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Martial Arts Studies Research Network

The Martial Arts Studies Research Network connects disciplinary and cultural discourses on martial arts.

Project details

The primary objective of the Martial Arts Studies Research Network is to connect up disconnected disciplinary and cultural discourses on martial arts by fostering dialogue through cross-disciplinary events. In connecting and engaging diverse researchers, the network will develop knowledge of the significance and impact of martial arts in the contemporary world and set the agenda for future research in the interlocking multidisciplinary fields around them.

Over a period of 24 months, a series of UK seminars will take place on key questions. Events will be held in institutions where there is ongoing research into related areas. The calendar of events is below:

June 2015

Martial Arts Studies Conference (Cardiff University).

5 February 2015

Martial Arts and Gender (Brighton).

The first networking event will focus on fundamental and abiding concerns and questions that circulate in both academic and cultural debates about martial arts. Academics, artists and activists will discuss and explore the significance of martial arts and gender, particularly in Britain, asking how they advance, challenge, contribute to and interact with our understanding of gender politics.

TBC 2016

Martial Arts Literature, Drama & Film (Birmingham).

This networking event will focus on the relationships between martial arts practice and the cultural frames and ideas erected by martial arts literature, film and other forms of drama. Martial arts drama has long influenced ideas about martial arts per se, and continues to do so. Accordingly, this event asks what influence such literature and film has on martial arts practices, and vice versa.

TBC 2016

Martial Arts, Media and Multimedia (Winchester).

This event will explore not only traditional media but martial arts from the earliest to the most recent computer and app games on tablets and smartphones, as well as social media, such as instructional films on YouTube, web media, martial arts magazines, marketing, documentaries, TV series, reality shows and the media economics of the UFC and other MMA competitions. It enquires into the place of martial arts in all manner of media and asks how martial arts and media are interrelated.

July 2016

Martial Arts Studies Conference (Cardiff).

Register here.

TBC 2016

Martial Cultures (Royal Armouries, Leeds).

The Royal Armouries in Leeds will host an event that exposes a range of martial cultures (from historical martial arts to classical and contemporary self-defence) to the scrutiny of contemporary cross-disciplinary debates about historiography, representation, and curating.

TBC 2017

Martial Arts in the Age of Mindfulness and Master Ken (SOAS).

Taking place in the School of Oriental and African Studies, Professor Stephen Chan OBE will host this event, which explores the global circulation of martial arts in the ‘age’ of the internet TV comedy character ‘Master Ken’, whose conflicted relationship to ‘traditional’ and ‘Asian’ martial arts is at once a key source of comedy and also indicative of major transformations in contemporary martial arts ideologies. The event will enquire into the status of such older problematics as ‘orientalism’ and such new developments as medical and therapeutic research into ‘Eastern’ martial arts.

June 2017

Martial Arts Studies Conference (Cardiff).

TBC 2017

Martial Arts Diasporas (Middlesex).

The Diasporas Research Cluster at Middlesex University will host this network event, which explores martial arts in terms of the themes and insights of diaspora research, and vice versa. It will examine the relations between martial arts, diasporas, and the social and cultural effects of their relationships.

Research output

  • Individual journal articles and book chapters
  • Edited issues of the open access journal Martial Arts Studies
  • Research monographs in the Martial Arts Studies Book Series (Rowman & Littlefield International)

Research impact

The Martial Arts Studies Research Network seeks to impact upon martial arts knowledge, pedagogy, practice and policies, in relation to education, therapy, clinical practice, social work, and multiculturalism.

The project team

Grant holder

Paul Bowman

Professor Paul Bowman

Deputy Head of School and Professor of Cultural Studies


This research was made possible through the support of the following organisations: