Western men and Eastern arts: the significance of Eastern martial arts disciplines in British men's narratives of masculinity

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Previous Western sociological research on Eastern martial arts has identified a tension between ‘traditional’ Eastern forms of practice and ‘modernized’ Western methods of training and competition. In particular, the ‘sportization’ of Eastern styles, where combat-centred arts based upon moral philosophies have transformed more or less into competitive activities following Western models of rationalized sport, has been an important theme. However, it is also suggested that Eastern martial arts hold special significance in the West for their seemingly esoteric nature. In this regard, such martial arts are considered significant because they are not ‘sports’, but rather disciplines, with fairly different connotations for practitioners. Drawing on interview data, this paper explores how Western practitioners of Eastern martial arts articulate this difference, principally by examining the place of martial artistry in British men's narratives of masculinity. Comparing themselves favourably to assumed, typical visions of Western sporting masculinity, such men draw upon the imagined uniqueness of their martial arts to construct a sense of moral superiority over other men. In so doing, they contribute to a rejection of what they believe to be ‘mainstream’ sporting Western masculinity, thus indicating the role that ‘alternative’ visions of physical culture can play in men's active constructions of gender.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-127
Number of pages17
JournalAsia Pacific Journal of Sport and Social Science
Issue number2-3
Publication statusPublished - 10 Dec 2012

Bibliographical note

This is an Author's Accepted Manuscript of an article published in Asia Pacific Journal of Sport and Social Science, vol.1, nos.2-3, 2012, copyright Taylor & Francis, available online at: http://www.tandfonline.com/10.1080/21640599.2012.751170.


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