Circulation of kinesic practices and representations in Chinese martial arts

河北省青县练八级刀20170725_OK.jpgMartial arts, designated by the generic term wushu 武术 in Mandarin, can be observed in various forms in China nowadays. They are part of a collective imagery mobilized through literary and cinemas productions as well as new media such as video games, cartoons and online videos. Wushu can also be observed as a popular practice in which individuals - such as masters, disciples or simple enthusiasts - are practicing in the genealogy of specific wushu lineages. Finally, wushu can also be observed as an institutional discipline in which national and standardized new sets of routines - discursively constructed as being the continuity of traditional lineages - are often practiced as sport whether during competition or physical education classes.  This "sportisation" goes along with the patrimonialization of some of the traditional lineages –registered as national immaterial heritage. Through this process, Chinese institutions are reclaiming meanings over the popular practice resulting in many structural and ideological changes. This development raises the question of the impact on practitionners habits and the way they articulate these new representations.

Launched in June 2016, this doctoral research is a four-year project focusing on how representations of martial techniques and gestures - whether executed by real practitioners or fictional characters - circulate from one medium to another, creating, conserving or dissipating their contents, according to particular modes, where the very idea of martiality appears in very different manners. In order to trace such developments in Chinese martial arts, this research project combines (a) the  kinesic analysis of visual and textual materials ; and (b) ethnographic studies of martial arts practice sites such as sport teams, martial arts schools and other relevant structures in China. 

Asserting that body movements are not only a mode of expression but are also actively producing meanings while being performed, this research addresses the broad question of embodied knowledge, namely its various modes of production and circulation within the context of Chinese martial arts. Moreover, it reflects on kinesic and kinestetic aspects of martial arts gestures acting as an arena of political and ideological constructions that are continually under negotiation.

This research is led by Dr. Basile Zimmermann in collaboration with Prof. Bruno Strasser and Prof. Guillemette Bolens.

For further details on the project, contact the project's main researcher Pierrick Porchet.





PORCHET, P. « An ethnographic survey in Guangfu “Taiji Township“ ». In Blog Scientifique de l’Institut Confucius, Université de Genève, 2019. Lien permanent:

梁定远. « 广府镇“太极之乡”所见所闻 » ,in 孙建国,武氏家传太极拳:实践篇,人民体育出版社,北京:2018. pp. 259-261.

PORCHET, P. « Process of institutionalization in Chinese martial arts : the case of its ranking system » , 3rd Baltic Alliance for Asian Studies Conference Book. 2018 (Submitted).

PORCHET, P. «Processus d'adaptation des pratiques martiales chinoises au Sport de compétition: l'exemple du style baji », Tsantsa, n°23, 2018. pp.115-120

PORCHET, P. « L’interprétation des arts martiaux chinois ». In Blog Scientifique de l’Institut Confucius, Université de Genève, 2017. Lien permanent:

PORCHET, P « Circulation des pratiques et des représentations kinésiques des arts martiaux chinois ». In Blog Scientifique de l’Institut Confucius, Université de Genève, 2017. Lien permanent:


Conference Presentations

PORCHET, Pierrick. “The kinesic analysis of modern and traditional forms of Yang style taijiquan“, 22nd Biennial Conference of the European Association for Chinese Studies, Glasgow, August 29 – September 1, 2018

PORCHET, Pierrick. “L’art du sabre chinois“, conférence publique lors de la 12e édition de la Nuit de la Science, Genève, 8 juillet 2018.

PORCHET, Pierrick, "The adaptation of Chinese traditional martial arts to competitive sport: the case of bajiquan", 3rd Baltic Alliance for Asian studies conference:  "Dynamic Asia: Shaping the Future", Riga, April 13-15, 2018.

PORCHET, Pierrick, "Circulation of kinesic practices and representations in Chinese martial arts", 3rd Martial Arts Studies Conference, Cardiff University, July 11-13, 2017.

PORCHET, Pierrick. "Kinesic Intelligence in Literature", Seminar in the Department of English Language and Literature, Geneva University, May 2, 2017. 

PORCHET, Pierrick. "In the Thick of Images or Doing Visual Anthropology Today"CUSO Anthropology Module, Castasegna, April 27-29, 2017.

PORCHET, Pierrick. "Expériences culturelles du corps", Programme doctoral d'Histoire et Sciences des Religions, Lausanne University,  November 14, 2016.