Through a Lens Darkly (44): Martial Arts in Pre-War Japanese Schools

    Introduction   Today’s post is the result of a happy coincidence.  As regular readers will be aware, I occasionally collect and share vintage images of the Chinese martial arts.  Many of these come from the sorts of ephemera (postcards, advertisements, old newspaper clippings, newsreels) that contain interesting data on the social place of…

Through a Lens Darkly (25): A Sawback Dadao in Hangzhou

    The Album   Recently I had the good fortune to come across a photograph of a Chinese dadao (big knife) that dates to the late 1930s. Images such as these were sometimes collected by Japanese soldiers in occupied China and subsequently ended up back in Japan. Obviously photos of Chinese martial artists and…

Through a Lens Darkly (20): Ip Man Confronts the “Indian” Police Officer

Introduction Vintage postcards are fascinating because they capture a dual image.  On the surface they present a simple picture of a notable location, individual or native custom.  Some of these images are historically important and you can occasionally glean a lot of information from them. Yet the real value of postcards goes well beyond that. …

Through a Lens Darkly (17): “Selling the Art”: Martial Artists in the Marketplace, 1900-1930

  Introduction: Informants and the Problem of Reliability   The study of the traditional martial arts has tended to rely rather heavily on interviews with “participant informants.”  Cultivating relationships with informants and learning about their worldview consumes much of a researcher’s time during the course of any ethnographic exercise.  Yet there are also inherent dangers…