ArticlePDF Available

In which Ways is Karate (dō) Japanese? A Consideration on Cultural Images of Bushidō and Nihonjinron in the Postwar Globalization of Martial Arts

Authors:

Abstract

Journal of Inter-Regional Studies: Regional and Global Perspectives (JIRS – Waseda University). - This article explores effects of globalization on the political and discursive construction of contemporary karate. First, it provides an overview about the role of martial arts and bushidō in the nihonjinron ideologies rhetoric and their postwar spread. Secondly, it surveys the importance of popular culture and emerging global media in propagating karate’s diverse and multivalent images, ethnic, social, economic, and political, both inside and outside Japan. Finally, it concludes with some reflections about the controversy on karate Japaneseness/Okinawaness advocating for a reconsideration of the many traps of methodological essentialisms.
Introduction
Contemporary pop culture and its lexicon oers
a perfect setting to analyze karate as a symbolic
mechanism of (re)presentation both inside and
outside Japan. Actually, many of the cultural images
of karate persisting nowadays grew in the postwar
period and were deeply shaped by the repercussions
of globalization. Karate, contrary to the common
perception, is far from being a xed and uniform
phenomenon, but houses diverse and multivalent
layers of political, ethnic, social, and economic
meanings. I argue that by asking about the origins and
contents of karate representations in popular culture
we can trace and understand the puzzling reality
of this Japanese martial art, trapped in a cultural
dialectic of inclusion and exclusion, actually at the
margins of proper budō. Due to its multicultural
and varying social class associations, karate meets
many challenges in obtaining full credit in the land
Abstract
This article explores eects of globalization on the
political and discursive construction of contemporary
karate. First, it provides an overview about the role of
martial arts and bushidō in the nihonjinron ideologies
rhetoric and their postwar spread. Secondly, it
surveys the importance of popular culture and
emerging global media in propagating karates diverse
and multivalent images, ethnic, social, economic, and
political, both inside and outside Japan. Finally, it
concludes with some reections about the controversy
on karate Japaneseness/Okinawaness advocating for a
reconsideration of the many traps of methodological
essentialisms.
In which Ways is Karate (dō) Japanese?
A Consideration on Cultural Images of
Bushidō and Nihonjinron in the Postwar
Globalization of Martial Arts*
Eduardo González de la Fuente**
Peer-Reviewed Article
* This article results from the study I conducted to obtain my PhD in Intercultural and East Asian Studies from the Autonomous University
of Barcelona (2020), including research stays at El Colegio de México and The University of the Ryukyus. I would like to express my
gratitude to Blai Guarné and Gustavo Pita, my doctoral supervisors, and to Satomi Miura, Michiko Tanaka and Miyahira Katsuyuki,
research stay advisors, for their support.
** Eduardo González de la Fuente, PhD is Visiting Researcher at The Center for Asian and African Studies (CEAA) at El Colegio de
México (Colmex).
Published online, March 2021
Journal of Inter-Regional Studies: Regional and Global Perspectives (JIRS) — Vol.4 Online
1of 16
of bushidō. The cultural richness and social diversity
of karate are ultimately against nihonjinron ideologies
and demonstrates that there are many ways to be
Japanese.
In these regards, it would be dicult to nd
a stronger sign than the fact that the Kodansha
Encyclopedia does not qualify karate along with
the traditional martial arts of Japan, but concedes
that it is loosely referred to as such outside of
Japan (Kodansha 1983: 158).1 The main reason for
karate to be doubted as a Japanese traditional art is
due to its origins, that go back to the time when the
Okinawa archipelago formed the Ryūkyū Kingdom
(1429-1879), a political entity that maintained a dual
tributary and diplomatic relationship with Japan and
China. Finally, the kingdom was assimilated by the
modern Japanese nation and became the Okinawa
prefecture.
With the birth of the 20th century, karate entered the
school system and was included for the training of the
military and policemen in Okinawa. Early in the 20s
the Okinawan martial art began to acquire a name in
Japan, especially among university students in Tokyo
and Kansai areas, where renowned Okinawan born
masters like Funakoshi Gichin (1868-1957), Mabuni
Kenwa (1889-1952), and Uechi Kanbun (1877-1948)
had begun to formally teach karate (Okinawa, the
Birthplace of Karate 2017: xxi-xxiii). Still, because
of its Okinawan roots, karate was usually perceived
as a peripheral and uncivilized art that moreover
lacked proper systematization. The matter was to be
empathically addressed after the acceptance of karate
by the Dai Nippon Butokukai (1933).
The development of Japanese martial arts came
to a halt following the Japanese defeat in the Second
World War. In 1945 Okinawa suered one of the
war bloodiest encounters, lasting three months, and
popularly known as The Typhoon of Steel by the
vast number of projectiles that covered Ryūkyūan
territory. It brought havoc and numerous disgraces
to the southern islands. The colossal loss of lives
that reached up to 150.000 individuals according
ocial sources, accounted 1/4 of the total archipelago
population at that time and 1/3 of the main island of
Okinawa (Oguma 2014: 3). Naturally, the Okinawan
death count included karate masters, relatives and
young apprentices, eroding, so to speak, the natural
line of cultural transmission, in a phenomenon
that aected the whole socio-cultural sphere of the
archipelago. Besides the irreplaceable loss of human
lives were karate masters homes, dojos and clubs,
and the destruction of large amounts of karate-related
material culture: weapons, objects, literature, and
many precious assets; another case of the unspeakable
destruction and obliteration that the Second World
War with its horrors brought to karate, Okinawa and
Japan.
The institutional architecture of postwar karate
is multiple and involves a complex set of local,
national and international organizations and
federations, forming, allying, dividing, in a routine
that extends to our current era. Instead of untangling
such mazes, this article addresses some reections
on the representational status of karate as an iconic
expression of Japanese culture, following its fast
worldwide spread after the Second World War. To do
so, nonetheless, I will begin by taking a small glimpse
into 2017.
1 Karate was historically most widely practiced in China and Okinawa and thus is not considered one of the traditional Japanese martial
arts; it is, however, loosely referred to as such outside of Japan. (Kodansha 1983: 158). This 80s denition is still active at newer editions;
see: University of Hawaii - Okinawa Collection Blog (2019: n.p.)
2
In which Ways is Karate (do
) Japanese? A Consideration on Cultural Images of Bushid
o
and Nihonjinron in the Postwar
Globalization of Martial Arts
/ Eduardo González de la Fuente
of 16
Nihonjinron rhetoric and its postwar
spread in the international sphere via
martial arts
On October 25, 2016, 3973 people gathered in Kokusai
Dori, the main tourist street of Naha, Okinawas
capital city, to carry out the Karate Day Anniversary
Festival and beat the Guinness World Record of
simultaneous karate demonstration with the largest
number of participants.2 The attempt coincided with
the 80th anniversary of the 1936 Masters Meeting,
a date designated as The World Karate Day by
the Prefecture of Okinawa. All around the world
karateka, from multiple nationalities, were targeted
and encouraged to participate in the celebration,
which consequently received an international echo.
The massive demonstration also served to supply
the opening and closing footage of an upcoming
episode of the NHK World-Japan documentary series
Japanology Plus entirely dedicated to Okinawan
Karate, aired on 9 February 2017.3
Nevertheless, to which extent is it accurate to
speak about Okinawan karate in terms of Japanology?
