Kung Fu is Inside the Body: A Phenomenological Inquiry into Cultivating Martial Art Practices
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The purpose of this phenomenological inquiry was to explore the meaning-making and cultivation of Kung Fu within a martial arts club. The inquiry focused specifically on the teachings of Grandmaster Qing Fu Pan, and how these teachings are cultivated and embodied by his students on their path toward transformation of being. Phenomenology was used as both a philosophical orientation and methodology, and Taoist teachings were integrated throughout to add a layer of interpretive understanding. In this dissertation, an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis was used to guide data collection and analysis, involving an abductive process through which analysis of semi-structured interviews and field observations informed the meaning construction process. Participants included Grandmaster Pan and his students. Two core essences describe the depth of the path of the Iron and Silk martial arts of Grandmaster Pan. The first essence—Layers of Knowing: Metaphors for Cultivating and Embodying Iron and Silk—speaks to the cultivation of Iron and Silk as the student engages in the practice of Chinese martial arts training. Within this essence, participants describe their understanding of the Fluid Movement Between Iron and Silk in both martial arts in life, while emphasizing the importance of situating or Embedding Meaning in a Science of Self-Defence. Understanding Iron and Silk as Cultivating a Path of Transformation presents a series of metaphors that describes the path of practice and “Change to in your Body”: Embodying The Way of the Iron and Silk speaks to the internalization of this martial arts practice as Grandmaster Pan uses his own embodied knowledge to strategically cultivate the potential of his students. The second essence—Relationship Cultivates Kung Fu, Kung Fu Cultivates Relationship—describes the importance of relationship in cultivating Iron and Silk. The depth of Grandmaster Pan’s roots in the martial arts added a rich narrative of lineage, history, and uses of the practices that was central to the training, making it significantly different from other forms of sport and exercise. The essence begins with an exploration of Cultivating a Kung Fu Lineage and the importance of participants’ experiences of their Relationship to a Sifu. Then, Finding a Home: Continuation of Relationship in Physical and Social Space describes the intersubjective space created by Grandmaster Pan and his students. The intimacy of relationship within the club is explored further in “Doing business is easy, having a relationship is hard”: Relationships of Iron and Silk, which describes the respect, cooperation, and humility that manifested in relationships among students and created a united family of practitioners. Consequently, Openness of Learning in the Cultivation of Iron & Silk describes the importance of engaging with openess when immersed in the martial arts. As Taoism focuses on the relationship between individual and the universal, and phenomenology focuses on attempts to make sense of experience and subjective consciousness within an intersubjective world, this study evolved into an exploration of the relationship between intersubjective human experience and the movement toward living in alignment with the totality of universal reality as martial arts practices become abjectively embodied. The martial arts are presented as a cultivated-embodied-relational and intersubjective practice as the martial artist engages in the cauldron in approximation of the universal Tao. A conversation about embodiment, and specifically abjective embodiment, weaves together the interplay between the interdependent essences of cultivation, transformation, and relationship. The discussion is furthered as intersubjectivity and the Taoist concept of Te—moral power or virtue of a person who follows a correct course of conduct, connecting the individual with the cosmos—highlight interdependence on the path of transformation through the embodied practice of cultivating Iron and Silk Kung Fu. Theoretical contributions of this study arise through the engagement of phenomenology and Taoism to develop a holistic understanding of the practice of the traditional martial art of Iron and Silk Kung Fu. As leisure studies expands and grows in its diversity and depth of cultural exploration, it will be essential to develop an broader theoretical and philosophical approach to understanding experience. Insights and reflections presented in this dissertation can be practically applied in three key ways. First, challenging notions of transactional exchange in understanding interpersonal connections, and presenting a relational understanding of intersubjective interaction. Second, the holistic understanding of leadership presented here might inform future generations of teachers and coaches in sport, training, education, and personal development. Third, this dissertation provides on fusion of phenomenology and Taoism that might guide future leisure studies scholars.
Cite this version of the work
Mainland Mike (2018). Kung Fu is Inside the Body: A Phenomenological Inquiry into Cultivating Martial Art Practices. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/13488