About the Rhetorical Roundhouse Project
What started as a creative outlet during the interminable stress of grad school life is quickly becoming my first major Digital Humanities project. Rhetorical Roundhouse aims to bring together Humanities scholars as well as martial artists to discover the connections between these two fields. This project does the work of preserving cultural heritage while simultaneously offering a space for scholarly and public collaboration. My vision is that Rhetorical Roundhouse will become a hub for academics and practitioners alike, one that foster knowledge production and creative expression, one that celebrates the harmony of opposites and the beauty of agonism.
From Ancient Greece to the Modern Olympics, the beautiful struggle still persists through sport.
At it's core, Rhetorical Roundhouse is born from Tae Kwon Do. Although Korean by birth, Tae Kwon Do is an international phenomenon and, since its formalization after the Korean War, it has quickly become the world’s most popular martial art. This is due, in part, to its inception as an Olympic competition in 2000, and the increased marketability of combat sports in the twenty-first century.
This Digital Humanities project, however, will remind practitioners and scholars the world over that Tae Kwon Do offers much more than just an organized system of fighting techniques. The art embodies many fundamental Daoist principles which connect it with Japanese and Chinese rhetorical traditions. To contribute to the knowledge of how martial arts can operationalize and enact cultural philosophies, this project places videos of Tae Kwon Do forms practice, oral histories of practitioners, and creative responses to the art at the forefront of the user’s experience.
This platform will celebrate the integration of the personal and the universal, reveal the understudied humanities issues inherent in martial arts, and foster a digital community to further explore the philosophical and rhetorical traditions explored and enacted through Tae Kwon Do.
One of the fundamental arguments of Rhetorical Roundhouse is that Tae Kwon Do, as well as many other martial arts, preserve and perform cultural rhetorics. By that understanding, the trigrams in the logo above don't simply refer back to ancient cosmological symbols, but to a type of topoi extending from Ancient Chinese rhetorics. When these commonplace arguments become performed, as they are in the Poomse Poetry series, they become what I'll refer to as "embodied topoi."
Additionally, I hope that Rhetorical Roundhouse can be yet another safe haven and place of knowledge exchange for scholars in the growing interdisciplinary field of Martial Arts Studies. I'm so lucky to have the opportunity to be a scholar at a time when the Martial Arts Studies Journal and Martial Arts Studies Research Network are thriving representations of such a vibrant community. One of my goals for Rhetorical Roundhouse is to help practitioners and academics locate valuable research and resources for a variety of purposes related to better understanding Tae Kwon Do, rhetorical theory, and martial arts. To that end, I'm happy to feature such worthwhile publications as the Martial Arts Studies Journal and other important blogs like Ben Judkins' Kung Fu Tea here.
I can't thank you enough for taking the time to visit Rhetorical Roundhouse. Please check back on our blog to see regular updates regarding Tae Kwon Do research, resources, personal development stories, and news about the website--I'll be aiming to post something once a week but at the very least twice a month.
About the Author: Spencer Bennington
Spencer Todd Bennington is the founder of The Rhetorical Roundhouse Project, a scholar of Rhetoric and Composition, and a 2nd Dan Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do. He created Rhetorical Roundhouse as a way to demonstrate to martial artists and academics alike that all things can find balance and harmony in one another, even if they are seemingly opposite in nature. Spencer hopes this project will continue to flourish, inspire new creative additions from other martial artists, and new contributions from other scholars to further advance the field of Martial Arts Studies and the discipline of Tae Kwon Do. Learn more about Spencer by viewing his Digital Portfolio.