Keywords: Martial Arts Studies; Combat Sports; Ethnography; Practice Theory; Material Culture; Mundane Technology; Cultural Identity.
This article draws on the heuristic potential of materiality for the analysis of combat cultures, utilising data gathered from a number of long-term Western practitioners of a variety of Eastern movement forms. The aim is to investigate in depth the relationship between the fighter habitus and the material equipment of different Far Eastern traditional combat cultures, focusing particularly on the role of apparel and clothing, considered as «mundane technologies of fighting», as acting through this equipment intensifies the process of re-inventing tradition. I thus present a five-year ethnographic study of an Association of Traditional Martial Arts in Italy, in which two fighting systems from different Asian national cultures are taught: «Muay Thai» and «Tai Chi Tuishou». Finally, I explore how Western practitioners of Eastern martial arts articulate this difference, focusing on the opportunities and limits given by the use of material supports in re-inventing different traditional combat cultures.