The emerging fields of inquiry in martial arts studies are influenced by a small group of martial arts scholars. Currently, the most referenced in the field are Paul Bowman & Benjamin Judkins (2017), Douglas Farrer (2018), David Jones (2016), and Julian Fuller (1988), who have made contributions to martial arts studies via the fields of anthropology and social psychology. Farrer argues that martial arts can communicate to specialist and non-specialist readers a way of understanding culture and history through practice (2018), while Fuller suggests that practitioners of martial arts can attain psychotherapeutic change and increased wellbeing (1988). In addition, martial arts have been attributed to increased self-confidence and lowered levels of aggression (Habkirk, 2016), promoting temperance, overall health (Croom, 2014), while becoming more accepted as an expression of cultural identity (Bowman, 2017). These academic contributions to martial arts studies are commendable but there remains limited data and research dedicated to interrogating the relationship between pedagogy, wellbeing and embodiment experienced by practitioners of martial arts. To date, social psychology and cultural studies have mostly revealed positive links between the practice of martial arts to self-efficacy, motivation, goal setting, and self-care (Vertonghen and Theeboom, 2010). So, in building upon this notion of improved wellbeing, analysing the experience being undertaken in the dojo (studio), I intend for this research project to interrogate the liminal space of skill acquisition to discover the implicit meaning behind the performance of techniques that lead to the understanding of wellbeing. That space is best described by Victor Turner as ‘betwixt and between’ (1979, p.234), which is relevant to martial artists in several ways: 1) moving from layperson to becoming a practitioner, 2) apprenticing as neophyte to expert, and 3) transforming from student to teacher. Brazilian jiu jitsu as pedagogy, and being a sub-field of martial arts, will provide for me a practical focus of embodied practice investigating this link between the training of techniques to wellbeing. The explicit focus will be skill acquisition with the intention of discovering the implicit meaning that is possibly linked to wellbeing as the result of training.
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