18 September 2013

Cultural Kinaesthetics

I have not been very active on this blog as of late. Much of it has to do with a lack of time and additional energy to devote to it. A reason for this is that as of this year I started working on post-graduate studies. The good news is that my research focus is in the martial arts.

I recently read an article on Hip Hop dance styles and it suggested that my own theories regarding the development of ITF Taekwon-Do and its unique kinaesthetics may indeed be sound.

Lis Engel's article “Body Poetics of Hip Hop Dance Styles in Copenhagen” (2001) is based on earlier theories on body movement, established by Marcel Mauss in his article from 1934 on “The Techniques of the Body”, and adapted to English in 1973 as “Body Techniques.” In this article, Mauss asserts that “The different ways of moving, the body techniques, vary not just between individuals but even more between societies, educations, proprieties and fashions and that different ways of moving mirror cultural ways of thinking.’’ In other words, people of different cultures and subcultures move in unique ways—ways that reflect their thinking. In her groundwork, Lis Engel's also refers to the Danish philosopher Ole Fogh Kirkeby's who argues that a person's movement (“body-techniques”) “whether everyday body movements, sports, or different dance techniques and styles” (Engel 351), is a manifestation of a person's “body-mind-event attunement” (Engel 352). Put differently, people express themselves, or reveal themselves, through their body movements, whether these are normal, everyday movements or other specialized forms of movement like sport or dance. Engel explains that “Each personality, each group, each culture develops a particular rhythm, a special style of movement and ways of relating to the other. It is learned” (352).

The value of this article for me as a scholar of Taekwon-Do is that it provides an example of how to approach the “poetics” or meaning of movement in an academic way. In a similar way as Lis Engel studies the cultural significance of the movements of Hip Hop dances, it is possible to consider the significance of certain martial arts. Based on the theories of Marcel Mauss and Ole Fogh Kirkeby it would be possible to discover culturally significant information from the “body-techniques” (i.e. kinaesthetics) in the different movements in the martial arts. Theoretically, a Chinese martial art such as Tai Chi Chuan, a Korean martial arts such as Taekkyeon and a Japanese martial art such as Karate should all reveal something of the cultures in which they developed. Furthermore, the way individuals may express themselves uniquely within these martial arts may reveal something of their individual personalities as well. This could make for interesting research on the effect of a martial art on an individual's sense of self and sense of the world.


Engel, Lis (2001), “Body Poetics of Hip Hop Dance Styles in Copenhagen”, Dance Chronicle, 24:3,
Kirkeby, Ole Fogh (1997), “Event and Body-Mind: An Outline of a Post-Postmodern Approach to Phenomenology”, Cybernetics & Human Knowing, 4 (3), 1–33.
Mauss, Marcel (1973), “Body Techniques”, Economy and Society, 70–88.

Some of the posts I wrote that are related to the above include: