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Journal of Asian Martial Arts - Articles
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Judo & American Culture—Prelude, Acceptance, Embodiment

By Joseph Svinth, M.A., James Behrendt, Geoffrey Wingard, M.Ed., James Webb, M.A., Matt Hlinak, M.A., J.D.

Judo & American Culture—Prelude, Acceptance, Embodiment
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Judo & American Culture—Prelude, Acceptance, Embodiment

The origins of Asian martial arts in the United States reach back to the Pacific Rim and immigration. This anthology is dedicated to the profoundly significant period—roughly from mid-eighteenth century to the mid-nineteenth century—in which gifted Japanese taught their brand of jujutsu/judo to small groups that gradually disseminated knowledge of combatives into the American mainstream.
      Wingard provides insightful coverage of the “manly arts” in America as they swept the land along with moving populations. 
      Hlinak analyzes Japanese-American immigration into the American West, specifically by examining a series of contests between judoka and wrestlers from 1900 to 1920 in California. 
      Svinth details the establishment and functioning of two important dojos in the Seattle, Washington, area, and their exhibitions, intraclub tournaments, and war-time influences on practice.
      Webb’s chapter focuses on one of the early prime movers for the growth and establishment of judo in America: Vincent Tamura. His practice has roots in ancient Heike-ryu jujutsu.
      Behrendt writes about polishing judo skills as an aid to build character in the fashion that Kodokan judo founder Kano Jigaro intended.
       In these chapters you will find the early hotbeds of jujutsu/judo in America and see how these arts tumbled with European-American “manly arts,” making their own way across the country to form and strengthen judo centers in various states. The authors have utilized their scholarly and practical experience to present a rare view of judo as it traversed the Pacific to enrich American culture. Their writings should clarify the early history of judo in America and bring both practitioners and armchair scholars a deeper appreciation for the art.

Author Bio:
James Behrendt began studying judo in 1954, when he was a young marine stationed in Opama, Japan. He studied under Maseo Ichinoe. In the United States Mr. Behrendt studied with John Osako and Mas TamWiniura in Chicago. His love of competition led to his winning the Iowa State Championships, then the regional finals of the Pan Am Games. For many years he has been teaching judo in San Diego, California, nurturing the application of judo’s philosophy to everyday life. Mr. Behrendt’s experience includes four years in an Augustinian community, studying psychology and philosophy.

Matt Hlinak, M.A., J.D. is an academic coordinator and lecturer for the School of Continuing Studies at Northwestern University. He is also an adjunct professor at Ellis University. His teaching and research interests include sport and society, communications law, employment law, literature, and communications. He holds a J.D. from the University of Illinois and an M.A. from Northwestern University. In addition, he has more than twelve years of martial experience, including wrestling, jujutsu, and taekwondo. He recently won his division at the NAGA Midwest Submission Grappling Championships.

Joseph R. Svinth, M.A. received a master’s degree in history from the University of Washington in 1983. Mr. Svinth teaches Goju-ryu karate in Seattle, Washington. After researching the history of combative sports in the Japanese and Korean communities of the Pacific Northwest before 1950, he eventually published a book on the subject: Getting a Grip: Judo in the Nikkei Communities of the Pacific Northwest, 1900–1950 (2003, Tunwater, WA: EJMA).

James Webb, M.A., was educated at West Point, graduating in 1976. He has since received master’s degrees in engineering and business. He has studied judo and jujutsu since 1966, for the past twenty years under Vince Tamura. The former national judo champion holds sixth-degree rankings in both judo and jujutsu, a second-degree rank in karate, and is currently the treasurer of the U.S. Judo Association.  

Geoffrey Wingard, M.Ed. is a secondary-school teacher and a former college instructor and police officer. He holds an M.A. in Asian history and an M.Ed. in social studies education from the University of Maine. He is also a Maine Criminal Justice Academy graduate. Mr. Wingard began his martial arts training in Moo Duk Kwan taekwondo in 1984. Since 1994 he has trained in Shotokan karate. He holds dan ranks in Moo Duk Kwan taekwondo and Shotokan karate and teaches Shotokan in Orono, Maine.

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  • Building Men on the Mat: Traditional Manly Arts and the Asian Martial Arts in America, by Geoffrey Wingard, M.Ed.
  • Judo Comes to California: Judo vs. Wrestling in the American West, 1900–1920, by Matt Hlinak, M.A., J.D. 
  • Masato Tamura, Ryoichi Iwakiri, and the Fife Judo Dojo, 1923–1942, by Joseph R. Svinth, M.A.
  • The School of Hard Knocks: Seattles Kurosaka / Tentoku Kan Dojo 1928–1942, by Joseph R. Svinth, M.A.
  • American Judo Pioneer Vince Tamura and Heike-ryu Jujutsu, by James Webb, M.A. 
  • Judo and Character: Moving from the Hard to the Gentle Way, by James Behrendt