US: Martial Racism & Denial

White privilege is the essence of Eurocentric racism, and permeates all and every aspect of contemporary US society.  This observation is as true today as it was in the 1980’s, and just as applicable to the often murky world of professional fighting (in all its aspects), as it is obviously present throughout US law enforcement.  I have written elsewhere about the post-WWII US Cold War policy of re-invigorating Japanese ‘racialised’ nationalism as a bulwark against the perceived threat of Chinese Communism.  The same brutality of militarised Japanese fascism that led to mass atrocities across Asia (and in POW Camps), was introduced into the West through numerous Japanese Karate-Do Schools – which saw Karate packaged as a ‘leisure’ activity through European and US society.  Prominent Japanese practitioners were invited as ‘Karate Ambassadors’ to live throughout the West at the expense of the countries they chose to settle in.  Japanese Karate was established through the agency of numerous bourgeois mythologies, and a Western sport soon developed.  In its early days, a US karate practitioner was expected to have earned a black belt in a recognised style of Japanese (or ‘Okinawan’) traditional (kata-led) karate, before moving-on to ‘point’ sport karate. Point karate involves practitioners throwing punches and kicks at one another that ‘miss’, and which a referee decides whether to award a point for or not.  The referee apparently decided as to the ‘theoretical’ effectiveness of any blow – should it have landed for ‘real’.  This is a nonsense within Japanese karate, of course, (that mistakes a common training aid used throughout Chinese gongfu to teach children accuracy and self-control), for actual combat.  The next step for these ‘new’ Western karate practitioners was ‘semi-contact’ fighting, where padded hands and feet were used to land certain ‘light’ punches and kicks to specific areas of the torso and head, where a knock-out is viewed as a ‘foul’. After this, the karate fighter moved on to ‘full-contact’ karate which allowed for full-powered punches and kicks to be thrown to the torso and head.  The White American fighter Joe Lewis (1944-2012) strikes me as a prime example of ‘White privilege’ and is symptomatic of the Eurocentric racism that permeates US society.  Joe Lewis was really quite limited in ability, and would not have lasted very long against the modern fighters found in K1, Pride or any other mixed martial arts format.  His status was built-up around the ‘myth’ of his martial invincibility.  He was referred to as the ‘first’ karate world champion earlier in his life, after various bouts of flicking out punches and kicks during ‘point’ karate bouts.  He then moved on to full-contact competition against mediocre opposition (compared to today’s standards).  If John Wayne was a karate practitioner, then he would have been Joe Lewis.  During a ‘come-back’ fight in the early 1980’s, Joe Lewis was beaten from pillar to post by the Black US fighter Tom Hall, and the fact he is there entirely because of his skin-colour is self-evident.  When it was clear that Lewis was losing to Hall – one commentator states that even if he loses. ‘Lewis’ should still fight for the ‘title’ whilst Hall should ‘wait’ in the background, and fight the winner.  Why should a Black fighter who has ‘beaten’ a White fighter, have to act like he lost?  Why wasn’t Tom Hall – a Black man – allowed to fight for the ‘title’ on the merit of his victory over a popular White fighter?  Why is Tom Hall presented as a second class citizen to Joe Lewis in the run-up to the fight?  Why is it, after the judges announce that Lewis has clearly lost the fight, does the TV company immediately rush to Lewis to interview the ‘loser’, and ignore the ‘winner’ Tom Hall? Why is Tom Hall interviewed second (after beating Lewis) and his interview cut-off by the person who uploaded the video?  White privilege has existed throughout the Western fight game, particularly in the 19th and 20th centuries.  Black fighters have always proven these fabricated White fighters to be paper tigers – but White society often demands its ‘heroes’ – even if the fabrication is pure fantasy.  One last observation is that the commentators to these fights always seem to be hill billies talking only to a White audience.  Racism within martial arts is exactly the same as the racism that permeates US society.

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