Japanese martial arts and the sublimation of violence: An ethnographic study of Shinkage-ryu
Ibaraki University, JP
Tetsuya Nakajima is an Associate Professor in the College of Education at Ibaraki University in Ibaraki prefecture. His majors are sport anthropology and Japanese martial arts history. He has published on the history of martial arts in Japan. His most recent book is Kindai Nihon no budo-ron [Discourse on Budo in Modern Japan – The Origins of the ‘Sportification of Budo’ Problem] (Kokushokankokai, 2017).
In Japan, the study of Japanese martial arts is rooted in historiography. Other approaches are comparatively rare. Yet, it would be extremely enlightening to undertake fieldwork on the classical Japanese martial arts, and to ask a broader range of questions. In this spirit, this study is interested in exploring the issue of violence. The martial arts are understood by researchers to fundamentally be fighting techniques, but the aspects of martial arts that have attracted the attention of researchers in the past have been the psychology of fighting and the pedagogy of the martial arts. I wish to argue that one of the objectives of the classic Japanese martial arts was to learn through the practice of the art the wisdom that could be used to overcome violence. This study, then, proposes that martial arts are motivated by the ‘sublimation of violence’. Through an ethnographic study of shrinkage-ryu, this study explores how the sublimation of violence is practiced in the dojo and elucidates the structure and practice of classical kata that have largely remained hidden.