Yet a deeper reading shows that TCM has always been contested terrain. The Bubishi has a section that covers a variety of medical practices, but by the early twentieth century a number of reformers within the Japanese and Chinese martial arts communities were actively looking to western models of medicine, anatomy and public hygiene in an effort to modernize their arts and strip them of their “feudalism” and “superstition.” This modernization of the martial arts was an essential aspect of making them part of the nation-state project.

As Palmer and Chen have both pointed out, there are really serious questions about how “traditional” the practice of TCM (as it is currently constituted today) actually is. Ideas about Qi meridians are very old, but many of the practices that Krug seems to be most interested in had actually fallen out of favor during his period of study (1920-1980) as Western medicine became more commonly available. The sudden resurgence of interest in TCM in China after 1990 has more to do with the privatization of the western medical system and rising costs of insurance premiums than it does any sort of cultural continuity. While this may not be a serious issue when looking at a certain strain of traditional Okinawan karate, it does pose a problem for those seeking to expand this theory to make judgments about the appropriation of wide variety of other arts.” -Ben Judkins “The Tao of Tom and Jerry: Krug on the Appropriation of the Asian Martial Arts in Western Culture

The years 1920-1980 were also a critical time in the development of the modern martial arts in both China and Japan. If there is one thing that the growth of Martial Arts Studies has made clear it is that the idea of “tradition” functions as more of an aspiration than an embodied reality in most of these fighting systems. The martial culture that surrounds these arts in Japan, China or Okinawa today may claim strict continuity with the past (and certain elements have remained the same), yet much has also changed.”

-Ben Judkins, “The Tao of Tom and Jerry: Krug on the Appropriation of the Asian Martial Arts in Western Culture”


Dr. & Mrs. Hung Hin Shiu Museum of Chinese Medicine at Hong Kong Baptist University.