Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Boxing In Japan, Pre-WW2
Film maker Floyd Webb at "Searching For Count Dante" continues to find fascinating material on the martial arts in Chicago in the 1940's through the 1960's. One of his recent posts cites a publicized match between Judo master Masato Tamura and American wrestler Karl Porjello. Tamura was a highly regarded master in Chicago at the time, and is remembered for secretly teaching martial arts to black students at a time when this was unheard of.
Buried in a link provided in Webbs post is this interesting history of Boxing in Japan in the 1920's - Here's a snippet:
Watanabe also told the reporter that boxing was well suited to developing Japanese he-men. First, he said, the sport classified boxers according to weight. Thus stature was irrelevant and everyone got to compete equally. Second, participation built character by encouraging participants to do their best. But most importantly, said Watanabe, if the Japanese were to compete internationally, then "boxing is the best medium, for it is a universal sport today. Its progress after the World War has been astonishing."
Ironically, the "he-men" developed by Japanese collegiate boxing were as often Korean as Japanese. The first Korean champions to be mentioned by name in Japan Times appear to have been Ko of Meiji, Ko of Nihon University, and Jo of the Nihon Boxing Club, all of whom won matches in the Meiji Jingu Games of November 1929. It is possible that Jo was Teiken Jo, who was later ranked sixth in the world.
The reason was that most Japanese boys who liked combative sports liked judo and kendo better than boxing. Furthermore, when the Japanese schoolboys did box, it was often politely. For example, in February 1931 Kari Yado wrote in the Japan Times that during bouts between Japanese students, whenever one "delivered a hard blow, he would apologize by bowing his head slightly or by showing a friendly look in his eyes. There was no knockout in those days. When a boxer began bleeding in his nose, a cry of horror went up [Promoter Yujiro] Watanabe had a hard time explaining to the student boxers that they need not and should not refrain from hitting a groggy opponent. 'You must cultivate the spirit of manliness,' he roared."
Koreans, though, were subject to all kinds of discrimination and therefore found boxing clubs good places to safely and happily punch Japanese in the nose.