View Full Version : The trials and tribulations of researching Japanese martial history

Neil Hawkins
10th December 2004, 23:17
I was pondering the problems associated with researching Japanese martial history. what are some of the examples of the frustrations associated with this.

Have you ever tried to research the history of your style, and hit a brick wall?

What resourses are good, bad or indifferent?

Are there any tips and tricks that all researchers should know?



Joseph Svinth
11th December 2004, 02:11
Use community newspapers. Astonishing detail in those things, they're generally less subject to breathless hype than the metropolitan dailies, and following them gets you well into the mid-19th century. Also, along the way, you discover where a lot of those ancient traditions first appeared (generally, sometime between 1910 and 1930).

Do the photo research. When and where was that picture taken? By whom? What was the context? Etc.

Network. Pieces are all round the world, and nobody has all of them.

Finally, take a barf bag. A lot of the big names are too egotistical for Hollywood, and too sleazy for Congress.

21st December 2004, 19:07
Neil Hawkins on 12-10-2004 wrote:

Are there any tips and tricks that all researchers should know?

First: Learn how to take good notes. Start by taking notes about your own activities. Most students or participants (not just in martial arts, but in any and all endeavors) do not know the full names of their teachers or colleagues, the addresses of key locations, or the dates of their own escapades. Major educational institutions, secondary schools, and universities can generate academic transcripts. For most other contexts, though, one must maintain records oneself. Even if you hit a brick wall in tracing the history of pervious generations, at least you can save a record of your own generation. Always write down the full name of people you meet, the date, and the occasion. Save copies of programs, flyers, advertisements, and handouts. If shown documents in someone else's possession, always make xerox copies and, if possible, photograph them. Read each document while still in the presence of the people who show it to you and ask them questions about its contents. Always write a summary of your interviews. Develop the habit of asking other people to provide full names, dates, places, and details of events that they can remember. Track down the people they name and ask them for their remembrances. Correlate names, dates, locations, and events by checking public records and newspaper archives. Afterwards, type your notes into a computer. Label your notes carefully and systematically so that you can find them and understand them years later. Keep multiple backup copies in different locations.

Second: Read the standard reference works on how to conduct research. Every academic field has various handbooks. A few generic ones are:

Adler, Mortimer J. and Charles van Doren. 1972. How to Read a Book. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Barzun, Jacques and Henry F. Graff. 2004 (1957). The Modern Researcher. 6th edition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Berkman, Robert I. 2000. Find it Fast: How to Uncover Expert Information on Any Subject Online or In Print. 5th ed. New York: HarperResource.

Bolner, Myrtle S. and Gayle A. Poirier. 2001. The Research process: Books and Beyond. Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall/Hunt Pub. Co.

Fischer, David Hackett. 1970. Historians’ Fallacies: Toward a logic of historical thought. New York: Harper & Row.

Glatthorn, Allan A. 1998. Writing the Winning Dissertation: A Step-by-step Guide. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Corwin Press.

Lanham, Richard. 2000 (1992). Revising Prose. 4th edition. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Mann, Thomas. 1987. A Guide to Library Research Methods. New York: Oxford University Press.
Turabian, Kate L. 1996 (1937). A Manual for Writers. 6th edition revised by John Grossman and Alice Bennett. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Anthropologists have been especially prolific in producing handbooks for research. Many of their techniques are useful even when the "field" is one's own backyard. For example:

Bestor, Theodore C. et al. 2003. Doing Fieldwork in Japan. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.

Atkinson, Paul et al. 2001. Handbook of Ethnography . Thousand Oaks, Calif.: SAGE.

Third: Form networks with other people conducting similar research. Compare notes and ask for advice.

Fourth: Take university courses related to your area or time period. Use the university's resources to broaden your knowledge of scholarly issues, publications, archives, and on-line resources.

Fifth: Persevere.

I hope this information is useful.

Earl Hartman
21st December 2004, 21:57
At the risk of stating the blindingly obvious, if you are seriously interested in researching the history of Japanese martial traditions, you must be fluent in Japanese, both spoken and written.

If you cannot speak or read Japanese, you are at the mercy of secondary sources, the accuracy of which you cannot independently verify.

Joseph Svinth
23rd December 2004, 01:31
You can't read Japanese, but you can read Dutch or Portuguese or whatever? No problem -- read what the Dutch or Brazilians or whomever have written. The Japanese generally don't read more than a couple languages, either, and so for the modern period, they're also at the mercy of secondary sources. Mitsuyo Maeda is a good example. To track him really well, you need to read newspapers and books published in Japanese, English, French (and perhaps Walloon), Spanish, Castillian, and Portuguese. South American papers you'll need to look at include those of Brazil, Cuba, Mexico, Panama, El Salvador, and Costa Rica. Nobody can do it all, so network, network, network.

Also, do what is in front of you. The history of judo in New York City before 1960; the development of Shotokan karate in California and taekwondo in Montana; the jujitsu methods of Moshe Feldenkrais prior to his meeting with Jigoro Kano -- these are all unwritten histories. People in Japan can't write them, so why don't you?

Earl Hartman
23rd December 2004, 18:20
If one wants to research the history and development of Japanese martial arts in the United States or in other foreign countries, then I agree that a knowledge of Japanese is not essential. Certainly, Portugese would be far more useful for researching the development of Brazilian Jujutsu than would Japanese, for example. I was working on the assumption that the objective was researching Japanese martial traditions in Japan.

AFAIK, the Walloons speak French. I don't think that there is a separate language called "Walloon", although I imagine that the dialect of French the Walloons speak is probably somewhat different from "standard" French.

Also, I was under the impression that "Castillian" and "Spanish" are the same language. At the very least, I'm pretty sure that the Catalans refer to what we call Spanish as "Castillian". No?

Also, who is Moshe Feldenkrais?

Joseph Svinth
23rd December 2004, 19:41
It may have been Catalan, then, rather than Castillian. Anyway, several of the newspaper sources were written in regional languages that weren't standard 19th century Spanish, and according to Richard Bowen, that was the problem in getting the newspaper articles translated. Probably you get the same thing in Japanese, what with post-war simplifications of the kanji and all that.

There are reportedly a few hundred thousand people for whom Walloon, rather than French, is the first language. It's an endangered language these days, but a century ago, probably it was less so. There may be accounts in Flemish papers, too...

Moshe Feldenkrais is the guy most folks associate with the Feldenkrais Method. A bio appears here: http://www.feldenkrais.com/method/moshebio.html . As noted there, he did judo. Thus, from the Budokwai website, http://www.budokwai.org/past_personalities.htm : "Age when started Judo: 26, after meeting Professor Jigoro Kano who examined book on Jiu-jitsu written by Dr. Feldenkrais, and showed him how superior Judo was. 1st Dan, 1932. Studied under M. Kawaishi and G. Koizumi, met Professor Kano twelve times in private sessions and lessons. Numerous letters from Professor Kano. Author of three books on Judo in English, one in Hebrew, and four in French. One has preface by Professor Kano. Captain of British Team v. France."

Feldenkrais's first jujutsu book was published in 1931, which was a year before he met Kano. The methods were evidently based on techniques taught to Zionists, so probably they were based on Great War-era H2H concepts. I'm told that Wingate Institute has a copy of the book, but I've never seen it.

Anyway, if you read Hebrew, Yiddish, and so on, then tracking this would give some insight into the concept of Muscular Judaism. (Max Nordau's term, coined in 1898, so it's obviously based on the mid-Victorian concept called Muscular Christianity.)