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Thread: History of Japanese martial arts, 1926-1964

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    Default History of Japanese martial arts, 1926-1964

    I'm starting this to see if there is interest.

    The topic is Japanese martial arts in general, 1926-1964.

    The dates are not arbitrary. The start date is the accession of the Showa emperor, and the end date is the Summer Olympics of 1964. It's only 38 years, but in between, we have the rise of ultranationalism and militarism, the 1936 Olympics, total war, SCAP, internationalization, and the transition from budo (whatever meaning one cares to give it) to sport (ditto on meanings). Whole books could be written on these topics, so feel free to start your own threads and see what comes up.

    Ground rules.

    1. Include sources. When possible, please link to material that one can find online. Links to pay-per-view sites (i.e., JSTOR or British Library newspapers) are fine.

    2. If a language other than English is quoted, also provide a paraphrase or translation for the rest of us.

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    Joe, I'm sure you know that there would be a great deal of interest, particularly among those who have studied Arts that came into being during this period. For many (most? all?) of those Arts are now finding themselves as curators of modern museums, where not all the exhibits would withstand the scrutiny of scholars and experts. By that I mean, the charismatic Founders, who attracted students and built their empires have now died and left the second and third generation students to carry on, but some of the stories they have been passed down don't always make sense. Shorinji Kempo has gaps in the Founder's history, or parts of his story that people find hard to believe/prove. There are many others besides. While that could be an area worth studying, it may not be altogether comfortable for those who are in the "curator" role.

    As a novice outsider's observation, it seems to me that a lot of the "new" arts went to considerable lengths to distance themselves, or identify their differences, from each other and the arts that came before. For this reason, they ploughed their own furrow and tended to avoid each other. I wonder if that process was a necessary part of developing an identity. Perhaps those Arts are now finding it easier to assume positions within the organisations and collective groups. I know Shorinji Kempo is part of the Japanese Budo Association and give demonstrations at their events, alongside other older arts. They seem to have found a place alongside the others, perhaps the large numbers of students that they have on their rolls plays a part in that.

    Just some thoughts.
    David Noble
    Shorinji Kempo (1983 - 1988)
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    For now, I'm just waiting for the smack of the Bo against a hard wooden floor....

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    David --

    The other thing to consider is that often the original historians of an art were trying very hard to give their art validity. So, they find something in antiquity that is comparable, skip a thousand years, and then say, "Look, we're the descendant!" Meanwhile, the earliest known image is from a "mere" hundred years before, which actually makes more sense. (English bare-knuckle boxing is a good example here.) Other times, the activity is so much part of the warp and weft of daily life that nobody comments on it. Think the oiled wrestling done in Ancient and Hellenic Greek societies. Did it go away with the Caesars? No. Otherwise it wouldn't have popped up, intact, when the Ottomans arrived. It's just that our surviving written accounts from that period tend to be hagiographies, and even today, the Vatican doesn't devote a lot of attention (so far as I know) to WWF.

    Where I'm going with this is that the stories we tell are definitely real, valid parts of our personal and group identities. As I've said before and will undoubtedly say again, see Tom Green's essay Sense in Nonsense for more on this. But at the same time, we ought to also be looking for what is known. Not what is posited, or claimed. What is known? Where is a photo, a sculpture, a song, or any reference at all? When did that reference first appear? Who said it, and in what context?

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    Simply deciding on periods (or even claiming there are periods) is itself arbitrary. But think about it. Let's limit ourselves to 1926-1964, and Japanese martial arts. How does one make sense of this in a way that a general reader might understand? My personal outline is along these lines.

    1926-1931. Starts with accession of Prince Hirohito, ends with the Manchuria Incident.
    1931-1938. Starts with Manchuria Incident, ends with the border war with the USSR that caused Japan to drop the 1940 Olympics.
    1938-1941. Full-scale war in China.
    1942-1945. The Pacific War.
    1945-1951. SCAP.
    1951-1964. Japan regains autonomy to the Olympics.

    Note that none of these events has anything at all to do with martial arts. Yet each of them has a whole lot to do with how MA were presented and envisioned.

    For North American martial arts the typology I follow has a whole lot to do with changes in US and Canadian immigration laws over the past 150 years, and very little to do with the people associated with those eras.

    That's just my way of envisioning the process. I'm claiming that martial arts do not exist in a vacuum, that instead they are manifestations of what is going on during that time, in that place.

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    Joe Svinth, whom I owe a lot, has an interesting notion.

    Looking at those dates, I automatically overlay several different era, but I've been working on this for a long time (and am not about to hand it over piecemeal just yet, Joe.....).

    One piece i'd stick in is the Taisho democracy - that's where a lot of things change, and then, there's the reaction to it - and that's what Joe is on about.

    But Japanese martial arts are easier to explore than the Korean arts - there are tons of materials, context, newspapers, etc to research. During that period both Taiwan and Korea were integral parts of the Japanese Empire, while the country of Manchuko was about to be born and would align itself to the Empire. China was pretty much a mess so I don't know how much info there was on Chinese arts at the time.

    One interesting factor is that many martial artists of the day were stars - seriously, national heroes, celebrities. So there is coverage of their events, particularly sumo and judo, kendo, too. Not so much karatedo, naginatado, koryu but the Dai Nippon Butokukai (DNBK - the Greater Japan [or 'Imperial Japanese' if you wish) Martial Arts Virtue Society tended to cover them in its regular magazine. *

    LGatling

    * source: near 30 years of reading up on this stuff
    Last edited by LGatling; 2nd April 2014 at 08:46.

