conducting secondary research on films using a variety of MMA elements I could’ve continued to look at exisiting works of mixed martial arts and document my thoughts however I wanted to create a closer relationship to the art itself, and pick one of them to study and physically understand. To ask questions like what elements of the body contribute to such a complex art that i don’t know much about .
So I decided to engaged in some basic Tai Chi movements so i could physically understand the complexities of it. Coming from a western cultural background with no training in the art. The closest thing I could relate it to is western styled dance I engaged in growing up (However i have been out of practice for quite some time.)
The series of youtube video’s i used to teach myself were of Chinese heritage with an American instructor. Everything from the sound effects, background imagery and tone of voice were calming and fairly monotoned. It created an atmosphere of relaxation. This was actually quite a nice change in comparison to watching films about MMA, i was immersive in the art itself.
Taiji Zen https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCM0r0a7_dI2N2PGfUcXbRtA
When starting the movements i was terribly wobbly, imbalanced and my arms continued to shake when placed in particular ways. As you can see within the video I am struggling to gain any fluidity with the movements, which when looking at professional Tai Chi artists they are slow mobile and fluid.
They reiterated the importance of energy, space and time. That on top of remembering to keep my posture correct, referring back to the videos, and continuing the hand and eye coordination, i was consistently pulled in multiple directions. But i continued to repeat the steps and overtime found my balance. It was satisfying relaxing and i could feel the energy.
Within the video i created apart of my digital artefact, i also included a small audio piece and some text to give the movements i was doing some context. The more i research into this art, the more i am discovering how complex and deeply engrained all of this art is within the asian culture. This primary research gave me a much better idea of the technique style and physical pressures those that engage in the art must deal with it. It must be perfected over many years.
Burns J, 1993 ‘WHY PRACTICE TAI CHI, Health in Harmony’ Herald Sun, 13th December pp. 1
Taiji Zen Online Academy, 2014 Taiji Zen https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCM0r0a7_dI2N2PGfUcXbRtA viewed: 10th Octover 2017
I grew up being pretty health conscious, active and engaging in multiple forms of physical activity through school sports programs and outside of school. After continuing to research Asian MMA and stunt culture I am discovering that I do have connections to the sport, however, I lack the deep cultural understanding, and my research at this point has been surfing the web, which has been helpful but I want to make a more authentic connection to what I am researching. In regards to making an empathetic connection, I can appreciate the importance of the sports and how it can influence an individuals lifestyle and professional career. I want to make sense of this Asian cultural sport as best I can. I have never experienced any MMA or stunt work. Through actively participating in some form of martial arts, I will be able to partake in an unfiltered experience drawing on knowledge from the teachers. This field work of participant observation forces me to step out of my comfort zone and immerse myself into the culture. Kawulich states “Participant observation is the process enabling researchers to learn about the activities of the people under study in t he natural setting through observing and participating in those activities”. (Kawulich, 2005)
While watching Rush hour (1998), see the last blog post… I was drawn to the humour and the slapstick style of comedy, as I have been influenced by western American cinema. this may have been something I could relate to, too much. So, I feel I must continue to engage with Asian platforms media and texts that include any stunt culture or MMA to continue experiencing revelations, and learn about the cultural aspect away from any supporting western media. This will include Anime (see below snippet of Baki the Grappler) and current films in animation such as (Kung Fu Panda). I can feel my perspective shift and have epiphanies arise as “Kung Fu advocates virtue and peace, not aggression or violence.”
As I learn about the historical side of the Asian MMA culture, it provides a cultural framework and foundation for me to analyse Asian texts. ‘A researcher decides who, what when, where and how to research, decisions necessarily tied to institutional requirements.‘ (Ellis 2011.) I am aware that the structural research decisions I make are directly linked to the interest of mine or things I can empathise with.
As I stated above I have limited understanding of Asian entertainment media and I do struggle to resonate with anything than universal human emotions in these shows, as values language and social norms are all very foreign to me I can occasionally feel displaced and uncomfortable in that setting. However, I understand the critical importance of
“the influence of Dragon Ball Z is more prevalent than ever. UFC bantamweight Marcus Brimage, for example, who was faced with the tall tasks of welcoming Cody Garbrandt and Conor McGregor to the organization, is an avid fan of the show and has cited it as one of his primary reasons for pursuing the sport. ”
I also need to look how the rise of social media and the internet has allowed Asian forms of MMA such as Kung Fu, Thai chi and taekwondo influence western culture and…
I kept noticing how anime portrays the male body of and masculinity, this should undoubtedly influence Asian perspectives of what is considered to be attractive and healthy.
