Feature: Martial Arts Studies no. 4 – Prof Lauren Miller Griffith

In the second of our two posts showcasing articles from issue 4 of Martial Arts Studies, Lauren Miller Griffith’s article “Virtually legitimate: using disembodied media to position oneself in an embodied community” examines how comments posted on YouTube training videos are providing encouragement for new practitioners of the Brazilian martial art of capoeira.

Read the whole article at: https://mas.cardiffuniversitypress.org/articles/abstract/10.18573/j.2017.10185/

““Quebra, moça,” the master said to me as he shook me by the shoulders. Break, girl. I was too closed, too cold, and had the habitus of a ballerina rather than a capoeirista. Training in Brazil, I could see and feel how each of our bodies were being remade according to the demands of this martial art, which demands walking a careful line between using proper form and cultivating a unique personal aesthetic. I was in Brazil for academic research on how non-Brazilians gain legitimacy within local capoeira academies, and about half of the class comprised foreigners. For them, it wasn’t just face-to-face instruction that they deemed necessary for success in the genre, it was face-to-face instruction in the homeland of capoeira. But not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to do this. Although capoeira has become more common throughout the world, there are still places where aspiring students may not be able to find a teacher. And for some students who do live nearby an instructor, the potential embarrassment of trying something new in front of other people can be a barrier to participation. For both of these groups, the Internet can be a useful resource.

Because my teacher in Brazil repeatedly told us that doing capoeira properly required sentimento (feeling), which is something you can’t learn from books or videos, I expected to find that the comment sections of YouTube videos on capoeira would be full of exhortations to find a ‘real’ teacher or take a ‘real’ class. Instead, using textual analysis of comments that had been left on tutorial videos, I uncovered an interesting pattern. Aspiring or novice capoeiristas would express vulnerability regarding their ability to do a move or play capoeira at all. This was often met with a hostile or homophobic comment from someone else, who did not appear to be a capoeirista. When this happened, another commenter would identify him or herself as a community insider, diffuse the ‘trolling,’ and encourage the original poster by telling him/her that anyone can do capoeira if they work hard enough. Rather than being disparaged as an inferior learning tool, online resources are being used by some capoeiristas as a way of inviting newcomers and geographically isolated students into the embodied community.”

MAS

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