Japanology comprises conceptually a double meaning
deriving from the sux -logy: i) a way of speaking, the
discourse about the Japanese, and ii) the study and
science of the Japanese as a topic. Thus, the notion
of Japanology is able to entail, under the appearance
of a science, the cultural nationalism ideology
embedded both in nihonbunkaron (discourse about
the Japanese culture) and nihonjinron (theories
about the Japanese).4 According to Oguma, who
challenges commonly accepted views on the matter,
the belief in the Japanese as a homogenous group
is not so much the result of prewar Japan, when the
discourse of The Great Japanese Empire relied upon
the possibility of a multiethnic nation, as of postwar
Japan when revised historiography settled the theory
and myth of the national ethnic homogeneity (Oguma
2002).5 From this standpoint, a good part of postwar
Japanese anthropology and sociology has dedicated
many eorts to deconstruct the nihonjinron ideology
of homogeneity, heading to:
a depiction of contemporary Japan as a
multiethnic and stratied society where class,
culture, and ethnic dierences play a signicant
role. The displacing of the homogeneity
paradigm to a diversity framework has thus
given rise to the questioning of the monolithic
and essentialist denition of Japanese identity
forged in the ideological narrative of the
Nihonjinron (discourse on Japaneseness)
literature. (Guarné, Yamashita 2015: 57).
Nihonjinron takes part in a scheme where partisan
interpretations of history, otherwise managed by all
nation-states, are exploited to erect and sanction the
existence of precise leading and all-encompassing
representational devices. Concurrently nihonjinron
has been subject to an extensive diusion by
the worldwide popular mind, being reproduced
as a stereotyped practice. The boom of postwar
Japaneseness was initiated by the 60s economic miracle
in Japan. During the 70s and 80s, the fascination for
2 See Ryūkyū Shimpō (2016: n.p). The event succeeded in outperforming by large the previous achievement in India (2013) with 809
people. However, in 2018 India regained the record by carrying out a demonstration that included exclusively 5797 women commemorating
International Womens Day.
3 It is noteworthy that this episode (season 2, number 31) is at the top ten of over 200 available in an unocial collection of Japanology
Plus that can be found on the web; thus, demonstrating the capacity of karate to project a global image of Japan.
4 -logy is partly logos: account, ratio, reason, argument, discourse; and partly log- (var. of leg-, legein): gather, choose, recount, say. See
Hoad, T. F. (1993: 270).
5 After the rise in anthropology and historiography of the homogeneous nation theory and the collapse of the prewar mixed nation theory,
there was nothing left to prevent the myth of ethnic homogeneity from taking root. Japan came to be viewed as an isolated, remote and
peaceful island nation, in which a homogeneous nation had lived from time immemorial (Oguma 2002: 316).
Journal of Inter-Regional Studies: Regional and Global Perspectives (JIRS) — Vol.4 Online
3of 16
the new Japanese syncretic modernity and the global
re-encounter with the Other encouraged the second
wave in the creation of a Japanese cultural nationalism
(Befu 1993, 2001; Sakai 1997; Guarné 2017). The
many eects of nihonjinrons deceiving reexivity,
grounded on the local-global connection, far more
that the category per se, are today still hampering a
paradigm shift within the eld of Japanese studies. As
Aike P. Rots has noted, this is very much related to
methodological nationalism, as well as the decit of
transnational comparative perspectives and attention to
minorities when studying Japan. Such circumstances
are aecting also the research on outlying zones like
Okinawa or Hokkaidō, that furthermore are left to
ethnologists and anthropologists, thus perpetuating
power inequalities between centre and periphery
(Rots 2019: 3).
Essentialism is also a problematic and sensitive
issue also from the point of view of sociology and
cultural studies. It was back in 1989 that Pierre
Bourdieu gave a lecture at the University of Tokyo
entitled Social Space and Symbolic Space. Besides
making clear the potentialities of using relational
thinking and his own work on French society,
particularly Distinction (1984), when studying Japan,
the well-known sociologist addressed the many traps
that substantialism and essentialism pose to properly
understand cultural practices and societal changes:
I shall not talk to you about the Japanese
sensibility, nor about the Japanese mystery
or miracle. I shall talk about France, a
country I know fairly well, not because I was
born there and speak its language, but because
I have studied it a great deal. Does this mean
that I shall conne myself to the particularity
of a single society and shall not talk in any way
about Japan? I do not think so. I think, on the
contrary, that by presenting the model of social
space and symbolic space that I constructed
for the particular case of France, I shall still be
speaking to you about Japan (just as, in other
contexts, I would be speaking about Germany
or the United States).[...] The substantialist
mode of thought, which characterizes common
sense - and racism - and which is inclined to
treat the activities and preferences specic to
certain individuals or groups in a society at
a certain moment as if they were substantial
properties, inscribed once and for all in a sort
of biological or cultural essence, leads to the
same kind of error, whether one is comparing
dierent societies or successive periods in the
same society [...] one has to avoid turning into
necessary and intrinsic properties of some
group (nobility, samurai, as well as workers or
employees) the properties which belong to this
group at a given moment in time because of its
position in a determinate social space and in
a determinate state of the supply of possible
goods and practices. (Bourdieu 1998, 4).
It is interesting to remember how the notoriety
of karate translated into the realm of business
management and eciency following Japans
economic miracle. Such international success
deepened the renewed attraction towards the
samurai ethical codes to the point that they came to
be associated with the peculiarities of the Japanese
businessman. The process of creating a huge layer of
workforce devoted to economic growth, by applying
martial principles inherited from budō through the
practice of sports has been dened as salariman-
ization (May 1989: 168). The salaryman or kigyō
senshi (corporate warrior) is a national symbol of
late 70s - 80s Japan, and one of the most universal
stereotypes of the Japanese working culture. In order
for foreign business cultures to explain and learn from
the Japanese rms principles in investment, marketing
strategies, and decision making, karate used to be and
still is commonplace (Cotter, Henley 1995; Hin and
4
In which Ways is Karate (do
) Japanese? A Consideration on Cultural Images of Bushid
o
and Nihonjinron in the Postwar
Globalization of Martial Arts
/ Eduardo González de la Fuente
of 16
Serpa 1997; Shafer 2005). The nationalist depictions
based on karate economics, however, tend to entail
many re-inventions and assimilations that exemplify
the split between the domestic and the foreign
consumption of the Okinawan martial art in reference
to its aesthetics, as we will later see:
While military science oers a novel
perspective for assessing competitive
marketing situations, the Japanese martial
art of karate may generate further insight
for Western decision-makers in marketing
strategies and tactics. Oered is an overview
of the karate principles of no-mindedness,
the soft look, and non-interruption with
examples of their specic use by Japanese
rms in business competition with Western
companies. (Cotter, Henley 1995: 20).
Historically Japanese martial arts, and their
ethical expression bushidō, have been placed among
other samurai class performing arts as distinct
elements in constructing and perceiving Japan and
nihonjinron discourses. First in the transitioning
narrative between Tokugawa Japan and the political
construction of the modern Meiji civic nation by the
intercourse of the political, economic and intellectual
elites deeply inuenced by international geopolitics
(Benesch 2014).6 Then to support the ideology of
extreme nationalists and the increasing militarism
driving an Imperial Japan to the Second World War
disaster. When the horrors of war were being left
behind by the passing of time, martial arts and the
appeal of the philosophical-aesthetic complex of
bushidō gradually rose again as a major component
of the nihonjinron theories, this time cleansed from
totalitarian deviations.
Postwar karate cannot be understood without
attending to a radical shift in Japans situation and
the global geopolitics regarding sports. After the
Second World War, the nation had become a de facto
occupied territory under the exigencies of the U.S.,
and the dismantling of the imperial political ideology
started. The practice and the mere use of the term
budō in schools or physical activities were prohibited
by the allied forces (Pita 2014: 327) as a result of their
practical and ideological involvement with prewar
Japanese ultra-nationalism. Sports, nonetheless, were
globally reshaped in the aftermath of the Second
World War to serve as tools for pacication and
democratization. Therefore, in Japan an increased
de-militarized re-sportization of martial arts became
the central opening for their progressive revitalization
during the 50s:
The period directly following Japan's defeat in
the war was characterized for the dissemination
of sport and the democratic principles of
life, just as the war and pre-war periods had
been highlighted by the weighting of budō
upon sport and the expansion of militaristic
totalitarianism. In the new historical
conditions, sportization became the social
path towards the democratic-pacic claim of
bujutsu in the same manner that at the end of
Meiji it had been the path of their adaptation
to the civilizing modernization. But in order
to re-sportize bujutsu it was necessary to work
on both the transformation of its name and its
image. (Pita 2014: 328-329).7
By its part, in Okinawa, which was thoroughly
occupied by the U.S. military and ceased to pertain
to the national territory of Japan between 1945 and
6 A capital gure was Ozaki Yukio (1859-1954), journalist and inuential politician who attempted to createor, according to his later
writings, revivea Japanese institution that corresponded to what he saw as the key to the success of British merchants and diplomats on
the international stage: the English notion of gentlemanship. (Benesch 2014: 48-49).
