I recently had a chance to deliver a keynote address at a Martial Arts Studies conference held at Cardiff University in the UK. (That was basically exactly what it sounds like, a group of academics who are also martial artists sitting around and talking about the intersection of these two areas.) My paper discussed some of my fieldwork with Darth Telos and asked what contribution the study of lightsaber combat could make to our understanding of the changing role of the martial arts in modern society. As such I thought that some of you might find it interesting. I hope to revise this talk and turn it into a book chapter for an edited volume on martial arts studies later this year.
Alright, you're making me dust off my academic hat (DMA music composition, so not entirely relevant to this), but I'll bite.
I like the paper and the liminal/liminoid distinction makes perfect sense from my own martial arts experiences. I certainly agree with the liminal dynamic of most traditional kung fu schools that I have trained with, as well as the mindset of those who seek out training at those kinds of schools. I have less direct experience with the saber community, since I'm still waiting on my saber from VV (less than a month to go? maybe?). But, I believe I've poked around enough here and in a few other places (like the FB group for our local saber legion chapter, which hasn't actually met up yet) that I can clearly see the liminoid traits in the various styles of training, as well as the different personalities of lightsaber practitioners that you laid out. That all makes sense to me and I'm curious to see how those other types of individuals influence my own training once I get my saber in. I personally am very much the martial arts approach. I enjoy star wars and have read a few of the extended universe books, but I'm primarily here to practice my kung fu swordsmanship.
What really peaked my interest about your piece, though, is when you mentioned something that I've wondered about many times, how there are so many Darths out there. I know this slightly derails the topic but I wondered, since I know we have many on this forum who use Darth with their alter ego, what draws them do it. I'm not really one for personas, but that's just me. I don't do cosplay. I rarely even bother with Halloween costumes unless I have to. I play D&D but I play myself, essentially. How would I function in a fantasy world, presented with these dilemmas? That's the grand thought experiment of role-play for me. I just have no desire to be someone else. But, I know I'm totally the outlier with all that. I'm just curious though, why Darth?
Well, to be more specific, I think the root of my question is how much do people identify with these personas, or do they just pick a character with a vaguely interesting story? I have to assume people choose a fun story, often sith because they have more three dimensional psychological traits, can wear lots of black with masks, and generally can branch out into more than just drab Jedi robes. But, I thought I'd put my perspective in here as a discussion point. Coming from our modern, western cultural background (for most of us), I would have pegged most people to choose a Gray Jedi. That's certainly what I would go for if I did create a persona. You grow up in the world of indoctrinated religion (as I certainly did), then decide to not just blindly follow doctrine and choose your own path. Works for me. But, while the unyielding doctrine of the jedi temple doesn't sound fun, neither does the inherent evil and war crimes you would have to undertake as a sith. I never RP evil characters though, in any medium. I tend to have way too much empathy for others, even fictional others. I don't do evil acts or cause undue pain in games, simply because it turns my stomach. When I first saw so many people taking the title of Darth, my initial reaction was why? For me, RPing a Sith is the same as RPing something like ISIS. Extreme analogy, I know, but both are religion fueled orders that seek power and influence and kill all in there way. I just could never bring myself to RP that. So yeah, I know I'm way out in left field with this one. Interesting enough discussion point though?
Thanks for responding to my paper. I am glad that it gave you something to think about. I am also interested in the question of "why all of the "Darths"" as this seems to be one of the more basic structural possibilities of the Lightsaber Combat community that sets it apart from the traditional Chinese martial arts that I normally work with. (Of course as a careful ethnographer I have to be careful not to generalize beyond my immediate research area. YMMV).
Maybe we can get a few people to chime in here and to discuss why they developed their alter-egos and how they understand/interact with them. In the mean time, have you seen this post by Craig Page? He actually addresses some of the issues that are being brought up here, including the current popularity of the Grey Jedi.
