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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Christian L. Novetzke
SIS 490
Seattle Campus

Special Topics

Content varies from quarter to quarter.

Class description

Unlike most historical narratives of modern globalization, the general history of the martial arts emerged from Asia and spread throughout the world, exemplified by one of the University of Washington’s most famous students, Bruce Lee. It was at UW that Bruce Lee began teaching his art and started to consider the deeper cultural and philosophical principles of his style and all martial arts. Inspired by Bruce Lee’s legacy, this course will continue that exploration by examining world cultures and their histories through the martial arts, focusing primarily on Asia and on Asian art hybrids in Europe and the Americas, especially regarding the “open” or “empty” hand version of those arts (i.e. without weapons).

In this seminar, we will study how the martial arts have preserved religious, cultural, and philosophical aspects of the world areas of their origin, as well as the new cultures and international communities that have adopted their practices. We will examine how martial arts provide embodied histories of their cultures of origin as well as new canvases for the invention of contemporary martial arts. Our study will explore the martial arts of many world areas, including India, China, Japan, and Korea, and their reinvention in places like Brazil, Europe, and America. We’ll investigate both the philosophical and spiritual underpinnings of each art and its technical sciences of the body through readings, guest lectures, and participating in actual martial arts instruction.

This course employs two distinct learning environments. On Tuesdays we’ll have a seminar format in a traditional classroom, where we will meet for one class period (1 hour 50 minutes), during which we will collectively discuss the readings as well as the history, culture, and philosophical/religious ideas and specifics of the martial art and world area highlighted for that week. On Thursdays we’ll meet in a martial arts studio at the IMA for practical instruction or “practicum” in the martial art subject for the week taught by a guest instructor (in either Studio 111 or Mat Room B). All classes will emphasize safety and inclusivity—everyone of every level of experience (or complete lack of experience) or physical ability will be welcome. Note that we will screen Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon from 6-8pm on Wednesday, February 22, 2012. Please reserve this time in your schedules.

Student learning goals

Become familiar with several Asian world cultures and key texts associated with those cultures.

Understand possible connections between texts/cultures and martial arts produced in those cultures.

Improve skills in writing, reading, and presentation.

Connect intellectual learning with physical learning.

Develop an appreciation for the martial arts as art forms, evolving in time, harnessing the physical and mental potential of humans.

General method of instruction

Seminar, discussion, presentation; no lectures.

Practicum, actual martial arts classes, once per week.

Recommended preparation

No experience or familiarity with any martial art is required; anyone with any physical ability can participate.

Students should be open-minded, prepared to read, discuss, and learn intellectually and physically.

Class assignments and grading

Your grade for this course will be distributed evenly among these components:

· Participation and Discussion—This is a seminar course, not a lecture course. You will be required to vocally participate in class discussion. You cannot pass this course unless you do so. This means you must do the reading before class, come to class prepared to talk about the reading extensively, and engage with the idea of your classmates. It is required that you attend Tuesday’s seminar in order to attend Thursday’s practicum. In addition, you will participate in producing a collective online resource—we will collectively create and maintain an online resource for the cultural studies of the martial arts we investigate. This resource will include a bibliography for each martial art and world culture and links to online materials.

· Online Posting—Each week by Sunday night before class you are required to post of at least 150 words about the readings for the coming week to an online posting site (“GoPost”). Your post should not summarize the readings, but engage with them, demonstrating that you have done the reading and thought about the materials.

· In Class Presentation and leading discussion—Each student in sets of two or more will be responsible for a presentation on the material for the week at the beginning of Tuesday’s class. These presentations should last for about 30 minutes. The goal of this presentation is to summarize the readings, bring in some extra historical or cultural information. In addition, students who are presenting are responsible for providing an agenda for discussion and key ideas or questions to motivate debate in class for the entire class period.

· Two 5-8 page papers—The first of these two papers will require that you interview an accomplished martial artist, either in person or electronically, and compose a paper that incorporates your interview material with historical material about the particular martial art practiced by your subject. You may want to align this assignment with the week you choose for presentation. This paper will be due in the middle of the quarter. The second paper will require that you study a film that highlights a particular martial art (different from the subject of the first paper) and discuss the representation of that art in the film and in public culture. This paper will be due at the end of the quarter.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Additional Information
Last Update by M Jane Meyerding
Date: 10/10/2011