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Emptying the Tang Hand: Okinawan Identity in the Japanization of Karate

Date: 5:00pm PDT March 19, 2013 Location: Miller 105

Miller 105

Please join the History department for a talk by Lewis & Clark Alum Craig Colbeck who will speak on the history of karate.  Free and open to the public.


Dr. Craig Colbeck

“Emptying the Tang Hand: Okinawan Identity in the Japanization of Karate”


In the 1920s, a foreign martial art arrived in Tokyo—karate. Only decades later it would be called definitively Japanese around the world. The process by which karate became a “Japanese” martial art involved literally rewriting Okinawan history and even the very name “karate.” The process also included the creation of new martial-arts practices and the incorporation of Zen philosophy into karate rhetoric. This presentation will describe how, in their campaign to see karate established in mainland Japan, Okinawan practitioners made positive use of their islands’ status as the purported ancestral homeland of Japanese culture even as they adapted to the modern standards of martial arts, all to combat prevailing stereotypes of Okinawan men as unmanly and uncultured.

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