It does seem to me that Jedi Order is getting the short-end of the role playing stick. They seem to suffer from poorly written characters and, as you mention, are on the wrong side of the current swing towards the "nones" (or "spiritual but not religious") trends in American society. I suspect that one of the reasons why we don't see more Jedi is that people just cannot imagine being one themselves. But even that is interesting. This is, after all, an exercise of the imagination. Why are our horizons so limited? I often wonder why exactly individuals have such trouble imagining themselves as members of a monastic community in Star Wars, but the Chinese martial arts are full of individuals attempting to live out the fantasy of being a Shaolin monk? Again, I think that the liminal/liminoid distinction might be helpful in parsing out what sorts of symbols are attractive to a given audience. But there must also be some important sociological and psychological issues going on here. Were individuals just as reluctant to imagine themselves as Jedi in the 1980s? Or is this more recent (post-prequels?)
Post by D. Nonymous on Aug 8, 2016 22:03:02 GMT -5
I can answer the question of why the shift toward favoring the Sith; The prequels. Whether on purpose or accident Lucas changed the Jedi from the mystic knights and guardians of good into the fist of the establishment. Int he prequels, the Jedi are everywhere, and just smugly act superior. All the Jedi, including Mace Windu who should be the Muthafoker Jedi, are just bland reciter of doctrine and prophecy. They are essentially the fundamentalists.
In the Ot, the Jedi were extinct, just about, and thus legendary. The were the rebels, the ones who would save us form the establishment, the war machine, the shadow of totalitarianism. That what we liked about them. They were rebels. But in the prequels, they were not rebels. They were the ruling class. They could pick and choose what disputes they wanted to be involved in. That's like your parents, your boss, etc. etc.
Hence everyone wants to be the one who follows their own way. That will change through time however. Who knows what dynamic will be coming in the new movies.
@nonymous: The blandness of prequel Jedi as a turn off makes sense. Especially since those that join sub-culture fandoms to the level of dressing up for cons or practicing a fictional weapon likely have a distrust of, distain for, or just feel out of place in mainstream culture. So no surprise, since within the star wars universe, the jedi temple represents that boring mainstream culture among force users. I have high hopes for the new movies though, as I'm sure we all do.
@ben: Interesting that you bring up "nones". I wasn't aware of the term, but then I'm not fully up on my social sciences. Though, I do find them interesting and almost went into ethnomusicology, until I realized it was near impossible to get hired to teach it if you weren't a already member of the culture you primarily studied. Anyway, your point about the trend to move away from organized religion to a more personal spiritual experience (ahem, liminal to liminoid again), reflects so many other small changes in our society, to a large degree caused (likely anyway) by how much information we have at our fingertips at all times. We second guess experts in every field now, because we think we can look it all up ourselves, even though we have no training or knowledge to help us understand or put into context the information that we find. Doctors now have to explain themselves to WebMD educated patients, etc. It comes as no surprise that those seeking a spiritual experience turn more and more to quick fix books (instant gratification being another modern trait) or the internet over a traditional church/temple. This all has been duly noted, of course, and leads to a society where we train ourselves to be able to find information, not retain or digest it. All that to say, the do-what-we-say-no-questions-asked dogmatic Jedi Order doesn't look so appealing in that light.
I liked Craig's Grey Jedi article. I agree that in a world where the Light and Dark sides are very much real and guiding, and will pull you one way or the other, Grey Jedi isn't really a thing. It's not a third path that's equally valid, the Grey side of the force. It's more a tenuous balancing act for those that are tempted by the Dark but have enough Light in them to not fully fall. They are either weak willed light-siders, constantly struggling against their dark side, or they choose to walk the line so they can access dark side powers. As he says, those that choose to RP grey usually want to be a respected knight, but one that gets to do things their way and isn't told what to do (sounds like a classic American rebellious hero stereotype from any number of films). But, since SW sets up the force as Light and Dark, that's kind of a cop out.
