reappropriate

Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Last Ninja

Thank you to yellowmix for letting me know about this article. Greatly relevant to my recent post on Asiaphilia, MercuryNews has posted an AP article on "the Last Ninja", one Masaaki Hatsumi, who runs a dojo in Tokyo that has become a veritable pilgrimage for non-Asians seeking desperately to learn how to climb a wall. Again, the point isn't that non-Asians should never, ever practice "ninja", but the question of authenticity and balanced interest. Are you trying to be a "ninja" because you're fascinated with all things Asian simply because it is different and exotic? That fetishization is offensive to me because it fosters a dehumanization of people of Asian descent, encouraging the view that we as a people and a culture are only relevant so long as we can entertain the White man. Bottom line, any person dabbling in another culture's heritage should be comfortable addressing this question, because it comes part and parcel with your act of appropriation. And to anybody who gets defensive: you're just basking in your privilege if you honestly think no one has a right to question and criticize you. After all, part of White privilege is the belief that no matter what you do, you are always right. Again, I implore you, Asiaphile, if only you were able to carry on an intellectual discussion about accusations or Asiaphilia, and if you were aware of the politics of the Asian/Asian American community as well as our most glamourous, exotic icons, I would be cool with you. But you don't and you aren't. So if you have no real respect for me and my Asian brothers and sisters, why should I have any respect for you?

8 Comments:

Anonymous Jason said...

And to anybody who gets defensive: you're just basking in your privilege if you honestly think no one has a right to question and criticize you.

They can do that if they want. I'm not obliged to answer them, though.

Especially if I don't think the act of buying a DVD or a book or something is a particularly important or monumental act.

5/02/2006 03:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Adam said...

Rock on sister, rock on!

5/03/2006 03:25:00 PM  
Anonymous BehindRoundEyes said...

The irony is that this particular style of martial arts is often made fun of for being rampantly full of Japanophiles, LARPers, wannabe ninjas, and just plain wackjobs in search of the Mysterious Orient.

People who go to Japan to actually learn how to fight usually end up studying something like Kyokushin Karate or one of the harder jujutsu styles.

Most who do ninjutsu just like running around in black pajamas...

5/05/2006 03:27:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So is this Hatsumi, who admittedly sounds like he could floor pretty much anyone, a sellout for giving every wanna be white bedroom ninja a hope by announcing that his successor could be white and advising for James Bond, or just unenviably tossing the corpse of ninjitsu at the feet of America and with an exasperated "Take the wretched thing... You've wrecked it anyway"

Or something else?

5/05/2006 12:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Would it be offensive if the person was genuinely interested in the style? If they were interested in the morals and ethics taught? If they were interested in the cultural aspect of it, not just "ooh, I wanna fight with a SWORD and THROWING STARS, YAY"?

Or would you find that offensive as well?

5/07/2006 02:26:00 PM  
Anonymous BehindRoundEyes said...

Hatsumi is largely bagged on by the rest of the Japanese martial arts community for his business practices, the way he teaches, and basically for being a sell-out.

He has created a cult of personality around him.

He is actually largely responsible for the ninja fad in the US. Very little was known about this style before his students started coming her.

Also, his claims that he is "the last ninja master" have never been validated, and are questioned by scholars of the martial arts.

5/09/2006 11:45:00 AM  
Blogger Jenn said...

behindroundeyes -- really? that is an interesting point. i'm not too surprised though -- how do you claim to be the last ninja master if there's no... like, registry of ninjas?

5/09/2006 12:19:00 PM  
Anonymous BehindRoundEyes said...

It takes a little background knowledge of how the classical Japanese arts were passed down. If I claim to be "grandmaster x" of the Black Pajama School of Ninjutsu...then he should have in his possession a series of scrolls which would include both the teachings of the Black Pajama School of Ninjutsu, as well as the lineage of the art, from it's founder, to his student, to his student's student...all the way down to my teacher, and then to me.

These scrolls are historical documents and artifacts. A Japanese history scholar and linguist would easily be able to authenticate them, and thus, validate my claims of being master of the Black Pajama school.

Unfortunately, Hatsumi's claims of being headmaster of the Togakure-ryu of Ninjutsu have never been authenticated and validated.

Thus, his claims are held in question.

5/09/2006 02:14:00 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home