7 Translation is mine.
Journal of Inter-Regional Studies: Regional and Global Perspectives (JIRS) — Vol.4 Online
5of 16
1972,8 karate was steadily prospering. By means to
U.S. military personnel, and especially since the
Vietnam War, karate rapidly grew in popularity as an
icon of Japanese martial arts. Actually, colonizers were
colonized by the fascinating, yet threatening, images
of martial arts as deeply rooted traditions. Hence,
under the U.S. administration, karate in Okinawa was
used again as a political tool, a cultural weapon for
encouraging Ryūkyūan pride. It was back in 1956 that
the name Okinawa Karate-dō appeared for the rst
time (Okinawa, the Birthplace of Karate 2017: 179).
Stephen Chan, who has characterized the martial
arts as hybrid totems (2011), discerns how around
that time U.S. practitioners in the archipelago began
to value Okinawan karate particularities in contrast
to the Japanese interpretations, hence fostering and
impacting the development of the art: in Okinawa,
with all its U.S. bases, had been inuenced in turn by
the American airmen who had become devotees of the
Okinawan Way. (Chan 2011: 187).
Amidst the numerous discontents that the
construction of military bases, the displacement
of inhabitants from their lands, and not few cases
of soldiers abuses towards the peoples of the
archipelago, karate provided an intercultural vehicle
for a positive and peaceful encounter between
Okinawans and U.S. nationals. On the other side,
put between the cultural pride and the intercultural
dialogue on the basis of peace culture discourse,
karate contributed indirectly to justify, or even
partially conceal, the military occupation as a process
of liberation and reparation from the Japanese
excesses. Miyahira Katsuyuki (2005) provides an
excellent analysis of the rhetoric of peace as a warrant
of U.S. occupation and the geostrategic alliance with
Japan that has in Okinawa a hot spot. He identies
many of the prevalent discourses about peace in
postwar Okinawa, that drawing on metaphors put
peace necessarily into the future, always under threats
of aggression, hence justifying readiness to ght,
armament, and the occupation of the islands:
For the JOURNEY-WAR metaphor to be
eective, a destination/goal must be set in the
future, and the path to the destination is posed
as something that is fraught with threats and
dangers, which in turn necessitates constant
struggle against them, even in peacetime. This
line of reasoning is one of the ways in which
constant armament continues to be justied in
the eyes of a nurturant provider (Miyahira
2005: 32).
Many parallels to karate arise from such discursive
alliances. Martial arts training aligns with the
requirement of weaponizing the body in times of
peace in preparation for war. In the same manner, the
longstanding myth of karate as a peasant Okinawan
ghting method created to defend from the violent
Satsuma samurai (Meyer 2008: 27-28) derives from
the times of U.S. occupation, or at least gained
global dissemination during this era. The earliest
written account I have found in popular culture
correlating karate, unarmed Okinawan peasants and
Japanese coercion appears in Ian Flemings 007 novel
Goldnger (1959):
you were asking where Karate originated. It
originated in China where wandering Buddhist
priests became an easy prey for footpads and
bandits. Their religion did not allow them to
carry weapons, so they developed their own
form of unarmed combat. The inhabitants of
Okinawa rened the art to its present form
when the Japanese forbade them to carry
weapons. (2002:170).
Karate narratives such as this, closely tied to
8 For early instances on the Okinawan reversion debate and how it was aected by the U.S. bases problem and the controversial situation
of Koreans and communism in Japan see Uechi (2019).
6
In which Ways is Karate (do
) Japanese? A Consideration on Cultural Images of Bushid
o
and Nihonjinron in the Postwar
Globalization of Martial Arts
/ Eduardo González de la Fuente
of 16
the supposed absence of military and warfare in
Okinawan history (Smits 2010), ultimately convey the
message of the need for the United States to protect
the peaceful Okinawans from higher powers, either
Japanese in the past or Chinese in the future. As it
can be seen, postwar karate cultural images enlarged
the extent and ideological range of its geopolitical
functions by means of globalization and the unfolding
of new politico-cultural conicts.
The role of the emerging global media
in propagating the multiple
sociopolitical images of karate
The increased worldwide appeal of karate was
accompanied by a dialogical intensication of the
Okinawan martial art fame in Japan. During the 60s,
the country was experiencing a remarkable economic
development and the renaissance of its national pride
(Allison 2004), leaving behind negative images of the
immediate postwar days. Under these circumstances,
Bushidō re-emerged as an honorable frame of
reference for a new generation of Japanese. Mishima
Yukio (1925-1970) and his book Hagakure nyūmon
(Introduction to Hagakure, 1967) were essential
elements for repairing the popular image of Japanese
martial arts with actualized cultural attachments.
Not by chance, Mishimas work was translated
into English in 1977 with the title The Way of the
Samurai: Yukio Mishima on Hagakure in Modern
Life. After training in kendō (the way of the sword)
and iaidō (the art of drawing the sword) it was
precisely in 1967, coinciding with the publication of
Hagakure nyūmon, that Mishima started his training
in karate at Japans most powerful karate organization,
the Japan Karate Association (JKA), founded in
1948 with the Okinawan born Funakoshi Gichin as
supreme master. Three years later, shortly before
his suicide in the Mishimajiken or the Mishima
incident, the literary star participated in the 13th All-
Japan Karate Championships at the Budōkan in Tokyo
(1970). Mishima was a capital gure in restoring and
popularizing the international image of bushidō, now a
mass phenomenon, formerly a hideous and deplorable
referent (Pita 2014: 331-332). Japanese martial arts
constituted again one of the prevailing modes for the
global dissemination of Japanese representational
images and their underlying ideologies, deemed
together with practices like the tea ceremony or haiku,
categorized amongst what Eiko Ikegami denes as
tacit modes of communication, so often described
as mysterious aesthetic spirituality by the Western
media (Ikegami 2008: 221)9.
Despite worldwide demand for karate and budō
restoration, during the 70s and 80s the Okinawan
martial art continued to be trapped in a center-
periphery duality by cause of its origins. Overseas,
karate was the main icon of Japanese martial arts,
even of Asian arts themselves, as witnessed by the
numerous lms that used the word karate in their
productions, even though they featured Chinese or
Korean martial arts. There was a period in which
karate, martial arts or kung fu were near synonyms in
many Western countries pop culture.10 In this scheme,
the U.S. cultural industries radiated karate and East
9 According to Ikegami Japanese tacit modes of communication can overcome body-mind duality by aesthetic practices beyond reasoned
logical investigation or linguistic articulation: The emphasis on tacit modes of knowledge and communication is a distinctive feature of the
Japanese Performing arts that attained virtually meta-canonical status [...] Zeamis prescription of ideal performance with an empty mind was
not exceptional. Various performing arts, including martial arts, developed a similar ideal. Although some arts, such as the tea ceremony and
Nō drama had developed more articulated ideologies with a clear connection to Buddhist ontology, others transmitted a similar understanding
of physical discipline and spirituality as taken for granted naturalness through their practices. (Ikegami 2008: 221,225).
