Monday, August 10, 2009

judo's acceptance as a sport at the 1964 Olympics

Andreas Niehaus examines how the inclusion of judo into the Olympic Games helped to rehabilitate post-war perceptions of Japan and restore Japanese national identity after its defeat in the Second World War.He focuses on Japan's quest to include judo as an Olympic event, which eventually came to fruition at the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games, marking the first time a nonEuropean sport was included on the Olympic programme. In addition, Niehaus recounts the history and significance of judo in Japan including its subsequent internationalization and the Western construction of the sport.

The greatest strength of this article is its subject matter. It is refreshing to read an article about a lesser-known sport, such as judo, instead of typical Western sports that tend to be the focus of much research.While Niehaus proposes a potentially captivating premise for the paper, that is, that sport can be a mechanism for rehabilitating a nation, the article lacks organization and critical analysis in some key areas, leaving the reader confused and with several unanswered questions.

The primary confusion stems from a lack of connection between the main ideas of the paper. The paper begins with the assertion that the 1964 Olympics was a key date for the bolstering of Japanese national identity, as Japan was the host of the Games and dominated judo. However, Niehaus does not carry through with this idea in the paper. In fact, there is little discussion of the actual '64 Games, how judo was received at these Games, or whether Japanese national identity was bolstered. Rather, the paper turns into a discussion about Western exoticization of judo and the eventual loss of Japanese control of the International Judo Federation. Niehaus's intention is to show that the West recognized a spiritual or religious aspect to judo that was not part of traditional Japanese judo, creating conflict between world judo bodies. But, Niehaus fails to sufficiently show the connection between this idea, and the initial discussion of the '64 Games, creating a disjointed paper that would be better off as two separate pieces.

In addition, Niehaus's work would have benefited from more critical analysis and the fleshing out of ideas that he touches on only briefly. For example, the paper begins with an historical account of judo's acceptance as a sport at the 1964 Olympics, but fails to answer why it took twelve years to get Judo admitted to the list of Olympic sports. It would seem that identifying these obstacles and how they were overcome are crucial to our understanding of attitudes toward Japan at that time. The reader is left wondering whether it was post-war antagonism, the newness of the Japanese Olympic Committee, or disinterest.

There certainly is a need to explore sports that are less "mainstream" in academic literature and thus Niehaus's research is significant. However, his failure to pursue his initially-stated premise means that his potentially thought-provoking points are lost in superficial and disconnected arguments.

Named Works: If You Want to Cry, Cry on the Green Mats of Kodokan: Expressions of Japanese Cultural and National Identity in the Movement to Include Judo Into the Olympic Programme (Nonfiction work) Criticism and interpretation

Source Citation:Warner, Anne. "Andreas Niehaus, ''If You Want to Cry, Cry on the Green Mats of Kodokan:' Expressions of Japanese Cultural and National Identity in the Movement to Include Judo into the Olympic Programme,'.(Critical essay)." Olympika: The International Journal of Olympic Studies 16 (Annual 2007): 119(2). Academic OneFile. Gale. BROWARD COUNTY LIBRARY. 10 Aug. 2009

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