Identity in Sports

A Black-belt Taekwondo fighter. Credits to Wikimedia Commons.

Identity was always an issue that I struggled with while living in America. As a Korean-American, I was born in South Korea and came to the United States when I was one year old. I remember growing up in predominantly African-American and Caucasian communities. My unique upbringing allowed me to be immersed in a tossed salad of various cultures at an early age. Although I was blessed with the opportunity to learn and appreciate diversity, I always felt a subtle yearning to want to learn more about my own heritage. Luckily, my parents had always been supportive of giving me opportunities to learn about Korean culture. Around the age of 12, when I had just gotten into middle school, I was given the chance to take Taekwondo classes. Taekwondo is a Korean martial art and sport that teaches self-discipline and self-defense over other things. You must learn how to garner a mentality of respect for yourself and those around you. However, it also teaches you to be direct and straightforward with your intentions. Such principles are seen in the martial art where every kick or punch is firmly pronounced; there must be no hesitation whether or not you strike. Taekwondo is a dynamic Korean sport primarily known for its power kicks (more impact than sweeping momentum) and leg swings.

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A Visible Power for the Commonwealth

When do words possess authoritative quality? At what point can we differentiate a simple promise from a formal contract? These are just some of the questions that arose when I thought about the “social contracts” that Thomas Hobbes mentioned in his book, the Leviathan. The portion of the Leviathan that I will be referring to is titled “Of the Causes, Generation, and Definition of a Commonwealth” (Chapter 17). The arguments and philosophies presented in this chapter were intended by Hobbes to describe the necessity of sovereign institutions for peace and security. Hobbes insisted that a visible power(s) needed to be exist in order for humans within their regions to be free from the condition of war. The condition of war is a term coined to describe the natural state of humans to preserve their own lives against his/her enemies; in this state, all other beings are considered enemies. A consequence of this state would be that no person would have security no matter how adept they were.

Original copy of the Leviathan. Credits to Wikimedia Commons.

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Games can lose their integrity.

One of the world’s most popular game genres is known as “Role Playing Games” (RPGs). In RPGs, the player chooses a character (sometimes known as an avatar) that they wield control over. Once the rules and guidelines for success are laid out, the player is responsible for making decisions that will further develop his/her character. Some say that the popularity of this genre of game stems from the autonomy and freedom that players experience when playing in the world of the game. Of the myriad of RPGs, one that has gained a high level of acclaim is known as “Maplestory”. Maplestory is a free online role playing game developed by Nexon a South Korean company. It was released May 11th, 2005 and it is recognized as one of the most successful 2-dimensional RPGs of our time. The game is known for its cute animations, riveting backgrounds and trademark soundtracks. The point of the game is to defeat monsters, cultivate a specialized fighter, complete quests and outrank your competitors (fellow players). However, the game has been criticized in recent years due to one primary reason: the fundamental challenge(s) of the game have been eliminated.

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:NEXON_logo.gif

Credit to Wikimedia Commons.

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Residence Staff as a Political Institution

Most people that have attended college have a clear memory of how they felt about their residential advisers. As one of the first people they meet in the college dorms, they can either make or break the initial impression of college for freshmen. Residence staff (Resstaff) is an important institution at the University of Michigan dedicated to the well-being and safety of students living in the residence halls. As a Resstaff member myself, I try to keep these things in mind when I interact with the students that I look after. At the end of the day, our goal is to make sure that new students are safe and feel welcomed and cared for. In this blog post, I will establish correlations between what we have learned in our Political Science 101 course and Resstaff as an institution.

Picture inside of Stockwell residence hall at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor (credit to Wikimedia).

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North Korea: An attempt at Utopia?

What do you think of when you hear the word “Utopia”? Some might say it is another word for heaven. Others might say it is a non-existent, ideal place that our imperfect world strives to be like. The consensus of the definition of Utopia is that it is an imaginary place where all things are perfect.

“The Grasshopper: Games, LIfe and Utopia” by Bernard Suits (Cover Art).

On the contrary, in our Political Science 101 course reading of “Death of the Grasshopper” by Bernard Suits, Utopia is a place without science, morality, labor, art, sex, love and all things that make us human (Suits). To give some background about the story, there is a grasshopper that embodies leisure and play, and he argues the definition of Utopia with ants that represent hard-work ethic and dedication. Through a debate between the grasshopper and ants, Suits describes his stance on what the ideal world looks like. Even though the arguments that the grasshopper makes are persuasive and convincing, Suits’ conclusion that a Utopian society is barren and desolate seems paradoxical. For instance, to give a specific example, grasshopper convinces the ants that the arts do not exist in a perfect world. The reasoning behind this claim is because art is the expression of humanly features such as hopes, dreams, fears, victories, tragedies, imperfections, moral dilemmas, emotions, etc. (Suits). But assuming that all aspects of human needs and wants are satisfied in a Utopia, none of those listed features can exist. Through our lens of perception, Utopia sounds terrible because it will never exist unless we abandon our humanity. In that line of logic, Suits utilizes the grasshopper character to further this idea of a barren Utopia (if it were to exist in our world).

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Breakdancing: The Anarchic Game Paradox

Can a battle be considered a game? Can an all-out war be confined to a specific time and space? Can two parties with competing interests agree to play by the rules? Most people consider games to exist only in controlled, structured environments. However, I would argue that games can even be found in the most anarchic settings.

Credit to Seis Del Sur at the Bronx Documentary Center.

Credit to Seis Del Sur Company.

One game that most people do not know about in modern-day society is b-boy, or breakdance, battles. The term “b-boy” stands for “break-boy”, meaning dancers would dance to specific breaks in the beats and match his/her movements to the up-tempo tracks. B-boying is a very dynamic, acrobatic style of dance that was created from the ground up in the Bronx, New York. In the late 1970s and early 1980s it was a movement that spawned itself in areas of low socioeconomic status. Our nation suffered from a severe recession in 1982. The poor state of the economy made hopelessness spread like an infection, especially in lower income neighborhoods. Out of that despondency, an unexpected art form was birthed. There was so much energy in the young generation that needed to be expressed and thus b-boying was established. The dance is competitive in nature because it finds its origins in gang violence. Gang membership and criminal activity were at an all-time high in the 80s, and b-boying actually played a large role in stopping unnecessary bloodshed. Some say that the dance was a miracle because it took the kids off the streets and gave them hope for the future. The breaking culture was a positive influence because it promoted peace, unity, love and having fun.

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