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Looking to the Future: The Rhetorical Roundhouse Network

Thank you for taking the time to read more about Rhetorical Roundhouse, an online community for martial arts practitioners and researchers, particularly those interested in the philosophical underpinnings of Tae Kwon Do. This website was originally constructed as a Digital Humanities project for a graduate course at the University of South Florida. It's primary purpose, in the beginning, was to house a series of videos known now as the Pumsae Poetry Series.  As I was learning more about non-Western rhetorics and developing the concept that would later come to be known as "embodied topoi," I was putting my research into practice through Tae Kwon Do. 

It didn't take long, however, for this site to take on a different kind of life. As I added more blog entries, scholarship, and other kinds of media, I quickly realized this was more than the kind of art project I had originally envisioned. Today, it serves as a digital portfolio, something that I can use as a way to explain to people outside my discipline what it is I actually study and do. 

But in the past year, I've been working to develop Rhetorical Roundhouse into something much more. In January, I announced my intentions to establish the Rhetorical Roundhouse Network, a nonprofit organization dedicated to spreading critically reflexive martial arts education to those communities most in need. It is my belief, and the belief of many other scholars, that traditional martial arts training offers a multitude of physical, mental, and emotional benefits for students. I aim to extend these benefits to marginalized groups, those who wouldn't ordinarily be able to afford Tae Kwon Do lessons, for the purpose of reducing violence in a variety of at-risk groups. Of course, this cannot be accomplished alone. I am currently working hard to strengthen bonds between a number of martial arts masters, international scholars, and philanthropists to make the Rhetorical Roundhouse Network into a powerful force for good. 

Like all good things, this takes time. For now, I am engaged in a variety of pilot programs which investigate the ways in which martial arts groups can become more engaged in service and activism within their larger communities. By early 2021, the Rhetorical Roundhouse Network will attain 501(c)3 status and, with any luck, will begin raising money for scholarship programs.

For the latest updates regarding the Rhetorical Roundhouse Network, be sure to check back on the blog or visit the Service and Activism page. If you would like to learn more or get involved, feel free to email

Below is the original "about" information for Rhetorical Roundhouse. 

The Origins of

 Rhetorical Roundhouse

What started as a creative outlet during the interminable stress of grad school life quickly became my first major Digital Humanities project. Rhetorical Roundhouse aims to bring together 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.

agon 2.jpg

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 one of the world’s most popular martial arts. 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.  Click any of the eight images below to see the corresponding Pumsae Poetry video. For more information about the Daoist cosmology embodied through the Taegeuk, click the logo below. 


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 Pumsae 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 Todd Bennington


Spencer Todd Bennington is the founder of The Rhetorical Roundhouse Project, a scholar of Rhetoric and Composition, and a 3rd 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.

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