How Japanese Martial Arts Invaded the West

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Great Britain has never had any colonial links with Japan, and as such, has never possessed Japanese people as British citizens, as being the product of the British empire.  It has only been in the post-WWII era that a relatively small population of Japanese businessmen and their families have temporarily settled in the UK for reasons of work (usually linked to the car industry). In fact, so small are their numbers, that most British people have probably never met any, or are aware of their presence.  As a consequence, the UK has no historical or cultural links with Japan or Japanese culture.  This may be compared to the UK’s imperial links with China, Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong that lasted hundreds of years, and which saw tens of thousands of ‘British’ Chinese citizens from British colonies, permanently settling in the UK, and bringing their food and culture with them.  Britain has deep and extensive historical and cultural links with China, but possesses none with Japan.  With this fact in mind, the question then becomes this: Why did ‘Japanese’ martial arts suddenly become popular in the UK throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s?  As there was no Japanese presence in the UK that could have transmitted this body of knowledge in such a short space of time, where did Japanese martial arts come from?

After the USSR defeated German Nazism at the end of WWII, the capitalist USA was concerned by the military successes of their Soviet ‘ally’ (who had suffered at least 27 million casualties ousting the Nazi Germans ‘out’ of the USSR).  Not only this, but the USSR, at the behest of the West, successfully sent the Red Army into northeast China in late 1945, to crush the Japanese forces there (handing the liberated land to Mao Zedong).  In the meantime, the US became the only country on earth ever to have used an atomic weapon – following the devastating bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan.  It is interesting to note that despite Nazi Germany posing a far greater military threat to the West, the US would not consider dropping an atomic weapon on what they perceived to be another ‘White’ nation.  President Truman – the rightwing, Christian fundamentalist – was encouraged by Britain’s odious and racist Winston Churchill, to deliberately enact a policy of non-co-operation and disinformation toward the USSR, (a policy of deliberate misrepresentation of Soviet Communism that became the foundation of the US-led ‘Cold War’).  This policy of the demonization of Communism as a US foreign policy was expanded to include China, which became Communist in 1949 (partly due to the Soviet victory over the Japanese in China in 1945). The US has always pursued ‘racism’ as a defining policy, both internally and externally since its inception as an independent country in the 18th century, and this was clearly evident in the 20th century.  Having depicted its own Chinese population as ‘sub-human’, the US simply co-opted this racism to demonise Communist China (and by association all Chinese people outside of China), through three simple steps:

a) Anti-Chinese racism in general (continuing the Eurocentric project of historical racial discrimination against Chinese people and their culture).

b) Anti-Chinese racism aimed at Communism (as part of the US fabricated ‘Cold War’).

c) Pro-Japanese fascist ideology as expressed through that country’s martial arts (most of which historically originated in China and not Japan). These arts (together with Japanese Zen Buddhism and the State religion of Shintoism) were co-opted into a vicious rightwing racialist system of thinking which had its roots in the 1868 Meiji Restoration. These martial arts, polluted as they were by fascistic thinking, were used on the battlefields of China, Asia and the Pacific (both before and during WWII), and were responsible for the killing of millions of non-Japanese people, including many tens of thousands of Westerners.

Long before WWII, the Japanese Imperial Army had inflicted a race war on the peoples of Asia, and then on the imperialist Europeans, languishing as they were, in their ill-gotten colonies.  In many ways, the imperialist Japanese regime was ‘mimicking’ the colonialist Europeans, many of whom had committed their own atrocities against people living in Asia over hundreds of years.  The US dropped two atomic bombs on Japan and treated its people as ‘sub-human’ in the immediate aftermath of Japan’s surrender.  The cult worship of the emperor was immediately forbidden, as was the practice of most Japanese martial arts (that the Americans knew about).  When the Chinese Communist Revolution occurred in 1949, this policy immediately changed, and the US embarked upon the re-arming and re-nationalisation of Japan – hidden behind a thin veil of Western-style capitalist endeavour (financed by the US tax-payer without their knowledge), and Western-style democracy.  Emperor Hirohito – the man behind all of Japan’s military atrocities – was allowed to retain his status as a constitutional monarch.  Japanese martial arts were unbanned, and Japanese people encouraged not only to practice to the point of suicide, but in so doing, to give vent to ‘anti-Chinese’ racist sentiment.  In effect, the US occupiers of Japan gave the go ahead for Japanese fascism to be re-embraced by a defeated nation, as long as its racism mirrored that of White America, and was aimed specifically at Mainland China.  This included new propaganda films aimed at White Americans (or those who actually run the US), that presented the newly ‘militarised youth of Japan in the early to mid-1950’s), to be like those young American men who volunteer to defend the USA.  It was further stated that by defending Japan from Communist China (a false flag), these ‘militarised’ Japanese men, despite looking like their fathers who had wilfully brutalised and murdered US servicemen a generation before, were in fact ‘defending’ the USA.

