Martial Arts Studies is an emerging field of research at the crossroads of several salient themes in the humanities and social sciences. Among the subjects constituting this object – in the cultural, religious, political and economic complexity that characterises it – we can notably note the transmission of knowledge and skills, body techniques, physical and sports activities, relationships to authority, security issues, the gift (as an act), commercial exchanges, but also and above all: ritual and initiatory practices, mystical and spiritual practices, and existential philosophies.
Concerning these last three themes, martial arts are sometimes interpreted as paradoxical “paths to peace”, following the example of religious ideologies that convey messages of peace but serve as a support for political and warlike conflicts. This apparent dissonance may be observable in the great diversity of traditions and forms of combat.
This particular aspect reveals to some extent that the martial efficiency generally invoked cannot be completely separated from social, moral, ethical and practical values. Learning is part of a process – initiatory and ritual to different degrees – aiming as much at the integration of techniques as at the integration of ideas and values, all ideologically marked and combined following phenomena of transposition and adaptation.
It is in this general perspective that the MARS conference proposes to question the relations between martiality, religion and spirituality. Martial arts can be understood according to different meanings, including codified agonistic practices, self-defence and fighting sports competitions. The aim of this meeting is to consider their diversity, and plurality in order to better reflect on the heuristic implications of their link to religion. Similarly, religion and spirituality can be understood in their multiple and diverse aspects, including through secularity and secularism.
The different methodological and analytical approaches, both disciplinary and interdisciplinary, should thus enrich the understanding of the themes discussed through the constituted panels.