All that leads to the underlying problem as I see it. Lucas tried to impose traits of personal God based religions onto the framework of impersonal God Eastern religions, and it just doesn't work when you break it down. The Grey Jedi code that is circulated on the internet clearly pulls from the Tao influence. There is light and dark in everything, you just find the balance. That's all well and good. Lucas clearly pulls from the Tao himself quite a lot. However, he then gave it two opposite halves (light and dark). These are guiding forces, which means they have knowledge and will of their own, and which war with each other for the souls of the force users (essentially). Giving them will and influence in people's lives pushed the Force over to a personal god (IE: divine force is personified, not just random life energy of the universe, which Lucas otherwise says it is). That's all very Judeo-Christian. Lucas then states that the Jedi want balance in the force (very Taoist), but go about it by killing off all of the Dark siders. That's not really balancing there, if only Light is left. Basically, Lucas took the Yin Yang symbolism and tore it apart and called the light half God and the dark half the Devil. In that sense, which is canon for SW, grey jedi are really just morally ambivalent, force users who are lost and haven't found their way yet to either side.
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Desalon Manshad: Hello! Lately my arm has been feeling better, so I should be good for doing some more primer training
Jul 22, 2018 21:18:29 GMT -5
BRAWLER: Hello all! Summer is here in full swing! I hope everyone is taking advantage of the beautiful weather and getting outside for their saber practice! Hope to see everyone post up online, what we've been working on.
Jul 24, 2018 10:12:05 GMT -5
DarthRevic: hello all
Jul 30, 2018 16:54:55 GMT -5
BRAWLER: Hello Darth Revic! How goes the training?
Jul 31, 2018 9:55:58 GMT -5
Furiora Helseare: Because I'm still struggling with the saber position due to my huge gut (that I will one day get rid of), is the saber required to be facking backwards during front stance?
Aug 2, 2018 14:01:39 GMT -5
BRAWLER: Keep at it Furi!! Slow and steady friend, progress will come! 😊
Aug 4, 2018 7:17:49 GMT -5
Mitchell Theron Patrick: Hello, I’m new to the idea of lightsaber dueling and I still need to get a lightsaber. I was wondering if TPLA still conducts classes as I live in Michigan.
Oct 18, 2018 3:43:47 GMT -5
Mitchell Theron Patrick: If anything comes up or you have tips/suggestions for me, please message me. Thank you!
Oct 18, 2018 3:46:59 GMT -5
Dark Angelus: Greetings to all. I am already in a class called River City Jedi. Learned so much already and they do use TPLA as part of their guide lines and forms.
Dec 12, 2018 10:28:19 GMT -5
Sabre: Nobody has done that yet, so ...
Mar 2, 2019 4:38:59 GMT -5
Sabre: LIGHTSABER IS AN OFFICIAL SPORT IN FRANCE !!!
Mar 2, 2019 4:39:13 GMT -5
Furiora Helseare: I know, was crazy for me to see as well, although I'm not a huge fan of the rules... honestly never liked "right of way" in fencing. If people score a double neither should count, you're both dead
Mar 2, 2019 13:57:27 GMT -5
Furiora Helseare: "right of way" doesn't exist in a real fight, I don't care if it's "your turn to attack" if I see an opening I can take, I'm taking it.
Mar 2, 2019 13:58:45 GMT -5
Nero Attoru: Right of way has some roots in realism, since attacking is given priority (which makes sense given the fact that the attacker would theoretically strike a killing blow first)
Mar 6, 2019 16:15:21 GMT -5
Nero Attoru: Regardless, epee is a weapon that most people forget, and doesn't use right of way! Two hits gives each fencer a point, reflecting the double kill.
Mar 6, 2019 16:16:06 GMT -5
cyclingswitch: I get why they went with that system though. If you watch Saber Legion fighting instead, it becomes more akin to kendo. It's realistic fighting but it doesn't look like Star Wars anymore.
Mar 23, 2019 20:34:49 GMT -5
cyclingswitch: In Saber Legion, moving your saber around more than you need to to thrust, parry or do a quick strike to the waist or head is basically giving away a point. At least that's what I've seen in the matches I've watched with their style.
Mar 23, 2019 20:36:10 GMT -5
Colin the Grey: Hey guys, whenever someone can find the time to go over my second Shii-Cho formula primer submission, that'll be a huge help. My free time is going to go down hard in a month or so, and I'd like to make more progress in the meantime. Thanks!
Mar 25, 2019 11:31:16 GMT -5