10 Think, for instance, of Bruce Lees rst Hong Kong movie The Big Boss (1971) translated in Spain as Karate a Muerte en Bangkok; or
the much later American movie The Perfect Weapon (1991) where the main character learns martial arts in a Korean neighborhood, under
Korean masters, whose dōjō announces karate in large letters.
Journal of Inter-Regional Studies: Regional and Global Perspectives (JIRS) — Vol.4 Online
7of 16
Asian Martial arts through the globe.
Although the arrival of martial arts to the U.S.
dates back to the rst Asian diasporas at the end of the
19th century, as I have noted before their widespread
expansion occurred after the end of the Second
World War. This was a geopolitical scenario dened
by: 1) U.S. military interventions in Asia, anxieties
of the Cold War and fear of the Asian Communist
threat; and 2) the opposition to the Vietnam War,
the anti-colonial and civil rights movements, and
the international students protests. Such context
necessarily conditioned the perception of martial arts
by way of the discovery of an exotic and dangerous
otherness, which though enthralling to some
threatened national security. The circumstances of
this cultural contact commanded primarily by conict
as a form of socialization,11 is critical to accurately
interpret the geopolitics of martial arts in the U.S. and
in global culture. For many U.S. soldiers, stationed in
high numbers in Okinawa as gateways to the Korea
(1950-53) and Vietnam (1955-1975) wars, martial
arts were a way to sublimate the violent encounter
with otherness and thus recongure their identities.
This vis-à-vis confrontation also awakened in U.S.
personnel a genuine taste for martial arts, for which
they were accepted as positive physical and spiritual
practices worthy of being taken back home. A
signicant number of ex-combatants began to open
schools in the U.S., and martial arts captured massive
public interest, sometimes with nationalistic re-
readings that gave rise to the self-titled American
Martial Arts (Miracle 2015).
On the other hand, martial arts were also re-
appropriated by countercultures and minorities to
symbolize political-cultural resistance, evidencing
the complexities of their manifestations as icons of
the global imaginary. From the late 1960s Asian-
American and African-American peoples developed
new cultural references based on the archetype of
the Asian martial artist and the otherness of his
physical, ethical and philosophical characteristics. A
conspicuous example is the inclusion of martial arts
into the formative activities of the Black Panthers
movement, or the many cross-pollinations between
martial arts cinema and the blaxploitation genre,
that transcended to hip-hop music and other arts.12 In
Japan, under the political turmoil caused by the protests
against the U.S.-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation
and Security (1960), commonly known as Anpo,
students and workers often saw their anti-system
struggles resembled in martial heroes appearing in
lms and manga, like in those created by Kajiwara
Ikki (19361987), father of the supo-kon genre
(Abe 2013).13 Against the hegemonic background,
martial arts frequently represented for the popular
imagination a successful break of the governing order
11 For a classical reference of conict as a primary form of socialization with philosophical echoes that may make us think of the so-called
non duality of Asian thought see Simmel (1904): Conict itself is the resolution of the tension between the contraries. That it eventuates in
peace is only a single, specially (sic) obvious and evident, expression of the fact that it is a conjunction of elements, an opposition, which
belongs with the combination under one higher conception. This conception is characterized by the common contrast between both forms
of relationship and the mere reciprocal indierence between elements. Repudiation and dissolution of social relation are also negatives,
but conict shows itself to be the positive factor in this very contrast with them; viz., shows negative factors in a unity which, in idea only,
not at all in reality, is disjunctive. (Simmel 1904: 490).
12 African American interest in the martial arts is ubiquitous in the contemporary United States. It can be seen in the burgeoning numbers
of black youths enrolled in self-defense classes and in hip-hop culture. African Americans fascination with the martial arts cuts across
artistic genres. [...] The RZA, the founder of the Wu Tang Clan, for example, wrote the scores for Jim Jarmuschs crime drama Ghost Dog:
The Way of the Samurai (1999) and
Q
uentin Tarantinos homage to Hong Kong kung fu lms Kill Bill, Vol. 1 (2003) and Kill Bill, Vol. 2
(2004). (Cha Jua 2008: 1999). Tarantinos homage to Hong Kong martial arts lms in Kill Bill, nonetheless, takes part mostly in Japan
and U.S. soils. The main character, played by Uma Thurman, travels to Okinawa to obtain a katana expressly manufactured by the hands
of Hattori Hanzo, a character alluding to the famous 16th century Japanese samurai.
13 Supo-kon is formed by supōtsu (sport) and kōnjo (guts). Kajiwara was the pseudonym of Takamori Asao, author among others of the
boxing hero Ashita no Joe (Joe of Tomorrow, 1966), Judō Itchoku-sen (Devotion to Judo, 1967) or Karate baka ichi dai (The Lifetime
of a Karate fool/obsessed, 1971).
8
In which Ways is Karate (do
) Japanese? A Consideration on Cultural Images of Bushid
o
and Nihonjinron in the Postwar
Globalization of Martial Arts
/ Eduardo González de la Fuente
of 16
and the epistemological axis, illuminating alternatives
to class domination, imperialism, and the modern
war machine (Kato 2008; Cha Jua 2008; Farrer and
Whalen Bridge 2011).
To sum up an additional layer of complexity, inside
the global circulation of martial arts, karate turns out
to be a central emblem for the reinstatement of the
Japanese nation as a leading cultural power in the East
Asian Region. In Soft Power: The Means To Success
In World Politics (2004: 86), Joseph S. Nye points
out martial arts as one of Japans main repositories
for the exercise of soft power on an international
level, thanks to their cultural attractiveness. Thus,
given martial arts ascendancy over other cultures
and societies, based on both spiritual principles
and fascinating images, karate was instrumental to
Japanese cultural diplomacy in contemporary world
politics. For example, this was recognized by Kondō
Seiichi, former Japanese Ambassador at UNESCO
between 2006-2008 and Director General of the Japan
Cultural Aairs Agency between 2010-2013:
Speaking to Prime Minister Koizumi
Junichirō in 2004, a representative of the
Iraqi karate world noted, We always invite
sensei [teachers] from Japan, so as not to
lose the spirituality of Japanese martial arts.
Whether it is anime or martial arts, what
lies in the background of their popularity is
apparently an unarticulated anity to the
traditional Japanese culture and philosophy
that continue[s] to survive in the midst of
modernization. (Kondō 2008: 200).
In spite of a long history of political instrumentalization
during the 20th century to serve the nation-state,
martial arts continued to be a multiple and elastic
vernacular culture. In fact, martial arts were also able
to undermine the prevailing status. As noted above,
they put into question both hierarchies and certain
modes of substantial thought, not only through their
own practices but especially through their varied
expressions in movies, books, comic-books or the
star-system (celebrities like Sean Connery, Steve
Mc
Q
ueen or Elvis Presley practiced and promoted
martial arts). In this sense, the enormous popularity
that reached the martial arts cinema in the 70s cannot
be explained without the charismatic presence of
Bruce Lee leading the martial arts cultural craze. Lee
rst capitalized on karate to gain ascendance as his
legend began at the 1964 Long Beach International
Karate Championships, where he exhibited the famous
one-inch punch. Soon after Lee introduced Chinese
martial arts to the public as a superior tradition, an
opposing force against the not so distant Japanese
hegemonic imperialism in East Asia, which actually
had appropriated karate from its Chinese origins:
The proclamation of a popular cultural
revolution, which swept the world from Hong
Kong, can be traced back to Bruce Lees
statement on gung fu (Cantonese spelling of
kung fu) made in 1965 when the term was
virtually unknown to the rest of the world. A
few years prior to the ocial outbreak of the
revolution in Hong Kong, Lee happened to
be interviewed by the Twentieth Century Fox
studio as part of the screen test for an actor
skilled in the Oriental martial arts. At this
occasion, Lee in eect unleashed the power of
ancient Chinese martial arts by removing the
veil of hitherto kept secrecy: Well, gung fu is
originated in China. It is the ancestor of karate
and jujitsu. Its more of a complete system and
its more uid. (Kato 2007: 9).
