White men don’t flow: Embodied aesthetics of the fifty-two hand blocks Chapter uri icon

abstract

  • © 2013 Raúl Sánchez García and Dale C. Spencer editorial matter and selection. Introduction The following remarks focus on my efforts at researching an African American vernacular martial art (VMA) often known as the 52 hand blocks (also known as jailhouse, jailhouse boxing, jailhouse rock, or the 52s, among other regional labels) via thick participation, ‘cultural knowledge recorded first in the anthropologist's body and only later externalized as visual or textual data for purposes of analysis’ (Samudra 2008, 667). In addition to training in the 52s per se, I made an effort to ‘thicken’ my participation by utilizing related African American vernacular genres as channels for transforming my martial habitus. Traditionally, the art is learned by doing, by an active pursuit of street fighting rather than through any structured pedagogy. Body toughening is a product of the learning process. The teaching method exists at a corporeal rather than the cognitive level. As Loïc Wacquant characterizes his boxing apprenticeship: ‘Apprenticeship is here the means of acquiring a practical mastery, a visceral knowledge of the universe’ (2011, 7). In linguistics, the term ‘vernacular’ denotes a local language or dialect, and in art criticism refers to creations flourishing in isolation from the schools and fads governing elite art. When applied to martial arts, vernacular denotes a local style developed to address local needs and is consistent with larger cultural traditions (for example music, dance, play and religion) of the groups in which these fighting systems arise.

author list (cited authors)

  • Green, T.

Book Title

  • Fighting Scholars: Habitus and Ethnographies of Martial Arts and Combat Sports

publication date

  • January 2012