Monday, 15 August 2011

Globalisation and the 'Internal Alchemy' in Chinese Martial Arts: The Transmission of Taijiquan to Britain

Great extended journal article on the history of Tai Chi and it's introduction to the UK. I will only quote the last section of the conclusion, but I recommend reading the whole article.

"The West has made its mark on taijiquan, adapting it to suit its priorities and purposes: therapeutic, martial, scientific and spiritual; but China has also responded by reasserting control. The globalisation of taijiquan can be understood as an illustration of the process of 'Easternisation of the West' (Campbell 1999). It demonstrates the pragmatic outcomes, at individual and interpersonal levels, of ongoing Western interest in Asian martial and meditative practices for their spiritual, therapeutic and self-defence benefits. This appeal is not simply 'aesthetic' or 'ideological'; concerns with practical efficacy have driven this process as part of the move towards effective self-directed healthcare. One of the most interesting arenas for future intercultural exchange around taijiquan will be scientific due to shifts in the twentieth century towards enhanced (and demonstrable) efficacy in health and medicine. The scientific literature for taijiquan has expanded rapidly since the 1990s, touched by agendas in both 'evidence-based' and 'alternative' medical practice and the need to address systemic problems and challenges in autoimmune and chronic illness in preventative medicine and public health. One of the most interesting and well-researched forthcoming publications on taijiquan from the practitioner community (Docherty 2009) explores the technical expressions of its proposed roots in both neidan 'internal alchemy' practice and the type of boxing technique evidenced in the Classic of Boxing (Quan Jing) text on military practices compiled by sixteenth century General Qi Jiguang (1528-1587). Whilst the documented effects of globalisation include both widening health inequalities and rising social violence, the scientific gaze appears less focused on investigating the use of Asian martial arts to manage violence. Understanding the dynamics of efficacy and appeal will depend on the ways in which control of global taijiquan, culturally and scientifically, practically and conceptually, is negotiated in future decades. The British case will be an interesting indicator, as its present diversity suggests an impulse towards reintegration and greater coherence within the practice of taijiquan and in its relationship to other Chinese therapeutic practices and martial arts."

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