The 80s saw the production of the extremely
successful martial arts drama The Karate Kid
(1984), starring an Italian-American and a Japanese
immigrant. The movie builds its argument on the
controversy between the tough military-like training
of the Cobra Kai American karate and the ne
ascetics and mastery of Mr. Miyagi, Okinawan born.
Journal of Inter-Regional Studies: Regional and Global Perspectives (JIRS) — Vol.4 Online
9of 16
The teachings of Mr. Miyagi, based on the Okinawan
master Miyagi Chōjun (1988-1953), founder of Gōjū-
ryū karate,14 synthesize the pacist maxim karate ni
sente nashi or there is no rst strike in karate.15
Whereas the 1984 movie stands out in the popular
mind, the sequel, The Karate Kid II (1986), reached
greater box-oce returns. Interestingly it moves its
action to Okinawa, where Miyagi has to face an old
antagonist with yakuza-like behavior that tyrannizes
his home village. Many Okinawan topics like the
O-bon (day of the ancestors) festival and dances are
depicted through the footage.16
Whereas global karate semiotics in the 80s were
hanging between violence and the memory of modern
samurai imperialism to the delicacies of Japanese
aesthetics and martial ethics, in Japan, the situation
of karate was, simply put, less virtuous. Despite its
popularity, and illustrious exceptions like Mishima,
the Okinawan martial art, usually conceived as a
tough barehand ghting technique based on heavy
punches and kicks,17 remained at the perimeter of
the high culture. Karate had largely impacted the
social imaginary, and its practice was considerably
widespread in the mainland. The overall sensitivity,
nonetheless, still situated karate far from the center of
budō arts, and clearly way under the renement and
Zen spiritual depth demonstrated by kyūdō, iaidō or
aikidō, to cite some.
Having its national center in Osaka, where the
20th century Okinawan migration to the mainland
concentrated, karate was perceived, in general terms,
to be a rough martial art, typical of working classes
and brusque or ill-mannered individuals. These
portrayals are evidenced in classical depictions of
karate protagonists in Japanese movies, as we later
see.18 Henceforth, within Japan, karate continued to be
a martial art mainly of the social and cultural margins,
although at the same time prominent political gures
like the new prime minister Suga Yoshihide (born
1948), who last year received an honorary 9th dan
by the JKA, practiced karate in their university days.
Pending on future research, I hypothesize that there is
a neat social class component of karate and karateka
habitus regarding the position and dispositions in the
social and symbolic space of practices and tastes in
Japan, to follow Pierre Bourdieus terminology (1984).
This coexists with the importance of university karate
clubs, particularly during the postwar period, and
associations like the JKA as institutions to obtain and
exercise power within the Japanese society.
In any case, a good indicator of karates social status
in Japan (and abroad) is the scarcity of research when
compared with other Japanese martial disciplines
like kendō or judō. Michael Molasky, a well-know
scholar of Okinawan literature and Asian Cultural
studies at the Waseda University has recently called
attention to such lack of sources. Hence for example,
The Research Journal of Budō (Budōgaku kenkyu) of
14 This conict between violence and non-violence which lies as the minimum constituent of The Karate Kid plot is based on the life
experience of the screenwriter, Robert Mark Kamen. Kamen explained to Sports Illustrated that in his early youth he was beaten up by
some bullies, and therefore he began to take karate classes: His earliest instructor was a truculent Marine captain who preached raw
violence, which helped on the revenge front but which left Kamen desiring a deeper spiritual connection with the craft. He branched
out and discovered Okinawan Gōjū Ryū, a defensive style designed to turn aggression on the aggressor with smooth blocks and sharp
counterstrikes. Kamen trained four hours each day, seven days a week, under a teacher who spoke little English but who had learned
directly from the founder of Okinawan Gōjū Ryū: a sensei named Chōjun Miyagi. (Prewitt 2018: n.p.).
15 However, the interpretations of this motto dier among many Okinawan masters. See Tankosich (2004).
16 Several years later, the 2010 version would feature an African American and a Chinese master. This January 2021, another sequel, the
Cobra Kai series (2018), is breaking audience records in Netix.
17 Karate has a rich tradition of weapons, kobudō, that has been largely overlooked.
18 For possible analogies with the case of Spain see Sánchez-García (2008); and Pérez-Gutiérrez, Brown, Álvarez-del-Palacio, and
Gutiérrez-García (2015). Karate in Spain is between the strong instrumentality of boxing as desired by working-class practitioners with
less legitimized cultural capital, and the soft self-realizational purposes of aikidō more prone to be in the orbit of middle classes and
bourgeoise.
10
In which Ways is Karate (do
) Japanese? A Consideration on Cultural Images of Bushid
o
and Nihonjinron in the Postwar
Globalization of Martial Arts
/ Eduardo González de la Fuente
of 16
The Japanese Academy of Budō (Nihon budō gakkai)
has since 1968 published 1.464 articles dedicated to
kendō, and 1.415 to judō, whereas those dedicated to
karate count only 198. Molasky rightly points out:
Considering the worldwide prominence of karate as
an iconic Japanese martial art [...] I suspect that many
readers will nd these numbers to be as surprising as
I did. (Molasky 2018: 7).
Contrasting with this scant academic attention,
a look on the products of cultural industries like
movies, manga and videogames, provides excellent
ground to inspect the cultural referents constructing
karate images in Japan. In this regard, among manga
works outstand a title, immensely popular in Japan
but practically unknown overseas, named Osu!!
Karate Bu. It was published at the Weekly Young Jump
from 1985 to 1996. The story follows the quarrelsome
misadventures of an infamous karate club formed
in an Osaka technical school. The Rakuten kobo
webpage oers this plot brieng of Osu!! Karate-
Bu: Kansai Fifth Technical High School is famous
all over Osaka for its thugs. Here the weaklings get
beaten into virtual slavery. In order to change his
weak self, Matsushita joins the karate club...?!.19 The
motifs of karate, a wild strong character, and gang
subcultures all in conjunction make a classical trope
of contemporary Japanese pop culture. Therefore,
by subgroup continuity, karate has been frequently
and closely associated with the Japanese yakuza,20
as demonstrated by lms like The Street Fighter
series (1974), starring Sony Chiba, or Bodyguard
Kiba (1993) one of the very rst movies of the famed
Japanese lmmaker Takashi Miike. Remarkably both
narratives mingle karate with the presence of Yakuza
in Okinawa.
The question of ethnicity with regards to karate
must be considered as well, and not only concerning
Okinawans but also zainichi (lit. Korean living in
Japan, used for Korean descendants). From the 70s
to the 90s, the dominating gure of karate in Japan,
at least in pop culture, was Ōyama Masutatsu, a
zainichi born as Choi Yeong-eui (1923-1994). Mas
Ōyama developed a new and spectacular karate style,
Kyokushin (literally the ultimate truth), nicknamed
The Strongest Karate, almost freed from kata, and
hence focused on full-contact combat with a heavy
use of kicks. The masters renown was built in
championships and demonstrations, upon mountain
training retirements, legendary barehand bullghting
and bottleneck cutting. He also was protagonist of a
tour, allegedly undefeated, through the United States.
Masutatsu saw his biography turn into a highly
successful supo-kon manga (and an anime adaptation)
entitled Karate baka ichi dai (The Lifetime of a
Karate fool/obsessed), published by the Weekly
Shōnen Magazine between 1971 and 1977, and
written by Kajiwara Ikki, who was a disciple and had
a close personal relationship with the karate master.
Ōyamas deeds were immortalized too in a trilogy of
Japanese movies: Karate Bear Fighter (1975), Karate
Bullghter (1975), and Karate for Life (1977) starring
one more time Sony Chiba, a Kyokushin black belt
himself and Ōyamas student. Masutatsu, frequently
known as The God Hand a sign to the ikken hissatsu
or the ability to kill a man with just one blow,21 bore
an enormous symbolic presence in Japan and abroad.
