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Societies 2018, 8(3), 80;

Conditioning Weapons: Ethnography of the Practice of Martial Arts Training

Department of Social and Political Sciences, State University of Milan, 20122 Milan, Italy
Received: 17 July 2018 / Revised: 31 August 2018 / Accepted: 5 September 2018 / Published: 9 September 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Physical Culture)
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Drawing on the inspiring work by Wacquant about apprenticeship in boxing, I present data generated from a five-year ethnographic study of one Wushu Kung Fu Association in Italy. Drawing on a Bourdieusian version of theories of social practice, the aim is to investigate in depth the relationship between habitus and materials, as it seems an underestimated issue both in Wacquant’s presentation and in most martial arts studies developed from his work. The aim is to explore the relationship between the practitioner and the set of weapons—a chief part of the martial art training—as an endless work of conditioning. To this aim, according to what Wacquant calls “enactive ethnography”, I completely immersed myself inside the fieldwork in order to be able to explore the phenomenon and to personally test its operative mechanism. The challenge here is to enter the theatre of action and, to the highest degree possible, train in the ways of the people studied so as to gain a visceral apprehension of their universe as materials and springboard for its analytic reconstruction. Drawing on the difference between the cognitive, conative, and emotive components of habitus through which, according to Bourdieu, social agents navigate social space and animate their lived world, I show how conditioning works not only on the conative or cognitive components (learning techniques and incorporating kinetic schemes), but how a deeper psychological form of conditioning also comes into play, which aims to neutralize the shock due to the fear generated by the threat of a contusion. It is at this point, therefore, that the affective component of the habitus becomes crucial in constructing a sort of intimacy bond with the tool. The detectable transformation in the habitus of the practitioner, eventually, can be deciphered, starting from the characteristics of the tool that produces, in the ways and limits given by its material features, such a transformation. In the end, I stress the relevance of recognizing the active role of objects in transforming the habitus and I briefly discuss the potentiality of enactive ethnography in analyzing social practices. View Full-Text
Keywords: habitus; theories of practice; enactive ethnography; martial arts studies; Wushu kung fu habitus; theories of practice; enactive ethnography; martial arts studies; Wushu kung fu
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Domaneschi, L. Conditioning Weapons: Ethnography of the Practice of Martial Arts Training. Societies 2018, 8, 80.

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