Journal of Martial Arts Anthropology

Abstract - “Samurais” in modern Europe: motivations and understandings of Portuguese karatecas

Outside its military-police instrumentation, the modern karate is included in a civilizing process, where violence becomes controlled conventions. It is ran by conventional practices, but expressed through words and symbols adapted from Japan to the “West”. Karate is thus a language itself and constitutes a proper culture, sharing a sense of belonging and structure, conceptions of life and standards of conduct. Karate that is practiced and the way to practice it (high competition, amateurs form or Budô) is in line with the thinking of Bourdieu [2001: 9], a habitus, which means, the generating and unifying principle that retranslate intrinsic and relational features of a unit style of life. The purpose of this communication aims to draw a sociological profile of the practitioners of karate in Portugal: the representations of actors, the meanings of their practice, the social identity derived from them, and thus the practitioners’ communities’ culture. It seeks to develop an analysis of the motivations and understandings of participants. Apart from the participant-observation, the empirical analysis is based on results of a survey by questionnaire to advanced karate practitioners. With this sociological research, we hope to contribute to valorise this modality, extremely rich and varied in tales and narratives, in which the Buddhist tradition has continued to expand in stories, legends and myths, undoing prejudices and some stereotypes that are established.