Imposing the Terms of the Battle


The trifecta of Robert W. Smith, Donn F. Draeger, and Jon Bluming formed, for a time, the core of what became the most influential group of Western practitioners of Asian martial arts in the English-speaking world. Their collective work from the 1950s through to the 1980s was central to the basis of Western martial arts folk culture, in particular with regards to the lexicon utilized even today, the nature of how performances are understood and evaluated by the group in terms of effectiveness, the availability and interpretation of the group’s repertoires, and, perhaps most important, by establishing different modes of cultural preservation that resulted in radically different approaches to the subject matter by practitioners worldwide. These men can be juxtaposed against others selling their wares in the American domestic market at the same time, but lacking the scholarly rigor of Draeger and Smith. Such capitalistic figures include one of the most colorful figures in the history of American martial arts culture, John ‘Count Dante’ Keehan. The struggle between these two groups for control of the market illustrates how textures of knowledge and objects of knowledge were often confused in the postwar period of American martial arts development.


DOI 10.18573/J.2015.10018


Miracle, Jared. 2015. ‘Imposing the Terms of the Battle: Donn Draeger, Count Dante and the Struggle for American Martial Arts Identity’, Martial Arts Studies 1, 46-59.


Jared Miracle holds a PhD in anthropology from Texas A&M University and is currently a lecturer in Foreign Studies at Ocean University of China. He was the first researcher to conduct work with the Robert W. Smith Martial Arts Collection. His work has appeared in open-access journals including Revista de Artes Marciales Asiaticas as well as a number of popular websites. He is a frequent public speaker on topics related to Asian martial arts, popular culture, and folk studies and is presently researching a book on the development and impact of the Pokémon franchise and coauthoring a book about Chinese cricket fighting. He is the author of Now with Kung Fu Grip! How Bodybuilders, Soldiers and a Hairdresser Reinvented Martial Arts for America (McFarland & Co., 2016).

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