Isaac Meyer

Historian, teacher, podcaster

Month: June 2017

Episode 199 – Fist of Legend, Part 6

In which we bring things to a close by considering the fall of the Butokukai, the spread of budo beyond Japan, the role of martial arts in the African-American community, the question of Olympic sport status, and the challenge of the UFC. It’s gonna be a busy week.

Listen to the episode here.


This excellent article on martial arts and black power.

NYT piece on kendo and the olympic sport question.



As part of an attempt to shed its militaristic image, some kendo practitioners adopted the European-style fencing jacket as a practice outfit after the US Occupation.


Steve Sanders (Muhammed) on right, with Jim Kelly of Enter the Dragon fame on the left. The Black Karate Federation logo is visible behind them.


Sanders on the cover of a Karate Illustrated magazine. From the excellent article provided by Kung Fu Tea.

Olympic Judo London 2012 (74 of 98)

Judo at the 2012 London Olympics. The precise role of competition in budo remains fiercely debated, and there are some among other budo communities who point to a perceived decline in the aesthetic qualities of judo as a warning about the dangers of a focus on competition.

Episode 198 – Fist of Legend, Part 5

This week: can a martial art be a philosophy of life? Can it rise to the level of a religion?

Listen to the episode here.


Stalker, Nancy K. Prophet Motive: Deguchi Onisaburo, Omotokyo, and the Rise of New Religions. 

So, Doshin. This is Shorinji Kempo. (note: there’s basically nothing academic on Shorinji Kempo out there, which makes many of the claims in this book and others difficult to verify).

Ueshiba, Kisshomaru. Aikido. 



Ueshiba Morihei in his middle age, around the time he went to Tokyo.


Takeda Sokaku, Ueshiba’s first teacher.


Takeda demonstrating Daito-ryu at the Asahi Shimbun offices in 1936.


Ueshiba later in life.


So Doshin as a younger man.


So Doshin instructs one of his most famous pupils, the martial arts film star Sonny Chiba.

Episode 197 – Fist of Legend, Part 4

This week: karate comes to mainland Japan (and gets a rebrand in the process), and the Butokukai’s attempts to militarize the martial arts backfire when the Americans come to town.

Listen to the episode here.


Gainty, Denis. Martial Arts and the Body Politic in Meiji Japan.

Haines, Bruce. Karate’s History and Traditions.

Funakoshi, Gichin. Karate-do Nyumon.



Funakoshi Gichin as a younger man.


Funakoshi Gichin after the Second World War.


The monument to Funakoshi Gichin at Engakuji, placed there by his mainland Japanese students in the 1970s.


Naginata training like this was traditionally associated with female samurai during the Edo period; during the 20th century, the art of Naginata-do retained that association. It is still dominated by female practitioners to this day.


By the 1920s, budo training in state run schools (like this state-run agricultural college in the 1920s) was commonplace. By the time of World War II, it became mandatory in secondary schools.

Episode 196 – Fist of Legend, Part 3

This week: the rise of judo and of the modern budo, and karate strikes back!

Listen to the episode here.


Haines, Bruce. Karate’s History and Traditions.

Morio, Higaonna. The History of Karate: Okinawan Goju-ryu.

Gainty, Denis. Martial Arts and the Body Politic in Meiji Japan.



Yamashita Yoshiaki and his wife at the White House.


The Butokukan in Kyoto upon its completion in 1899.


The opening ceremony of the Butokukan.


Higaonna Kanryo, the man behind


A wonderfully confusing chart for those of you interested in Karate and interested in tracing some lineages around.

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