4 – Ethics in modern fighting games & martial arts

PANEL 4 ETHICS IN MODERN FIGHTING GAMES AND MORAL VALUES REFERENCES IN TRADITIONAL MARTIAL ARTS

Ethical violence: from virtuous normative framing, codification and moral philosophies, to institutional regulations, arrangements and transgressive practices.

  • Discussant: David Palmer (Hong Kong University)

Discussion

PRESENTATIONS

  • Martin Meyer (University of Vechta) – “I went to a fight the other night and a hockey game broke out” – ‘The Code’ of Fighting in North American Hockey

Abstract

Hockey has been a tough sport ever since the Broad Street Bullies of the Philadelphia Flyers won the Stanley Cup twice due to their extremely physical play in the 1970s. This demonstrated the benefit of fights and brawls in hockey to the whole NHL league. Hockey is such a fast game that referees are not always able to detect the small, cheap shots in the game action. Since lightweight star players had to suffered from this in the past, the teams decided to introduce heavyweights, the so-called enforcers, to equally protect their star players and monitor what’s happening on the ice. Sometimes, goons and pests are used to provoke weaker opponents into fights, e.g. in order to disrupt the course of the play. The balance of power on the ice is moderated by a system of moral and ethical rules, the unwritten so-called ‘code’. Most of the hockey fights occur when the ‘code’ is violated by either side, sometimes fights are part of the code itself. In these cases, the enforcers meet for duels on the ice. Hockey fights themselves are also heavily regulated by the ‘code’, as for instance both players have to agree to the fight, they have to take off their gloves and the usage of sticks is not allowed. Although players who fight have to face severe penalties, officials tend to not intervene in fights as long as the ‘code’ is respected. In this way, the ‘code’ defines why, when, how and whom to fight. As we tend to see moral codes in fighting as something unique to classical martial arts – like bushidō – I want to illustrate in my lecture that these codes of conduct also apply to non-martial arts settings like hockey. In summary, I believe that every subculture which inherits fighting as an integral part has developed a special code of conduct how to perform fights properly under the guidelines of the moral and ethical values which defines the subculture itself. The lecture will present the history and morality of the ‘code’ in hockey and its resemblance to martial art spirituality. Also, mindsets, strategies and opinions about the ‘code’ of hockey players will be clarified. Furthermore, incidents will be highlighted where the ‘code’ has been broken in the most upsetting way, like the McSorley incident (2000), the Bartuzzi incident (2004) as well as reactions, consequences and rule changes.

Key words: morality, the code, bushidō, hockey, enforcer, goon.

Bio & Contact

Martin Meyer is a lecturer for teacher training and school pedagogics at the University of Vechta, Germany. He is an internationally renowned, interdisciplinary martial arts researcher and founding member of the German Society of Sport Science’s Committee for Martial Arts Studies as well as on the editorial board of the Journal of Martial Arts Research. In 2017 he received a scholarship from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science for conducting a research project at the University of Kanazawa, Japan.

dr.martin.joh.meyer@googlemail.com

Video Presentation 

 


  • Kai Morgan (Independent Scholar, UK) – Martial Arts, Religion and Ressentiment

Abstract

Martial arts styles and groups have many parallels with religions or religious denominations. This paper focuses specifically on one such area; animosity and mistrust between groups and styles. It uses the concept of ressentiment as a critical tool to explore this issue, derived from analysis of the arguments presented by Friedrich Nietzsche, Max Scheler and Stefano Tomelleri, and their applicability to the martial arts. Finally, it draws out potential implications and ways forward for the martial arts, using Tomelleri’s related concept of fraternity. It is hoped that this analysis will inform and support the central project of the MASRN, namely to remove barriers, and enable genial and respectful, yet challenging and vigorous interdisciplinary knowledge sharing and discussions across styles.

Keywords: Martial arts; rivalry; religion; ressentiment; Nietzsche; Scheler; Tomelleri; bowl climbing.

Bio & Contact

Kai Morgan is a martial arts practitioner who writes Budō Inochi – a popular and well-respected martial arts blog. She has a special interest in women’s participation in the martial arts, and also explores a wide range of topics including violence prevention, spirituality versus effectiveness in the martial arts, and the benefits of martial arts for survivors of abuse and/or trauma.  Kai’s paper: “Analysing the costs and benefits of ‘fake female empowerment’ in the martial arts” was recently published in the Journal of Martial Arts Research. Her first book: Online Martial Arts – Evolution or Extinction (written with Matt Stait) was published in May 2020 and reached No.1 in the Amazon Martial Arts Bestsellers list.

kai@budo-inochi.com

Video Presentation 


  • Petra Karlová (Palacký University in Olomouc) – Significance of Karate for Buddhist Karate Practitioners: A Case of Sri Lanka

