Monday, June 11, 2012

Martial Arts and Philosophy: Halifax, Nova Scotia

Note my white belt: a sign of my
profound humility (and forgetfulness)
I've just finished a two-day 'martial arts and philosophy' conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on the east coast of Canada.

Organised by Sylvia Burrow, from Cape Breton University, it's been a fascinating couple of days, with papers, workshops and demonstrations.

A few of my highlights: Marc Ramsay (Acadia U.) gave a robust defence of the legality and morality of mixed martial arts; Mark Rowlands (U. of Miami) characterised the martial arts as 'play' (with help from Moritz Schlick and Martin Heidegger); Sylvia Burrow argued for the role of martial arts in developing women's moral integrity and autonomy; Mason Cash (U. of Central Florida) highlighted the absence of practical conflict resolution techniques in the 'peaceful' martial arts; and Kelly Smith (Clemson U.) gave a very helpful lesson in meditation.

We even had an 'open mat' day today: philosophers putting aside speculation for two hours of kata and technique demonstrations. I learned a great elbow block, and was reminded again of the frustrating fragility of my neck, as I watched a Brazilian jiu-jitsu demonstration.

The papers are not posted online, but you can read a sample of mine, on Plato and the martial arts, below:
Plato’s mature philosophy seems to be an acceptance of the body’s ambivalence. Yes, physicality saddles his pupils with strong desires, which can drag their moral horses downwards, away from the truth of the Forms, and right living and governance. But material existence is also a way to inspire and consolidate the ascent that Plato describes: in the martial arts, his pupils learn what it is to overcome or guide their baser urges, in the service of a higher goal. Physical exertion prepares them for, and aids, their striving for moral discipline. Wrestling teaches a lesson, in the intellectual sense, but it also trains them: in ethically beneficial habits.


Truculent Sheep said...

As a proud(ish) exponent of the Booj, it saddens me that we'll never roll together.

Mainly because my game plan is still at the 'chokechokechoke' level of sophistication, and your neck injury rules that one out.

Mind you, I'm very good at pushing people over while on my knees. Who said Aikido was completely useless?

Damon Young said...

Well, if you ever make it Down Under, do drop me a line. You may armlock me with abandon.