From Kata to Contemplative Practices: Transformations within Martial and Theatrical Arts in Contemporary China and Japan

Title: 1152 | From Kata to Contemplative Practices: Transformations within Martial and Theatrical Arts in Contemporary China and Japan
Area: Northeast Asia
Stream: Performing Arts
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Magali Bugne, Strasbourg University, France (organizer, discussant)
Shigemi Inaga, International Research Center for Japanese Studies, Japan (chair)
Mika Imono, International Research Center for Japanese Studies, Japan (presenter)
Sylvie Beaud, Teikyo University, Japan (presenter)
Zhanyu Liu, University of Tsukuba, Japan (presenter)


This panel aims at understanding the relationships between traditional martial and theatrical arts training and the recent development of contemplative practices in contemporary China and Japan.
Martial arts and classical theatrical practices are traditionally based on prearranged sequences of movements called kata. For the practitioners, the repetition of these movements constitutes a way to improve their skills as well as a path towards the realization of a higher level of consciousness. In recent years, we observed a transformation of these traditional practices, along with the evolution of contemporary societies and broader transnational influences. In order to further our understanding of this transformations, this panel will focus on specific case studies analyzing the transformations within Japan traditional theater, Chinese martial arts as well as the recent development of “Contemplative Theater” in Japan. How do these innovative changes affect the practitioners and the practices themselves? What do these diverse set of practices have in common? Moreover, what does this all mean for research and the delimitation of field studies?
This panel of young researchers and early career scholars shall take up with these questions relying on fieldwork and first-hand data. While this panel will mostly focus on Chinese and Japanese case studies, participants will adopt a global approach. In doing so, we hope to promote comparison among panelists as well as to encourage discussion with specialists from various areas.

Panel Abstracts:
How to Make Progress in the Practice of Kata
This presentation aims to clarify how we can make progress in the practice of Kata in Japanese body techniques.The practice of Kata is concerned with both physical and mental progress (Minamoto, 1989). It aims to be able to “work with the utmost intensity and lucidity” (Izutsu, 1982; Nishihira, 2014). How should a learner come to this state of consciousness? Lots of studies state that there is a special moment where a learner suddenly comes to understand what he did not understand until then. How, then, can we have this moment of realization? Some say that there are techniques that can allow us to have this moment (Nishihira, 2009), while others claim that there is nothing, we can do but wait for it. However, even if the learner is unconscious about the techniques, but believes that he is waiting for the moment, then the truth is that he is still searching for it instead of biding his time. This presentation aims to demonstrate that there is, in fact, an active way of waiting.The study will analyze interviews conducted with Noh dancers and practitioners of Yagyū Shinkage-ryū, because they both practice Kata. I will focus on the relationship between tacit body knowledge (Polanyi, 1966) and conscious effort (whether marginal, or not), and will aim to clarify how these techniques contribute to having this moment of realization in a particular environment.

The Body Knows: An Anthropological Study of "Contemplative Theatre" in Contemporary Japan
“Contemplative theater” refers to a set of body and mind workshops co-organized by a mindfulness practitioner and anthropologist, a psychologist specializing in naikan –a Buddhist form of introspection–, and a comedian. “Contemplative” relates to the wider transnational field of contemplative studies, which are particularly developed in the United States and in Great Britain, and which purpose is to integrate the body, mind and soul in learning and in research. The organizers have, in fact, all been trained abroad and aim at developing a Japanese version of contemplative learning practices. Interestingly, not only individuals but also companies and institutions sign in for contemplative theater’s workshops as part of innovative management techniques/educational programs. My presentation will explore one of the premises on which the workshops are based: “While modern education has tended to focus on acquiring facts and knowledge from the 'outside' and to then analyze, contemplative learning emphasizes looking and listening to what is already 'within' us”. In other words: the body knows. Knowledge (which one? What kind of knowledge? How does it serve the participants’ daily lives?) is within us and the “contemplative theatre” workshops are meant to help the participants access to it. How do the workshops achieve to do so? To what extent the participants are transformed by the experience? By conducting a detailed analysis of the activities organized during the workshops, my presentation shall provide an understanding of how the body is seen, moved and sought for, in Japanese innovative educational and corporate circles.

Why Does the Value Orientation of Wushu Needs to Be Rebuilt Urgently? - From the Perspective of Cultural Philosophy of Intimacy/integrity
This study is inspired by the event of folk fight between Mixed Martial Arts and Taijiquan took place in 2017. This incident has made Wushu receive extensive attention from the whole of Chinese society; and triggered a heated discussion in recent years after the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in China. In this study, I address the following assumptions and questions. The value orientation of body techniques is undergoing an unprecedented change. For instance, Chinese Wushu no longer appeared as killing techniques of the body, it has been widely regarded as national traditional body techniques with aesthetic characteristics in modern era. So how should we define Wushu in contemporary society? What changes have taken place in the value orientation of Wushu from early modern to modern. In response, I will select three Chinese martial arts systems that had been built in early modern and compare them with Wushu. Secondly, what kind of modern crisis is Wushu facing? The occurrence of the event of folk fight shows that the modern value orientation of Wushu has not yet been recognized by the public. Finally, why does the value orientation of Wushu needs to be rebuilt urgently through the perspective of cultural orientations of Intimacy/Integrity. How did Intimacy/Integrity of Wushu work? I will interpret it through the theory of sociology of the body

This panel is on Wednesday - Session 05 - Room 8

Go to Room 8