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    How about timeline elements?
    1942 - the new Dai Nippon Butokukai is established
    1946 - " " dissolves rather than reform

    Source: Dr. Yamamoto Reiko,
    米国対日占領政策と武道教育―大日本武徳会の興亡

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    Well, one needs to go back to Meiji to do the topic justice. After all, fascism didn't just pop out of Tojo's brow. But the concept remains the same. To understand the topic, I posit that one needs to pay attention to the social and political context.

    I'm also guessing that there ought to be some good information on the topic in Germany and Austria. The Germans and the Japanese had a special relationship during the late 1930s, and surely the anthropologists and sociologists were all over each others' countries.

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    As for additional timeline elements, yes, one then needs to go through and overlay key events. Here, I'm guessing the key is "follow the money." You can do whatever you like if you're paying for it. But, if you want somebody else to pay for it, then you have to heed the Golden Rule, namely he who has the gold makes the rules.

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    How about the influence of Art and Literature on the growth or popularity of the martial arts? As one successful movie can generate a host of sequels and lookalikes, so too it can inspire many to take up hobbies, pastimes and lifelong studies. In 1970s Hong Kong action movies at late night cinema screenings are often named as inspiration for the martial artists who went on to make the movies of the 80s and 90s. "Karate Kid" changed the way martial arts were perceived and gave birth to the Mall Daycare Studio type of training facility, where kids classes bring in the money to fund the teachers further training. How was the manga, novel and film production in Japan during this timescale? What were the most popular movies about? How did this reflect/influence what students were studying? What were the bestsellers? My father-in-law (born Tokyo in Taisho era, left university to go to Manchuria in 1940-something) loved cowboy movies and played clarinet... and used to keep up his health by doing Kendo moves in his garden with his golf club. The changes in government affected his life story, but the passions and interests in his life came from elsewhere.
    David Noble
    Shorinji Kempo (1983 - 1988)
    I'll think of a proper sig when I get a minute...

    For now, I'm just waiting for the smack of the Bo against a hard wooden floor....

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    Quote Originally Posted by Joseph Svinth View Post
    Well, one needs to go back to Meiji to do the topic justice. After all, fascism didn't just pop out of Tojo's brow. But the concept remains the same. To understand the topic, I posit that one needs to pay attention to the social and political context.

    I'm also guessing that there ought to be some good information on the topic in Germany and Austria. The Germans and the Japanese had a special relationship during the late 1930s, and surely the anthropologists and sociologists were all over each others' countries.
    I would guess you're right about the Germans' view.

    I do have a German collaborator and we're comparing notes on Hitler Youth / Japanese youth organization exchanges. I have a number of mid-1930's Japanese texts examining the sociology and effectiveness of der Hitlerjugend, and making recommendations for similar domestic outfits.

    And there were exchanges:

    Name:  f0091252_79314.jpg
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    And, no, that's not Mad King Ludwig's hunting lodge.

    LGatling

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    Quote Originally Posted by LGatling View Post
    I do have a German collaborator and we're comparing notes on Hitler Youth / Japanese youth organization exchanges.
    I thought all the collaborators had been rounded up and had their heads shaved.


    Sorry. Just my feeble attempt at historic humour. What? I thought they always say the old ones are the best!
    David Noble
    Shorinji Kempo (1983 - 1988)
    I'll think of a proper sig when I get a minute...

    For now, I'm just waiting for the smack of the Bo against a hard wooden floor....

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    David --

    Collaborators could do well after the war. The trick was surviving the transition.

    People also switched sides pretty easily. An example from the Japanese martial arts community is Ryoichi Sasakawa, patron of the karate and Shorinji kempo associations.
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/pe...a-1592324.html

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    Thanks Joe. A fascinating read. I should probably know more about that chap. IIRC he was present at a Taikai held at the Budokan which I was fortunate enough to attend. Of course, I wouldn't have known him from Adam, but apparently there were people who deliberately turned away from him when he was presented.

    Imagine that, Joe takes my little joke and turns it into a fascinating excursion into the very areas this topic was aiming to include. I'm beginning to think this emoticon should be called the "Joe Svinth" -
    David Noble
    Shorinji Kempo (1983 - 1988)
    I'll think of a proper sig when I get a minute...

    For now, I'm just waiting for the smack of the Bo against a hard wooden floor....

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    The correct emoticon more likely has horns, tail, and a pitchfork.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Joseph Svinth View Post
    An example from the Japanese martial arts community is Ryoichi Sasakawa, patron of the karate and Shorinji kempo associations.
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/pe...a-1592324.html
    He also gave some millions of yen to the Aikikai and as he was a benefactor I once had to go and meet him. I accompanied the second Doshu, Kisshomaru Ueshiba. At the time I did not know who he was and the Aikikai did not enlighten me. Later back in Hiroshima, I was told that he was the 'Godfather of Japan'. After this, by way of revenge, I sometimes mentioned his name in inappropriate circumstances and innocently asked whether he gave money to aikido. There were coughs, splutters and expressions of deep regret that the Aikikai was in such an invidious position of having to accept money from Mr Sasakawa.
    Peter Goldsbury,
    Forum Administrator,
    Hiroshima, Japan

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