During the 80s, he, a zainichi, provoked a karate boom
that trespassed all frontiers, being the most illustrious
and worldwide recognized Japanese karate master
of the time. Not by chance, John Lie in Multiethnic
19 The tone of the manga was, nevertheless, highly humoristic. The fame of Osu!! Karate-Bu translated into live action movie in 1990 and
a Super Famicom ghting game in 1994.
20 For an overview of actual involvements between Okinawan Yakuza and karate dojos in the 60s see
Q
uast (2015).
21 References to the mythical capacity of karate to kill in one blow are documented in early research works of the 19th century by western
scholars specializing in Japanology and visiting Okinawa: Their skill in boxing is such that a well-trained ghter can smash a large carthen
water-jar, or kill a man with a single blow of his st. (Satow, 1874: 313).
Journal of Inter-Regional Studies: Regional and Global Perspectives (JIRS) — Vol.4 Online
11 of 16
Japan cites Ōyama as the person most responsible
for its [karates] popularity in the West. (Lie 2001,
64). This shows the complexity of conceptualizing
karate with regard ethnicity as one of Japans most
prominent advocates was of Korean descendent.
The Kyokushin master served too for inspiring the
most important ghting videogames of the late 80s
and early 90s, that later evolved into iconic franchises.
Actually, emerging media like videogames were a
fundamental vector for propagating and underpining
karate images worldwide, with titles like Karate
(1982), Karate Champ (1984), Karateka (1984), The
Way of the Exploding Fist (1985), or International
Karate + (1987) being created by Japanese and
Western companies. The 1984 production, Karateka,
created a milestone in videogames history because
it was the rst time that rotoscoping technology for
motion-capture animation was used for producing
realistic karate movements.22 Returning to Ōyama,
illustrious characters like Ryū, main protagonist of
the Street Fighter series (1987- 2018), or Mr. Karate,
from The King of Fighters franchise (1994 - 2016),
are based on the Kyokushin founder. The same Yukio
Mishima was molded into the Tekken (1994 - 2017)
ghter Kazuya Mishima, founder of the ctional
Mishima-ryū Karate, which at the same rests on
Ōyamas Kyokushin.
Conclusion
A closer look at cultural images of karate exposes
the often poorly perceived, but constitutive,
multiculturality of Japan and its society, as well as the
existence of a social stratication that has been notably
veiled both at the national and international levels by
the nihonjinron ideologies. As this article has sought to
explain, the idea of karate as a tradition tête à tête with
other Japanese martial arts at the core of bushidō is
arguably problematic. The very same occurs when we
try to sustain karate as a ne component of nihonjinron
essentialism and homogeneity in historical terms,
whether in the distant past or in contemporaneity.
There appears to be a lack of full cultural legitimacy
of karate as a distinctly Japanese expression by reason
of its origins in the Okinawan archipelago. Situated
at the outer geographical and political boundaries
of the Japanese nation, Okinawa and the Okinawan
peoples, along with Ainu or zainichi Koreans, and the
burakumin, are part of the sociocultural groups and
minorities with a long history of marginalization in
Japan. These marginalized groups have suered social
stigmatization, and its individuals and collectives
have usually faced socio-economic discrimination.
Ethnicity, social class, and culture compose fulcrums
of Japans sociological space that present signicant
correlations often overlooked. This convergence can
be observed with precision in many facets of karates
cultural history, some of them introduced in this
article. One of my main arguments is that, despite its
global dissemination and fame during the late 20th
century, karate is not deemed as a fully Japanese
rened art inside Japan, nor its peaceful attributes
exactly evident, for it is an expression of rudeness:
The writerC. W. Nicol, who did a lot of
martial arts training in his initial years in
Japan, recalled, To be in the same room with
the karate master MasutatsuŌyama(1923
1994) [notorious for slaying bulls with his
bare sts] was a frightening experience, but
when I visited Ueshiba Sensei I felt nothing
but warmth and light. Nonetheless, I still went
ying when I tried to attack the aikidō master.
(Stevens 2002: 20).
Still being placed at the lower and edging tiers of
22 See the entry First motion-capture animation in a videogame at the Guinness World Records Webpage.
12
In which Ways is Karate (do
) Japanese? A Consideration on Cultural Images of Bushid
o
and Nihonjinron in the Postwar
Globalization of Martial Arts
/ Eduardo González de la Fuente
of 16
genuine bushidō, karate fullled an inalienable asset
for the postwar symbolic capital and ideological
structure of the Japanese state, particularly in the
international sphere, as it evolved into one of the main
icons of the postwar cultural globalization, via actual
practice and media consumptions.
On the one hand, karate served to strengthen the
circulation of nihonjinron ideologies, intimately
mingled with the restoration of Japanese martial arts
and the fascination for the bushidō ethos. On the other,
karate was re-appropriated by many countercultures
to disclose their messages. While growing as an
expression of Okinawan cultural resistance and
peace metaphor, karate also publicized worldwide the
superior organization and productivity of Japanese
society and its essence, which supposedly explained
the postwar economic miracle.
The Okinawan martial art could equally house the
traditionalist turns of a Japanese literary star, Mishima
Yukio; make a zainichi Korean, Ōyama Masutatsu, the
national and international hero of Japanese karate; it
could metamorphosize an Okinawan master, Miyagi
Chōjun, into the famous Mr. Miyagi of the The Karate
Kid movies; nurture the creation of American karate
or inspire black contracultural movements; be claimed
by Bruce Lee as of Chinese origins to reinstate the
authority of Chinese martial arts over the Japanese
ones; give birth to large numbers of videogames
inside and outside Japan; or signify the hard-work
spirit of Japanese corporations and their salaryman.
Karate is a polyhedric culture, whose practical
boundaries cannot be segregated in ethnic, class,
or even necessarily cultural or national breaks.
Karate can neither be limited by nor excluded from
bushidō and nihonjinron notions. It nds itself
constituted upon manifold interpretations and social
practices, that make the martial art originated in
Okinawa circulate between the centers and the
peripheries of Japan. Furthermore, it is aected
by interceding circumstances stemming from
transnational processes. During its modern history
karate has gained degrees of social and geographical
interculturality. First, it became a pedagogical-
political tool to serve both Okinawa assimilation and
resistance inside the nation-building of prewar Japan
(Meyer 2008). During the postwar recovery and the
economic miracle of the 60s, the 70s expansion,
and the 80s bubble, karate was demonstrating again
high sociocultural malleability and multiple layers of
signicance; compiling a salient icon of the global
mass culture that overwhelmed any other martial art
in disseminating core values of the Japanese nation-
state. In this period, regardless of maintaining its
representational status as a genuine expression of
the Japanese culture, karate embodied a composite,
profound and contradictory subject closely related to
geopolitics and globalization. The Okinawan origins
likewise the national and international adaptations
and re-elaborations of karate, produced a de facto
multi-blended reality, at once essentialist and non-
essentialist, hegemonic and contra-hegemonic.
May it seem an aporia, the aforementioned
irresolvable disjunctions conform the best approach
to understand karate. In way of an example, I would
like to call the attention to a minor linguistic matter
that nonetheless informs about this karate reality: It is
worth noting that unlike judō, aikidō, kyudō, iaidō and
so on, karate is mostly written and spoken without
the -dō particle alluding to the way of Japanese
martial arts. Recall at the same that the Kodansha
Encyclopedia of Japan does not dene karate as a
traditional martial art of Japan.
Karate builds a cultural representative that today in
Japan is paradoxically more recognized as a national
symbol than as an appealing practice (Manzenreiter
2013: 99), or an enticing academic object of research.
