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  • Writer's pictureSpencer Bennington

Introducing the Tiny Tiger Lecture Series!

Updated: Nov 11, 2020

Hello everyone and welcome back to the Rhetorical Roundhouse blog! Last week I promised that I'd share some major updates with you today and, well, I'm a man of my word. Today I'm excited to launch a brand new video lecture series designed to quickly and effectively communicate some of the major research featured on

In honor of the millennia old tradition of trying to get kids interested in Tae Kwon Do with the help of a cartoon character, I've named the collection the Tiny Tiger Lecture Series. Each video is only going to be about five minutes long (because I know everyone is busy busy busy) and will work towards providing evidence for one specific argument or idea.

Episode one's major idea is all about the most fundamental component of RR: martial arts as rhetorical practices. What does this mean? Well, a LOT of things, really. So many that I decided to first try to define the terms "martial arts" and "rhetorical" in the video. To be clear, this is not an easy task. Paul Bowman has commented multiple times (2015, 2016) that attempting to define martial arts is fraught with pitfalls leading to the exclusion of some groups and the prioritization of others. In fact, most people, myself included, when defining something like "martial arts" end up transforming it into what Mowitt (1992) calls a "disciplinary object." In short, this means that martial arts becomes what I want it to be because I can only really see it through my disciplinary lens, my rhetoric-goggles, if you will.

Perhaps Bowman will lend some more insight into defining martial arts in his new book (coming soon for FREE this summer) Deconstructing Martial Arts.

With the definitions out of the way, this first Tiny Tiger lecture goes on to provide some basic examples of how one might classify an action, particularly a nonverbal one, as rhetorical. Understanding this concept is important because martial arts and martial artists rarely say explicitly what they mean or think or want etc. like other rhetorical speakers.

And after an example or two, my time was up! Fun fact: I had about three times as much written in my original draft of the script. The rest of the content will be fleshed out more fully in the next two lecture so, don't worry, you won't be missing out. I bring it up here though to suggest that it's pretty difficult to make any kind of salient point in about five minutes. One way I tried to do this was with a technological aid--audio doctoring.

One component of this first video that I'd love to hear some more feedback on is the speed of the audio itself. After recording, I actually edited out dead air and then sped up the track to try and get the lecture as condensed as possible. I worry that this one may be a bit too fast however...let me know. I've already refined this technique somewhat for the next videos but I want to hear what you think so I can continually improve the content.

Other than that, I wanted to make sure I shared the full transcript with you (below) in case reading is easier for you, as well as a list of all my image/video sources since I do not own them. I hope that since these videos are for educational purposes only that I have not violated the terms of fair use.

Thanks for checking out today's post and my new video! Check back soon for more Tiny Tiger Lectures as well as an update on next week's Martial Arts Studies Conference in Orange, CA!




Welcome to the Taekwondo Tiny Lecture Series, a compact collection of martial arts studies research brought to you by

Today’s topic is an explanation of a fundamental claim to the rhetorical roundhouse mission: Martial arts are rhetorical practices

To better understand what this means, let’s first discuss and define the terms “martial arts” and “rhetorical.”

The phrase “martial arts” tends to be used to describe systems of fighting like Karate, Kung Fu or Taekwondo extending from Southeast Asian cultural traditions. This usage of the term has been popularized by any number of movies, TV shows, video games, literature, and music and become cemented in the American consciousness as something distinctly “other” or foreign because of its association with Eastern philosophy or mythologies. BUT, importantly, a martial art can also be defined as any system of training necessary for the cultivation of a soldier, warrior, or even mature citizen. In his article on, Maxime Chouinard locates some of the original English language usages of the term as early as the Renaissance. Of particular importance is the root word ars from the latin meaning art, a system of practical knowledge (associated more closely with words like artisan or artifice as opposed to beauty or aesthetics) In short, it’s important to understand that the martial artist is defined by their adherence to a cultural code of discipline and their embodied knowledge of techniques which connect physical, social, and political power in multiple ways. By this definition, the martial artist can take many forms: from the military officer trained in self-defense, to the combat sports prizefighter, to the flashy weapons demonstration experts, and even other unexpected professional or academic circles.

So then, what do I mean by rhetorical?

Classically, rhetoric was defined by Aristotle as “the faculty of observing, in any given case, the available means of persuasion.” The word itself comes from the Ancient Greek root for the verb to speak or say and is often associated with the political or legal forums of Ancient Greece. In this historical context, Aristotle identified what he called three species of rhetoric: Deliberative (the speech used to promote or oppose public policy and legislation) Forensic (the speech used in a court of law to proclaim the innocence or guilt of an accused) and epideictic (ceremonial speech to praise, blame, mourn, or celebrate an occasion).

However, despite the word’s origins in the Greek language, rhetoric is not a Greek invention. Understood more broadly by contemporary theorist Wayne C Booth, rhetoric can be defined as the “entire range of resources that human beings share for producing effects on one another.” This focus on what Xing Lu refers to as “human rhetorics” allows us to see rhetoric in social contexts different from those that Aristotle invokes in naming his three species, especially those that don’t privilege public participation in legislature, criminal defense, or ceremony.

Furthermore, Booth’s definition allows us to understand rhetoric as an exchange that doesn’t necessarily depend on language. If that’s the case, we can certainly imagine human actions and artifacts that serve to produce a meaningful effect on an audience, one that might encourage them to react or behave in a certain way.

The star-spangled banner, for example, is a song employed to persuade a large group to unite under a common national identity. In American culture, this national anthem is played before most major sporting events and it has long been expected that attentendees stand with their hand over their heart for this performance. An action as simple as sitting or kneeling instead, a gesture former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick achieved notoriety for in 2016, is also powerfully rhetorical, despite it being non-verbal, as it provokes a discussion about this so-called “shared” identity of American citizenship. If a piece of music or body posture can produce these kinds of emotions, discussions, and visceral reactions from an audience, why shouldn’t something as visually dynamic and symbol heavy as a fighting art be considered rhetorical as well?

In the next installment of this Tiny Tiger Lecture, we will look more closely at some examples from Western Boxing as well as Chinese Kung Fu that illustrate how martial arts have long been used in the ring and on the silver screen as compelling forms of argument.

If you enjoyed the video, please like and subscribe, or head over to for more content. Thanks for watching and check back soon for new videos--kamsahamnida!

Sources for images and video clips:,204,203,200_.jpg

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1 Comment

Sep 27, 2023

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