As part of this US policy of the ‘toleration’ of fascism as long as it was aimed at Communist China, a new mythology surrounding the Japanese martial arts was concocted for Westerners to unquestioningly accept.  The distinctly ‘fascistic’ elements of Japanese racism – defined as ‘fighting spirit’ – was imported into the West as being both ‘transcendent’ and ‘spiritual’ – and presented as an example to be followed by those Westerners interested in the practice of Japanese martial arts.  Overnight a number of serving or ex-serving US Servicemen sprang-up in the US wearing the white ‘gi’ and black belts around their middle.  Their stories were all suspiciously similar, but in those pre-internet times, very difficult to verify for the ordinary person.  The US government would have the world believe that representatives of a nation drunk on anti-European racism (the Japanese of WWII), whilst being humiliated and thoroughly dominated by an equally racially motivated US invasion force, would meet cordially a couple of times a week with representatives of the USA, and teach these invaders the ‘secrets’ of the martial arts that racist Japanese believed imbued the essence of the people of Japan!  This is how the US re-vitalised Japanese fascism, and successfully introduced it peacefully into the Western world, as a means to propagate an enhanced ‘anti-Chinese racism’.  Many of these martial biographies of US Servicemen follow a script that states that militaristic ‘jitsu’ (術) martial arts were replaced with spiritualised ‘do’ (道) martial arts.  This is a fallacy with no grounding in cultural fact.  The Chinese character ‘柔’ (shu4) refers to a skill, method, or art.  This term is used throughout China to refer to all kinds of ‘spiritualised’ martial arts, and does not necessarily refer to only ‘fighting’ arts divorced from spirituality, as all Chinese martial arts retain their combat effectiveness whilst conveying health, fitness and mental discipline.  The Chinese character ‘道’ (dao4) also refers to a method or an art (as does ‘shu’), but implies an over-arching and guiding doctrine.  The point is that ‘shu’ can also imply a ‘doctrine’, and therefore the dichotomy in early US martial arts biographies set in post-WWII Japan does not make sense.  In China, as Japan all ‘shu’ are ‘dao’ and all ‘dao’ are ‘shu’ – there is no real difference other than in the misinformed imaginations of Western agitators.  This justification for Americans to embrace the fascistic martial arts of their former enemy, is a fallacy.

When the ‘Chinese’ Bruce Lee rose to prominence throughout the Western world in the early 1970’s, the US government countered this ‘Chinese’ martial threat with the spreading of Japanese martial arts schools to the UK and Europe.  It was a Cold War policy that saw national governments spontaneously ‘inviting’ Japanese martial arts masters to live in Europe as something akin to the status of a diplomat.  Schools opened everywhere and in those days taught unsuspecting Western students in the militarised Japanese language (i.e. the fascist Japanese language of WWII).  Vast martial networks sprang-up around Europe run in a fascistic, hierarchical fashion by Japanese nationals, who were literally being ‘worshipped’ by their ‘new’ Western audience.  In the late 1970’s, this bubble began to burst when President Richard Nixon visited China in 1972, and then President Jimmy Carter formally recognised Communist China as a legitimate regime in January 1979, withdrawing recognition from Taiwan.  This is why the extensive and homogenised (and anti-Chinese) ‘Japanese’ martial arts scene diminished and collapsed in the 1980’s – never to re-emerge in the same context again in the West.

The anti-Chinese racism that accompanied the embracing of Japanese martial fascism, depicted the Chinese people as anti-social, secretive, and the ‘enemy within’, whose martial arts were ‘inferior’ to those of Japan. Even the BBC in 1980, got in on the pro-Japanese fascism bandwagon, through its series ‘The Way of the Warrior’ which avoided and/or demonised Mainland China, whilst focusing on the largely incomplete martial lineages of the pro-American Taiwan.  (The BBC never even bothered to explore the martial-rich British colony of Hong Kong at the time).  One episode featured Nippon Shorinji Kempo – founded by the politically rightwing So Doshin [宗道臣] (1911-1980) – who claimed that whilst being a member of the Japanese Imperial Army (that had invaded, brutalised and murdered the Chinese people), he studied Daoism and Shaolin gongfu with Chinese masters (and inherited a Chinese Shaolin lineage).  Indeed, So Doshin claimed that his art – despite not looking like anything like ‘Shaolin’ in China, was in fact the ‘real’ Shaolin martial art.  The BBC showed former Japanese soldiers (now embittered old men) worshipping at the shrine of So Doshin, making their Japanese nationalism (and racism) clear for all to see.  Nippon Shorinji Kempo is nothing but a militarised Japanese cult, mimicking the Chinese martial culture of the people they had killed in the millions in China.  In fact, Don Draeger, in one of his books about Japanese martial arts (Modern Bujutsu & Budo Vol. III), states that in 1972 (the year of Nixon’s visit to China), Chinese pressure groups (probably with PRC backing) took So Doshin to a Court in Japan, and legally ‘proved’ that So Doshin had never trained with any Chinese masters, and that no Chinese masters would have taught a brutal and murderous enemy such as So Doshin.  The Japanese Court ruled in favour of the Chinese pressure groups and So Doshin was ordered to change the name of his organisation to make clear it was not ‘Chinese’ – he did this by simply adding ‘Nippon’ (i.e. ‘Japan’).  (The Wikipedia-page retains the original So Doshin Do myth and mentions nothing of the Court case, or of Don Draeger’s work exposing Doshin as a fraud).  Obviously the rightwing So Doshin was part of the US anti-China policy that spread racist Japanese martial arts around the world.  Finally, many Western groups of martial artists committed to Japanese controlled martial arts have complained of ‘racist’ treatment from their Japanese over-lords. This has included the ‘ignoring’ of highly ranked Europeans being ‘ignored’ and instead replaced by lower-ranked ethnic Japanese practitioners.  This has led to the implosion of many of these Japanese schools and societies, which have subsequently become ‘independent’ of Japanese control.




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