Karsten Kenklies Abstract, July 2017 Conference

Wisdom of the Sword:  Cutting through the Western Educational Mind

The perception of Asian, especially Japanese education is still very much haunted and shaped by stereotypes. Focusing mainly upon modern Japanese education (since the Meiji restoration), comparisons between Asian/ Japanese and Western education often use oppositions like collective vs. individualistic or uniform vs. multifaceted to describe the assumed differences between educational cultures. However, this picture gets somewhat blurred when one looks at pre-modern educational concepts and practices – a field that has in general not been given much attention. This is somewhat surprising as this offers an excellent field of comparison: the Martial Arts, within which more general ideas about education are expressed. The proposed paper endeavors to present a comparative analysis of Asian (Japanese: Musashi’s Gorin-no-sho) and European (German: a version of Master Liechtenauer’s Art of Fencing and the textbook of Anton Friedrich Kahn) sword-fighting/ fencing textbooks to revisit commonly held conceptions of those educational cultures. The comparison of those martial arts textbooks will shed light not only on the different ways that sword-fighting/ fencing has been taught, but will also put into question the (educational) images of the (Asian) Other upon which Western (educational) self-images are sometimes based. In this way, the study of (the education of) Martial Arts shows itself to be a very enlightening approach to discuss more general (educational) cultural differences or similarities.

Biographical Note

Senior Lecturer Education Studies (History and Philosophy of Education) at University of Strathclyde, Glasgow. Research Interests: History and Philosophy of Education; Classic Japanese Education (budo, Noh theatre, sado, kado etc.); Queer Education. Additional note: 15 years of practicing Karate-do (Shotokan ryu)