Final Project Individual Proposal

Working Title: “Martial Art or Art? Wushu in Singapore”

Group: Chee Seng, Jennifer, Jeannie, Aaron

Synopsis of main story:
Every Saturday, youths make their way to a basketball court in Serangoon Central to fight. Fight? Yes indeed, to fight. You see, these youths are wushu practitioners, members of the wushu community in Singapore, some of whom gather at Serangoon Central (amongst many other places) to learn and train with others like themselves every Saturday. In recent years, the number of wushu practitioners and learners (especially amongst the young) has significantly increased, this in part being due to the popularity of several recent wuxia films such as the Ip Man series. Not only have such films swelled enrollment and club numbers but they have also re-ignited interest in Chinese culture. Such gains however,in the eyes of some, have not come without their consequences. Some practitioners feel wushu has become too commercial and modern at the expense of the traditional and more authentic forms which are less flashy and entertaining. Others see this as a generational gap and that traditional wushu may well die out with the few remaining practitioners. Through our website and journalistic works, we thus hope  to tell stories about wushu, the Singaporean wushu community, their struggles with change and their views on the future.

We have identified several potential sub-stories that complement as well as contribute to the larger main story in our assignment. Amongst these sub-stories (and the one which I will be taking up), is a story that revolves around a shifu or master within the Serangoon wushu community. We know all too well the stereotypes of martial arts masters from our Hollywood films and Hong Kong dramas but what does the modern martial arts Master look like, especially in highly cosmopolitan Singaporean society? How does a Master trained in traditional methods (mastery often taking years of practice and a total embracing of the underlying philosophies) reconcile his teaching of the more popular and ‘quickly learned’ contemporary style? Who will inherit his un-taught teachings? Through our informant within the wushu community, we have gained access to as well as the permission of a shifu teaching the contemporary style of wushu to be interviewed. Through this interview, I believe that I will be able to answer the questions I have mentioned above, questions that tell the story of a modern day shifu and at the same time, relate to the wider themes of the main story.

With regard to the presentation of the Master’s story, my group and I have chosen to make and post a video record of the interview that will be accompanied by text as well as photos. The accompanying text will not be a full transcript of the interview but rather a narrative informed by the interview (much like the interviews that appear in the Monday editions of ST Life) about the interviewee. In doing so, we thus provide our viewers the option of viewing either.

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