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Captivation, false connection and secret societies in Singapore


D.S. Farrer

University of Plymouth, GB
About D.S.
Visiting Professor of Performance, University of Plymouth; Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Guam
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Interminable ritual repetition of set movements (taolu) has resulted in Chinese martial arts facing trenchant criticism as being useless in fight sports, mixed martial arts, and actual combat. In Singapore, the neglect of body-callousing or conditioning methods in Chinese martial arts may render them unfit for unarmed combat. This led me to ask whether the entire edifice of set practice in the martial arts is based upon a false connection. Researching Hong Shen Choy Li Fut, a Chinese fighting style notoriously infested with gangsters in the red-light district of Singapore, I was informed that all Chinese martial arts and lion dance associations are triads. Nevertheless, even here I was shown curious dancelike interpretations for martial arts moves taught. Does the endless repetition of sets captivate the performer into a delusional belief that they are becoming a better fighter? Are the audiences of such sets, performed in dramatic rendition, similarly held captive in a false connection?
How to Cite: Farrer, D.S., 2018. Captivation, false connection and secret societies in Singapore. Martial Arts Studies, 5, pp.36–51. DOI:
Published on 29 Jan 2018.
Peer Reviewed


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