Are Martial Arts a form of Cultural Appropriation?

Are Martial Arts a form of Cultural Appropriation?

The academic definition of Cultural Appropriation is “the adoption of elements of a minority culture by members of the dominant culture”. Last year, a large kerfuffle was made about a teenage girl’s choice of prom dress. The girl, a Caucasian, wore a Chinese qipao to her high school’s prom.

This girl upset some people by wearing a Chinese qipao to prom.
Twitter qipao prom dress
Example. Sad.

In the Martial Arts, it’s an understatement to say that wearing traditional Asian clothing—regardless of whether or not you’re actually Asian—is a common practice. And to point out that, at least in the United States, the overwhelming majority of Martial Arts practitioners are white, would be an exercise in the ancient art of No Doy.

White people doing Martial Arts
All white now…

So this begs the question: is this an example of white people appropriating Asian culture? Are Martial Arts a form of Cultural Appropriation?

No. You’re dumb.

Now here’s a bunch of memes of varying dankness and such:

You can hear his smarmy voice through your screen, can’t you?
Bathilda’s clearly a Gryffindor
Almost didn’t post this one… solid “10′ Pole” Situation, but what the hell. Come at us, bro.
The good news is that Tumblr is going to die a slow death.
Meh, you get the point.

But Memes Are Not An Argument

That’s where you’re wrong kiddo… *finger pistols*

Seriously though? We’re not trying to make an argument. This article is fucking stupid, and the fact that we have to be proactive and type all this out is why we can’t have nice things: like a melting pot. As smarmy and smug and punchable as Bill Maher is, he’s right about this. Hell, the original version of this article was just going to consist of a bit of intro text, and then the words “No, shut the fuck up” in 50pt font, repeated a dozen times.

The most insidious thing about this new outrage vector is the premise which underpins the whole idea of “cultural appropriation”: that cultures should not share their best parts with other cultures. They should exist within social bubbles (or reservations, in the case of native cultures), and never cross-contaminate; like a neurotic child’s dinner plate. Can’t have the peas touch the mashed potatoes, or little Sage will set off a tweetstorm!

Human beings are at our best when we mix it up, and not just figuratively. Children born from parents of mixed races tend to have better health conditions, including height and intelligence. We are biologically stronger when we cross borders and boundaries and cultures, and we’re weaker when we “stick to our own”, hell, just look at Alabama.

So break out the adobo, dust off your weeaboo edition katana, and fire up a Bollywood soundtrack while you swing that thing around. Bonus points if you’re wearing a dashiki, because the people bitching about cultural appropriation are really just looking to make it about themselves.

Here’s one final meme to drive the point home:

He said “men”, not “people”, and I heard he used the n-word in his books. What a shitlord.



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  1. David Gibbs
    David Gibbs 29 December, 2018, 21:11

    You left out some of the definition of cultural appropriation.

    Because of the presence of power imbalances that are a byproduct of colonialism and oppression, cultural appropriation is distinct from equal cultural exchange.

    And your best defense should be a better argument. Martial arts lacks the colonialism and oppression that is a hallmark of cultural appropriation. It seems to me it would be more of a cultral exchange. You can see examples of this in cinema eg. Seven Samurai was inspired by spaghetti westerns and in turn inspired Magnificent Seven and by the fact that Japanese people commonly share clothes and culture such as origami, chopsticks, and sushi. They are proud of their culture and like it when people partake in it, especially when its done well. Martial arts fits in here.

  2. T Pink
    T Pink 4 January, 2019, 13:53

    I think that in order for it to be “appropriation” you have to be
    a) acting as if something that is not yours is yours
    b) doing so to your advantage and others’ detriment

    Sure, you can be a gigantic jerk by wearing something from another culture if it is done tastefully and not to mock or score edge points. I own a barong tagalog because my inlaws are Filipino and they bought it for me. If I wore it to a formal function fitting its importance, how can that be appropriation? Now if I wore it to work and started swearing in Tagalog or otherwise using it to get attention at the expense of Filipino culture and history, then yeah, guilty.

    Girl wearing dress to prom because she thinks it’s beautiful, no.

    Nicki Minaj wearing inauthentic caricature in a non-cultural performance, yes. Paying asian dancers to do it, fuck yes.

    Martial artists following tradition as set down by authority, no.

    Professional celebrity using a hairstyle to get internet attention, yes.

    Jackass white kid with a hairstyle – they’ll grow out of it (usually)

    Smarmy white bozo (if he actually said it) bludgeoning you with “melting pot” canards, yes.

    Black lady using relaxers or white blues guitarist or japanese man wearing a business suit, no, no, no.

    The Washington and Cleveland and Atlanta and Florida State etc. sportsball teams charging admission and trademarks, yes yes yes

    Of course, the party line is that white people don’t get to decide what appropriation is, and I get it. But being able to tell the difference between someone being an asshole and someone with good intentions shouldn’t be linked to skin color.

  3. T Pink
    T Pink 4 January, 2019, 13:55

    sorry the second paragraph first sentence is edited incorrectly
    “if” should be “unless”

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