The complex ambivalences of karates center-
periphery dialectics continue commanding its recent
developments. At present, karate is at an inection
point for ocially institutionalizing and re-building
Journal of Inter-Regional Studies: Regional and Global Perspectives (JIRS) — Vol.4 Online
13 of 16
its position as an intrinsic expression of Japans local
and national traditions, with its candidature to the
UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage and the
2021+1 Tokyo Olympic Games at the horizon. These
processes, comprising domestic and international
relations, economic planning, soft power exercises,
cultural diplomacy, as well as national assets, local
heritage and tourism industries, raise again the question
about the Japaneseness - Okinawaness of karate
(González de la Fuente and Niehaus 2020). The
Okinawan karate - Japanese karate controversy is
nowadays even more correlated to globalization and
geopolitical arenas than it was in the past.
To end I would like to recall Bourdieus words at the
beginning of this text. His reection on substantialism
is perfectly applicable to the cultural practice of
karate during the 20th century, as explored by this
article. In general terms I consider essentialism, either
Okinawan or Japanese, as a mirroring veil for the
relation between Okinawa and Japan, hence acting
mainly in the service of exclusion and not inclusion.
Furthermore, by association with ethnic origins and
social class practices, essentialism correspondingly
aects karates sociocultural property and properties.
Far from being a steady reality, karate
understandings, visions, and aective associations
are largely determined by the historical moment, and
the eective supply of modes of consumption. Such
modes of consuming and categorizing karate entail
at the same time a relational sphere of positions,
habitus and choices emanating and modifying the
previous structure of its cultural practice. Hence, as
it does societal and cultural change, karate is chained
both possible and restrained by this dialectical
architecture of pre-existing conditions and emerging
circumstances. An architecture that has grown
extremely intricated by the eects of martial arts
postwar globalization upon the Japanese self and its
international images.
References
Abe, I. (2013). It was October 1964, when I met the demon
for the rst time: Supo-kon manga as lieux de mémoire.
In Niehaus, A., & Tagsold, C. (Eds.). Sport, memory and
nationhood in Japan: Remembering the glory days (pp.
116-130). New York: Routledge.
Allinson, Gary D.Japans postwar history. Ithaca, NY:
Cornell University Press, 2004.
Befu, H. (1993). Cultural nationalism in East Asia:
Representation and identity. Berkeley, CA.: University of
California, Institute of East Asian Studies.
Befu, H. (2001). Hegemony of homogeneity: an
anthropological analysis of Nihonjinron. Melbourne:
Trans Pacic Press.
Bourdieu, P. (1984).Distinction: A social critique of the
judgement of taste. Cambridge, MA: Harvard university
press.
Bourdieu, P. (1998). Practical Reason. On the Theory of
Action. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Chan, S. (2011). The Oriental Martial Arts as Hybrid Totems,
Together with Orientalized Avatars. In Farrer, D. S., &
Whalen-Bridge, J. (Eds.). Martial Arts As Embodied
Knowledge: Asian Traditions in a Transnational World.
(pp. 185-203). New York: Suny Press.
Cha-Jua, S. K. (2008). Black audiences, Blaxploitation
and Kung Fu lms, and challenges to white Celluloid
masculinity. China forever: The Shaw brothers and
diasporic cinema, 8, 199-223.
Cotter, M. J., & Henley Jr, J. A. (1995). Japanese Business
Strategy Derived from Karate Principles: Controlling
Western Advances. Journal of Marketing Theory and
Practice, 3(2), 20-27.
Fleming, I. (2002). Goldnger. London: Penguin Books.
[1959].
González de la Fuente, E. & Niehaus, A. (2020). From
Olympic Sport to UNESCO Intangible Cultural
Heritage: Okinawa Karate Between Local, National and
International Identities in Contemporary Japan. In P.
Seongyong y R. Seokyeol (eds), Traditional Martial Arts
14
In which Ways is Karate (do
) Japanese? A Consideration on Cultural Images of Bushid
o
and Nihonjinron in the Postwar
Globalization of Martial Arts
/ Eduardo González de la Fuente
of 16
as Intangible Cultural Heritage (Living Heritage Series),
pp. 41-55. Jeonju: UNESCO - ICHCAP.
Guarné, B., & Yamashita, S. (2015). Introduction: Japan
in Global Circulation: Transnational Migration and
Multicultural Politics. Bulletin of the National Museum of
Ethnology, 40(1), 53-69.
Guarné, B. (Ed.) 2017. Antropología de Japón: Identidad,
discurso y representación. Barcelona, Ediciones
Bellaterra.
Guinness World Records. First motion-capture animation in
a videogame. Retrieved June 2, 2019, from https://www.
guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/87865-rst-
motion-capture-animation-in-a-videogame
Hin, M. A., & Serpa, R. (1997). Bullish on karate, bearish on
corporate judo as a new paradigm for competitive strategy.
Journal of Management Inquiry, 6(1), 31-34.
Hoad, T. F. (Ed.). (1993).The concise Oxford dictionary of
English etymology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Ikegami, E. (2008). Bonds of Civility: Aesthetic Networks
and the Political Origins of Japanese Culture. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 2008.
Kato, M. T. (2007). From Kung Fu to Hip Hop:
Globalization, Revolution, and Popular Culture. New
York: Sunny Press.
Kōdansha. (1983). Kodansha encyclopedia of Japan. Tokyo:
Kodansha.
Kondō, S. (2008). Wielding Soft Power. In Watanabe, Y.,
& McConnell, D. L. (Eds.). Soft Power Superpowers:
Cultural and National Assets of Japan and the United
States. New York: ME Sharpe.
Lie, J. (2001). Multiethnic Japan. Cambridge, MA: Harvard
University Press, 2001.
Manzenreiter, W. (2013). Sport and body politics in Japan.
New York: Routledge.
May, W.R. (1989). Sports. In Powers, R. and Kato. H. (Eds.)
Handbook of Japanese Popular Culture. (pp. 167-195),
Westport, CT: Greenwood.
Meyer, S. (2008). In Defense of Invented Traditions: The
History of Okinawa as Portrayed in Narratives of Karate.
Silva Iaponicarum, 15 (1): 11-32.
Miracle, J. Imposing the terms of the battle: Donn F. Draeger,
Count Dante, and the struggle for American martial arts
identity.Martial Arts Studies1 (2015): 46-59.
Miyahira, K. (2005). Peace metaphor: A rhetoric of
occupation in postwar Okinawa. The Okinawan Journal of
American Studies, (2), 26-37.
Molasky, M. (2018). Introduction: On Martial Arts Studies in
Japan: A Provocation. Martial Arts Studies, 6: 6-10.
Nye, J. S. (2004). Soft Power: The Means to Success in World
Politics. New York: Public Aairs.
Oguma, E. (2002). A Genealogy of Japanese Self Images.
Melbourne: Trans Pacic, 2002.
Oguma, E. (2014). The Boundaries of ‘the Japanese’:
Vol. 1: Okinawa, 1818–1972: Inclusion and Exclusion.
Melbourne: Trans Pacic Press.
Okinawan Prefectural Government (2017). Okinawa, the
Birthplace of Karate (空手発祥の地沖縄). Dragon-
Ikemiya JV.
Pérez-Gutiérrez, M., Brown, D. H., Álvarez-del-Palacio, E.,
& Gutiérrez-García, C. (2014). The (Re) Emergence of
a religio-spiritual self-cultivation focus in Asian martial
arts monographs published in Spain (19062009). The
International Journal of the History of Sport, 32(2), 200-
217.
Pita Céspedes, G. (2014), Genealogía y transformación de la
cultura bushi en Japón. Biblioteca de Estudios Japoneses.
Edicions Bellaterra, Barcelona.
