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Title: Varieties of embodied knowing : an ethnographic study of mixed martial arts
Authors: Vaittinen, Anu Maarit
Issue Date: 2014
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: This PhD explores the embodied practices and experiences of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) practitioners and coaches with a specific focus on exploring the process through which different varieties of embodied knowing are developed. A contemporary full contact combat sport, Mixed Martial Arts is an amalgamation of various disciplines of unarmed combat sports and arts. Over the course of this thesis, I develop an understanding of the processes and varieties of experiential knowing that are, I argue, central to MMA. The hybrid and evolving nature of this contemporary sport enables me to draw analytical attention to the ongoing craft of developing experientially ways of knowing. I demonstrate how embodied ways of knowing MMA are developed in practice through experience and in reciprocal relation to the surrounding environment. I attend in particular to the interplay of the corporeal, perceptual, social and intersubjective constituents of these processes. My analysis is guided by an interdisciplinary and phenomenologically oriented framework which draws from the phenomenology of Merleau-Ponty, anthropological studies on ‘ways of knowing’, physical cultural studies and sociology of embodiment. This study reveals how practitioners engage with processes of enskillment and body pedagogies as central elements to understanding the ways in which skills are developed for MMA. By exploring the practices of MMA coaches in depth, I provide analytical insight into coaching as a distinct skill and how this is developed. Thus this study extends the understanding of knowing MMA beyond skill through a consideration of the experiential ways of knowing of pain and injury, exploring how tacit and explicit understandings of different kinds of pain are developed through practice in interactions with other practitioners and coaches. I examine the intertwining of injury stories, experiences and practices shared between fellow mixed martial artists and coaches to offer insight to how the management, treatment, negotiation and the culture of training whilst injured develop into specific ways of knowing injury. My findings contribute substantially to an emerging body of work that has begun to explore the potential of phenomenology, for study of embodiment, physical culture and, I argue, to how ways of knowing sport are achieved in practice. My analysis is based on insider participant-observation data collected during a twelve-month period of ethnographic fieldwork in two MMA gyms in the North-East of England, complemented by nineteen semi-structured interviews with non-elite recreational MMA practitioners, fighters and coaches.
Description: PhD Thesis
Appears in Collections:School of Geography, Politics and Sociology

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