The Nationalisation of the Body in Martial Arts: The Case of Post-war Japan

Titel The Nationalisation of the Body in Martial Arts: The Case of Post war Japan

Autor*innen Yasuhiro Sakaue

Tagungsbeitrag in Journal of Martial Arts Research, 2019, Vol. 2, No. 2

Schlagworte Japanese martial arts; nationalism; nationalisation; militarism; physical education; budō; kendō; jūdō

Doi 10.15495/ojs_25678221_22_122

Power Point:


Sakaue, Y. (2019). The Nationalisation of the Body in Martial Arts: A Case of Post-War Japan. Journal of Martial Arts Research, 2(2), 9.


For this paper, I define ‘the nationalisation of the body’ as a notion and emotion of the people — nationalism, national identity — that is internalised in an individual’s body and is defined as a reflection or realisation of collective solidarity. Body culture recognised as part of one’s country’s culture can — like, for instance, a common language — be an effective tool of nationalisation. Remarkable examples of this phenomenon are Turnen in Germany that was developed as a reaction to the perceived “humiliation” under French foreign rule, the Czech’s Sokol and the Gaelic sports of Ireland.
Although modern Japan feared and fears foreign domination, Japan had not experienced defeat or occupation until 1945. Therefore, a phenomenon similar to Turnen or Sokol did not develop in Japan; however, some have argued that Japanese martial arts or budō can be compared to these examples of nationalisation of the body (Iwahara, 1936).
Twice in history, budō has acted as a tool for nationalisation. The first period is from 1931 until 1945, while the second period lasts from 1989 until the present. Both of these introduced and made budō a requirement in school education.
In this paper, I will mainly follow and discuss the historical background of how martial arts became a tool for nationalisation, the conditions under which this became possible, the inconsistencies, the issues that subsequently arose, and the positive potentials.