Abstract

There is much discussion on the significance of Buddhism, especially Zen, for martial arts starting from a mention in Nitobe Inazo’s Bushido. Many scholars and martial artists attempt to interpret spiritual aspects of martial arts from the Buddhist perspective. However, Mijatov argued that father of modern karate Funakoshi Gichin, made effort to establish karate as physical education, with little reference to spirituality. Therefore, this research takes an opposite approach with the purpose to clarify significance of karate for Buddhists on the case of Sri Lanka, since majority of Srilankan karate practitioners are Buddhists. In August 2018, the author conducted questionnaire surveys to 134 Buddhist karate practitioners and interviews to 7 Buddhist karate instructors in Sri Lanka. 79.8 % of respondents replied karate is useful for becoming a good Buddhist. Hence, majority of Buddhist karate practitioners believe karate is beneficent for Buddhist life. As the most frequent reasons for this belief, Sri Lankan practitioners mentioned that, through karate, they can develop patience, discipline, humbleness, kindness, good behavior, honesty, avoiding violence. A bit lower frequency was found for self-control, meditation, concentration, worshipping parents and Buddha, and calm mind. This suggests that according to Srilankan people, karate practice can help cultivate virtues which are useful in Buddhist society. Indeed, some of these values can be found among virtues of Theravada Buddhism in Sri Lanka, so called 10 pāramīs: generosity, proper conduct, renunciation, wisdom, effort, patience, honesty, determination, loving kindness and equanimity. Moreover, humbleness, self-control, good behavior, good character, mind cultivation or avoiding violence were already advocated by Funakoshi in his works. Therefore, it seems similarities between karate and Buddhist values support the idea of karate usefulness for Buddhism.

Key words: martial arts, karate, Buddhism, Sri Lanka, values.

Bio & Contact

Petra Karlová interdisciplinary scholar – historian with interests in anthropology and martial arts. MA from Japanese and Vietnamese studies, PhD from History (Charles University, Czech) and International Studies (Waseda University, Japan). Previous works on Japan-Vietnam relations, history of Vietnam, and Japanese ethnological perspective on Southeast Asia. 2 dan Shotokan karate. Current research on martial arts values in daily life, especially karate in Sri Lanka and Japan.

petrakarlova@hotmail.com

Video Presentation 


 

  • Maciej Talaga (University of Warsaw)- ‘Have the highest righteous fencer in your minds eye’: medieval martial ethic as a conceptual repository for the just war theory

Abstract

In the majority of cultures, at least in periods elucidated by written accounts, war has been seen as an evil best to be avoided, but also one which would nevertheless materialise repeatedly. Hence, the right reasons for waging war have been variously conceptualised in different time-periods and cultural circles. According to the current state of scholarship on the subject, these conceptualisations were socially constructed and hence would inevitably draw from cultural resources available for given time and place, such as axiological frameworks, religious and mythological imaginaries, power structures etc. (Myers 1996). The question that has so far received little to no attention is the role of violence experienced on the personal level in shaping these conceptualisations. In the present paper, this problem will be approached from the perspective of discursive memory and narrowed down to late Middle Ages and a unique 14th/15th-cent. German martial arts treatise, the so-called „Nuremberg Codex HS 3227a” (Vodička 2019). A qualitative content analysis performed on this manuscript will reveal the interplay between the types of interpersonal violence envisioned by its author, ethical and religious problems involved, and proposed solutions addressing the practical (martial and legal), spiritual (religious and magical), and aesthetic (decorum) domains. This will be juxtaposed against broader historical-cultural context of martial ethic and right to arms” (Tlusty 2011) as well as the late-medieval notion of ius bellum iustum as developed by Augustine of Hippo (5th cent.), Thomas Aquinas (13th cent.) and Stanisław of Skarbimierz (14th/15th cent.) (Ehrlich 1955). This shall enable assessing the correspondence between the ethical frameworks for interpersonal (individual self-defence) and intersocietal violence (war).

Keywords: historical European martial arts, martial ethics, interpersonal violence, just war theory, discursive memory.

Bio & Contact

Maciej Talaga received his MA in archaeology in 2012 and joined the ‘Nature-Culture’ PhD programme at the University of Warsaw in 2018. For the last decade his research interests have revolved around pre-modern European martial traditions, with particular focus on late-medieval Central Europe and the so-called ‘German school of fighting’ (Kunst des Fechtens). Having initially approached the topic from purely archaeological perspective, he gradually adopted a performative approach combining text- and artefact-based studies with practical experimentation (embodied research).

maciektalaga@gmail.com

Video Presentation 


  • Sanko Lewis (Sahmyook University) – Promoting Peace, Practising War: Mohism’s Resolution of the Paradoxical Ethics of War and Self-Defence in East Asian Martial Arts

Abstract

Many traditional East Asian martial arts seem to counsel against the use of violence, yet actively teach physical methods of violence; in essence “promoting peace, practising war.” In part, the paradox exists because East Asian martial arts derive their morals from the generally pacifist religio-philosophical traditions of East Asia, namely Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism. There is therefore an internal conflict between the moral traditions that provided the context in which these martial arts developed and the original combative purpose for which the martial arts developed. Previous attempts at resolving the martial arts paradox of promoting peace while practising techniques of violence simply redefined martial arts as either activities of self-cultivation (cf. “Budo”) or as sport, rather than address the main issue of justified violence. Hence this study searched for ways to reconcile peace promotion with “war” practise. The East Asian philosophy of Mohism provides a framework capable of promoting peace while also justifying violence in a morally congruent manner. Mohism’s teaching of universal love and mutual benefit offers an example of active peace promotion, while accepting the duty to physically protect the weak and innocent from harm by means of defensive war. Likewise, traditional martial arts in the form of civilian defensive arts can also justify their training and conditional use of violence for the purpose of protecting innocent victims from attackers.

Bio & Contact

sankolewis@gmail.com

Video presentation