Conversations regarding this masculinity are sustained online due to this pop culture conditioning. ‘Since sophomore year in HS, my fitness regimen has been inspired by the Dragon, Bruce Lee. This was partly because I’m too shy to work out in gyms, but the convenience of callisthenics is also appealing.’To platforms such as Reddit and fan fiction where fans can discuss evaluate character decisions.
So I had an epiphany on what I should do for my artefact… Hong Kong/Asian stunt culture and martial arts! Basically, because Bruce Lee is a legend and I get to watch Rush Hour again. However, I need to refine if its Asian stunt culture in general or Hong Kong stunt culture, as I am finding a lot Asian mixed martial arts crossing over from different countries. (I want to research into this component as well; the potential research could be: How there is this spread of culture shared by so many countries.)
I found a fantastic Reddit thread about Asian American identity and how this influences how individuals cater their health and fitness towards a cultural avenue.
This sparked my interest, as I can conduct a bit of a cross cultural examination of Hong Kong and Asian influence on American cinema. I then decided to watch a film that incorporates MMA and cinema as my digital component. I chose Rush Hour (1998). I decided to live tweet as I was watching my reactions. This directly links to my experience while watching the film, I feel I need to do this with at least a few movies so I can gain some primary research regarding my experience and especially how it shifts as I research and understand more about the topic – and it also directly connects to Ellis’ definition of narrative autoethnography:
Narrative ethnographies refer to texts presented in the form of stories that incorporate the ethnographer’s experiences into the ethnographic descriptions and analysis of others. Here the emphasis is on the ethnographic study of others, which is accomplished partly by attending to encounters between the narrator and members of the groups being studied (TEDLOCK, 1991), and the narrative often intersects with analyses of patterns and processes.  (Ellis, 2011)
I feel like I took a very cinematic perspective to the film. I automatically started a comparison between American and Hong Kong culture. This could be due to my lack of understanding in Hong Kong martial arts in cinema, and I automatically create connections with what I am comfortable with. It’s important that I clarify potential bias in order to stay transparent to audiences, and I feel while watching Rush Hour (1998). It may have turned into watching for entertainment purposes, I forgot to live tweet purely because I was enjoying myself so much. I found the same thing with action comedy movies they suck you in. For the next movie, I watch im going to try and keep that barrier up and analyse and see what I pick up on.
I then want to compare the film with an older traditional style of film with Bruce Lee in it. And I want to go and experience some martial arts training myself.
Next, I will be looking at how animation has taken martial arts and stunts and research further into that. Watching Kung Fu Panda 2008, and how animation has changed the face of martial arts and stunts. The animation is constantly pushing digital boundaries and is constantly developing and creating a timeless cultural connection between cinema culture and martial arts. The CNN video, allowed me to understand how deeply and culturally rooted MMA and stunts are in Hong Kong entertainment and society. It’s a complex sport that requires precision and acting something i wouldn’t have associated with Hong Kong cinema previously.
Cinema isn’t the only digital means we are seeing MMA in, we can also find direct links between Martial arts and anime. “The martial arts were a central foundation of this iconic anime series. From Master Roshi’s Turtle School, where Goku and many of his compatriots received their martial arts training, to the World Martial Arts Tournament with which the show’s final saga began, Dragon Ball Z was steeped in martial arts culture. Yet the relationship between Dragon Ball Z and the martial arts has been a reciprocal one.” …. Just as martial arts provided the backbone of this beloved show, the show has, in turn, influenced throngs of young people to explore the martial arts, eager to harness their inner Goku, put in some work in the gym, and become the world’s strongest fighter. Some of these DBZ-inspired young people evolved into heroes of the MMA world.
I want to research more into animation, and how stunt culture is still extremely relevant to Asian entertainment and society due to its cultural and religious roots. As I become more educated on the topic I want my perspective to shift, to be able to analyse the trends and processes surrounding this mass distribution of stunt and MMA film nationally and why it is also so successful internationally.
Akira is a cyber punk animation set in a Japanese future called ‘Neo Tokyo’. It hinges on a dystopian WWIII future in 2019, where the city is experiencing the aftermath of the atomic bomb and there are chaos and corruption everywhere.
After the past 3 weeks of watching Asian films, I was expecting a slow-paced animation with dated special effects. I don’t think I could’ve been more wrong. Within the first 3 minutes, I was hooked! It was fast paced, I could keep up with the narrative even with subtitles (I started watching the film in Japanese at home…), the music was captivating and there were graphic scenes you just couldn’t turn away from. What struck me the most was the use of colour in the film. It used 327 different colours, which is a record for animated films. 50 of those colours were exclusively created for the film. From the neon lights and futuristic stylised city, the animation is cinematically captivating.
