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  • Print publication year: 2013
  • Online publication date: March 2014

Chapter 12 - ‘Authenticity’, Muay Thai and Habitus



Many authors have commented on the introduction and diffusion of Asian martial arts into the English-speaking cultures and its impact on the philosophical and spiritual elements of martial arts (Chan 2000; Krug 2001; Villamon et al. 2004). Krug (2001) asserts that post—World War II, the cultural appropriation of Okinawan karate and the integration of this martial art into American culture had the effect of removing many of the knowledges and meanings systems of karate and replacing them with American meaning systems. Karate became converted into a sport, free of its original bunkai (explanations) of kata and a considerable portion of its esoteric philosophies. Also, the underlying sciences of chi, healing and health-enhancing aspects were removed and replaced with the individualized competitive sport form of karate, more closely aligned with the American ethos (Krug 2001, 403). According to Villamon et al. (2004), judo has undergone a similar translation in its ascendancy into an Olympic sport. Drawing from Anthony Giddens's concept of reflexive modernization, these authors show the disembedding of the philosophic and moral aspects of mutual prosperity integral to traditional forms of judo developed by Jigaro Kano, and a re-embedding of a philosophy of meritocratic individualism central to Western sports. The effect is the conversion of judo as a way of life into an efficiency-based, winner-take-all mentality sport (Villamon et al. 2004, 146).