Prewitt, A. (2018, May 1). Behind the scenes of the original
Karate Kid movie. Retrieved February 2, 2018, from
https://www.si.com/media/2018/05/01/karate-kid-movie-
oral-history-cobra-kai
Q
uast, A. (2015, May 4). A dierent karate man. Retrieved
February 13, 2020, from http://Ryūkyū-bugei.com/?p=4307
Rots, A. P. (2019). The Elusive Adjective: Overcoming
Methodological Nationalism in Japanese Studies.TIFO
30th anniversary essay contest. Retrieved December 12,
2020, from https://www.eajs.eu/leadmin/oce/TIFO_
Essay_Contest/Rots_Aike_Essay_234895851.pdf
Ryūkyū Shimpō (2016, October 24). 3973-Person Karate
demonstration breaks Guinness World Record at
Journal of Inter-Regional Studies: Regional and Global Perspectives (JIRS) — Vol.4 Online
15 of 16
anniversary festival on Kokusai Street. Retrieved
December 11, 2019, from http://english.Ryūkyūshimpo.
jp/2016/10/27/25947/
Sakai, N. (1997). Translation and subjectivity: On Japan
and cultural nationalism. Minneapolis, MN: University of
Minnesota Press.
Sánchez-García, R. (2008). Habitus y clase social en
Bourdieu: una aplicación empírica en el campo de los
deportes de combate. Papers: revista de sociología, (89),
103-125.
Satow, E. (1874). Notes on Loochoo. In Aston, W. G., Satow,
E. Chamberlain, B.H. and Sioris, G.A (Eds). Early
Japanology. (pp. 307-315). Reprint from Transactions of
the Asiatic Society of Japan. Westport, Conn: Greenwood
Press, 1998.
Simmel, G. (1904). The sociology of conict. American
journal of sociology, 9(4), 490-525.
Smits, G. (2010). Examining the Myth of Ryukyuan Pacism.
The Asia-Pacic Journal: Japan Focus, 8(37), 1-21.
Shafer, S. M. (2005). Karate in Business School? This is
Not Your Fathers Black Belt.
Q
uality Management
Journal,12(2), 47-56.
Stevens, J. (Ed.) (2002). The art of peace [by Morihei
Ueshiba]. Shambhala Publications [1992].
Tankosich, M. J. (2004). Karate ni Sente Nashi: What the
Masters Had to Say. Hiroshima University of Economics
Journal of Humanities, Social and Natural Sciences, 27
(1), 1-7.
Uechi, S. (2019). Imagining Dierent Futures: Okinawans
Arguments for Reversion to Japan in 1951. Journal of
Inter-Regional Studies: Regional and Global Perspectives,
2, 26-38.
University of Hawaii - Okinawa Collection Blog. (2019,
October 18). Karate. Retrieved February 28, 2020, from
https://blog.hawaii.edu/okinawacollection/tag/karate/
16
In which Ways is Karate (do
) Japanese? A Consideration on Cultural Images of Bushid
o
and Nihonjinron in the Postwar
Globalization of Martial Arts
/ Eduardo González de la Fuente
of 16
Article
This study discusses the knowledge about, perceptions of, and interaction with the Japanese culture of Japanese language L2 learners who are majoring in Japanese at the undergraduate level in Turkish universities. The field survey was conducted with 298 undergraduate students in a Japanese Language Programs in early 2019. The data were collected using a structured questionnaire. As a result, it was confirmed that the participants acquire a wide range of academic knowledge about Japanese culture during their undergraduate education, and their perceptions of Japanese culture are based on historical and social facts as well as popular culture. However, the students have little interaction with Japanese culture in daily life. In the light of the data obtained in the research, Japanese cultural perceptions of the Japanese L2 learners were classified into typologies and discussed in terms of knowledge, perceptions, and interaction.
Article
This article gives an overview of how an existing MBA curriculum was leveraged to prepare students to become certified Six Sigma Black Belts (SSBB) through ASQ. Given the advanced level of many of the topics in ASQ's SSBB body of knowledge and the need to complete one or two Six Sigma projects, the goal of preparing students for SSBB certification is perhaps most appropriate for graduate-level business students. Wis article begins by looking at the motivation for preparing students for SSBB certification. This is followed by a brief discussion of the requirements for SSBB certification through ASQ. Next, details of how Wake Forest University leveraged its existing full-time MBA program to prepare students for SSBB certification are presented. A sample of representative projects completed by the students is then summarized to provide readers with insight into the scope of these projects. These examples also illustrate the applicability of the Six Sigma methodology to a variety of business issues and a wide range of organizations. Finally, the results after the author's first year at Wake Forest of helping students prepare for SSBB certification are discussed.
Article
From Kung Fu to Hip Hop looks at the revolutionary potential of popular culture in the sociohistorical context of globalization. Author M. T. Kato examines Bruce Lee's movies, the countercultural aesthetics of Jimi Hendrix, and the autonomy of the hip hop nation to reveal the emerging revolutionary paradigm in popular culture. The analysis is contextualized in a discussion of social movements from the popular struggle against neoimperialism in Asia, to the antiglobalization movements in the Third World, and to the global popular alliances for the reconstruction of an alternative world. Kato presents popular cultural revolution as a mirror image of decolonization struggles in an era of globalization, where progressive artistic expressions are aligned with new modes of subjectivity and collective identity.
Article
While military science offers a novel perspective for assessing competitive marketing situations, the Japanese martial art of karate may generate further insight for Western decision-makers in marketing strategies and tactics. Offered is an overview of the karate principles of “no-mindedness,” the “soft look,” and “non-interruption” with examples of their specific use by Japanese firms in business competition with Western companies.
Article
There is more to Japanese sport than sumo, karate and baseball. This study of social sport in Japan pursues a comprehensive approach towards sport as a distinctive cultural sphere at the intersection of body culture, political economy, and cultural globalization. Bridging the gap between Bourdieu and Foucault, it explains the significance of the body as a field of action and a topic of discourse in molding subject and society in modern Japan. More specifically, it provides answers to questions such as how and to what purposes are politics of the body articulated in Japan, particularly in the realm of sport? What is the agenda of state actors that develop politics aiming at the body, and to what degree are political and societal objectives impacted by commercial and non-political actors? How are political decisions on the allocation of resources made, and what are their consequences for sporting opportunities and practices of the body in general? Without neglecting the significance of sport spectatorship, this study takes a particular angle by looking at sport as a field of practice, pain and pleasure.
Article
The trifecta of Robert W. Smith, Donn F. Draeger, and Jon Bluming formed, for a time, the core of what became the most influential group of Western practitioners of Asian martial arts in the English-speaking world. Their collective work from the 1950s through to the 1980s was central to the basis of Western martial arts folk culture, in particular with regards to the lexicon utilized even today, the nature of how performances are understood and evaluated by the group in terms of effectiveness, the availability and interpretation of the group’s repertoires, and, perhaps most important, by establishing different modes of cultural preservation that resulted in radically different approaches to the subject matter by practitioners worldwide. These men can be juxtaposed against others selling their wares in the American domestic market at the same time, but lacking the scholarly rigor of Draeger and Smith. Such capitalistic figures include one of the most colorful figures in the history of American martial arts culture, John ‘Count Dante’ Keehan. The struggle between these two groups for control of the market illustrates how textures of knowledge and objects of knowledge were often confused in the postwar period of American martial arts development.
Article
This article presents one analytical theme emerging from a bibliometric and content analysis of an annotated bibliography, compiled by the first author, comprising 1564 Asian martial arts monographs published in Spain between 1906 and 2009. The analysis reveals that the use of Asian martial arts and religio-spiritual self-cultivation practices, while very old in their indigenous South East Asian context, only appeared in published texts in Spain from the 1960s and this theme has been increasingly written about in the last two decades. In our analytical discussion, we contextualise this shift from a socio-historical perspective, focusing on three aspects: first and second, how this shift in focus in Asian Martial Art publishing fits with the patterns of societal secularisation in Spain, the rise of the New Age movement and counter-cultural spiritualities across Western culture; third, we comment on how, from this broader socio-historical context, Asian martial arts were well placed to fill ‘cultural spaces’ created by these changes.