American Martial Arts: Societal Changes, Popular Culture and Gender Equality

The American Martial Arts project aims to educate martial arts practitioners and the general public on the evolution of martial arts in American society. The digitization of American martial arts history will demonstrate how it gained popularity as a counterculture movement of the 1960s. Establishing the American Martial Arts website will further demonstrate how the growth in popularity of eastern and western martial arts film directly correlated to an increased interest in sports based martial arts, moving away from the spirituality benefits the martial artists of the 1960s sought. Further, by tracing the involvement between martial arts as a counterculture movement and the feminist movement, we can see how the very structure of eastern martial arts changed under pressure for gender equality. Rather than adopting the male dominated hierarchy of eastern dojos, American feminists established clear spaces in martial arts training halls, leading the way to professional women martial art athletes. In order to highlight the accomplishments of these women, and the present day female athletes that will compete as part of Team USA karate in the 2021 Summer Olympics, video, audio and photography will be collected and posted to the American Martial Arts project website free and readily accessible to the public. This Discovery grant would enable the collection of research needed to make this website possible, and will enable the documentation of the historic 2021 Summer Olympics. By tracing the roots of modern American martial arts, the American Martial Arts project will provide an avenue to learn how this adopted Western philosophy shaped, and continues to shape, American society. From film to feminism, the current state of American martial arts would not be where it is now without the impact of film and the second wave feminist movement.

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