Power and control are reoccurring themes within Akira and the ongoing battle between uprising rebel groups such as the bikie gang and the clowns and the corrupt government controlling the city. The colour red is also critical to the film, as I can find clear associations between the properties of the colour and power, destruction, violence colour. Healy (2017) states on the Odyssey online that the colour red is also associated with a few key characters e.g. Keneda He wears the colour red because of his influence on his gang and performance as the gang leader, The colour red had more obvious connotations, as there were multiple graphic scenes of blood loss, fire, red smoke and red light tints over the whole screen. I also saw a lot of the colour green and made connections between a technological age being green. With the colour being produced in a lot of the experimental scenes.
The catastrophic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with 214,000 deaths in total, is the force behind the narrative. I didn’t know much about the bombings, so I researched and came across the website http://hiroshima.australiandoctor.com.au/ It had personal accounts of victims (see images below), I got shivers just reading it.
Emotions of grief, devastation, psychological and mental struggles are not culturally isolated. It is part of the human condition and that’s what director Katsuhiro Otomo communicates so well through the animation. This is why Akira is such a classic animation as it explores universal human pain that anyone can resonate with and themes that are cross cultural.
Another aspect of the film I wanted to delve into was the legacy of the sci-fi dystopian genre it created and inspired with other films we regard as the western pop culture. The Themes we see in Akira all stem from this aftermath of tragedy from the bombing. The devastating after-effects – orphaned kids, radiation sickness, a loss of national independence, the destruction of nature – would also influence the genre, giving rise to a unique (and arguably incomparable) form of comics and animated film. It turned into its own genre and left a legacy of incredible films. I noticed elements that The Matrix took (capsule, NEO!?), Hunger Games, Stranger things? Stronger: Kanye West (medical pod being examined), same as Passenger! Blade runner (flickering of lights), Tron: The bikes from Akira, the list goes on… Learning point: there is no ‘originality’ in any cinema, film, or art. There are always borrowed ideas. It is just a matter of re-interpretation. Or how you can remix it in a novel way.
State of Play (2013) takes us on a journey through the lives of South Korean pro gamers, the film sheds a new perspective on a pop culture often overlooked in western media. The director Steven Dhoedt has gone on an autoethnographic journey, creating a new foundation of knowledge surrounding the sport. We can see this through a series of answers he provides on an online Reddit forum
He draws attention to the cultural differences which create a trustworthy transparency to his work and notes the experiences he has had with East-Asia, which would develop a framework of knowledge influencing the style of documentary. We can see how his perspective shifts and he wants to portray these gamers in a raw reliable light.
Aslops Journal article delved into The Cultural Psychological Meanings of Home and Away with the emphasis on understanding one’s cultural background, and if that person is placed into a new cultural setting, we cannot interpret what is presented to us. We lack a historical foundation of experience. ‘the foreign lacks the inner template home provides’. (Aslop, 2002)
After watching the film I was very much drawn to the director’s relationship with pro gaming as he is not South Korean but from Belguim. This quote from the reading also resonates with me and I think drives Steven’s work to better understand different aspects of our world, and how international popular culture shapes our society as a whole not just nationally.
At the beginning of the documentary I immediately thought the players would be participating in some sort of physical sporting event, the music, voiceover and crowds, alluded to some sort of competition, but due to my learned social characterstics gaming was not even an option. E- sports aligns to a physical professional sport in South Korea, with fans and celebrity status“Enjoying rock star status with hordes of adoring fans, professional gamers are national celebrities in South Korea.”. And the clear focus on the individual journey, s a good way to establish a connection to the sport internationally; State of Play depicts a journey of victory but also of defeat, of hardships but also of friendships.
E-sports challenges traditional South Korean culture, however, the same values are applied as we see in the documentary, these kids are pushed by coaches and parents, and must also excel in school. It is a highly competitive society, and the audience pushing these kids to be the very best pro gamer.
The documentary portrays Korea in this cross roads of traditional culture and technological convergence. There is this tug of war between a traditional South Korean upbringing and new technological career pathway, that is forming our future, the rise of gaming culture and the professional status and passion these players have reinforces the seriousness of the sport, something that is extremely foreign to me. Every aspect of life in South Korea South Korea is a country that aims high. It’s a country in full development that wants to prove itself on all levels – technologically, economically and politically. (Al Jazeera)
I don’t know anything about Japanese Kaiju so my perspective is as an outsider looking into the incredibly successful Japanese genre with nothing but a potentially negative experience as a child. As I have grown up I’ve come to appreciate different cultural films and I’m intrigued to see how my autoethnographic study surrounding the film in class will shape my perspective and research.