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Putting the harm back into harmony: Aikido, violence and 'truth in the Martial Arts'

Little, William 2018. Putting the harm back into harmony: Aikido, violence and 'truth in the Martial Arts'. Martial Arts Studies 6 , pp. 88-101. 10.18573/mas.57

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This paper will address the theme of ‘truth in the martial arts’, a phrase from Mitsugi Saotome’s recent reflection on his relationship as Uchi Deshi to Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido. I will frame this theme sociologically, exploring it as an aspect of the martial arts as contemporary practices of the self. What is distinct about the practice of the martial arts in this context is their sustained reflection on violence, not simply as violent contest, but as a condition of irreducible insecurity per se. I would like to propose that Aikido (not unlike other martial arts) offers a response to violence by articulating a form-of-life – ‘a life that can never be separated from its form’ (Giorgio Agamben) – that is centred on the understanding that complete martial fluidity is immanent to life. The martial arts are therefore very interesting contemporary practices of the self because their paths to knowledge address key biopolitical issues of life and power through a freeing relation to violence. I would also like to propose that the framework of transcendental empiricism, which Gilles Deleuze develops to describe the dynamics of affectual as opposed to representational (i.e. mediated) experience, is both promising to characterize the experience of martial fluidity and to expand the self-understanding martial artists themselves. Martial artists are uniquely positioned to decipher Agamben’s and Deleuze’s theoretical texts because of the deep, embodied knowledge that emerges through practice.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Journalism, Media and Culture
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Uncontrolled Keywords: truth in the martial arts, form-of-life, Giorgio Agamben, practice of the self, violence, affect, Mitsugi Saotome, Aikido
Publisher: Cardiff University Press
ISSN: 2057-5696
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 9 August 2018
Date of Acceptance: 30 June 2018
Last Modified: 21 Jan 2019 12:43

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