Monbu Daijin recommends martial arts as countermeasure to youth decadence

The most recent edition of Prime Minister Koizumi’s email magazine features an interesting article by Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Nakayama Nariaki.


In the article, titled “My Proposal: The Encouragement of Martial Arts,” Nakayama writes:

Along with changes in socioeconomic factors in recent years, our children’s environment has changed drastically. Problems requiring our great concern are taking many different shapes, such as the deterioration of physical strength, the confusion of basic living habits, and common outbreaks of youth violence.

One of the causes of these problems is that in the post-war era, following the shock of our first defeat in recorded history, even Japan’s excellent traditions have been completely rejected. As one countermeasure to this condition, I would like to suggest the advancement of martial arts.

Martial arts have been developed by our forbearers throughout a long history and are a unique part of Japan’s traditional culture. Of course these arts aim to develop the body and mind through training, but they also seek to ultimately development one’s character, fostering a spirit of respect for civility and for one’s opponent. Thus, from the perspective of youth development, the advancement of martial arts is significant.

After reading the article, I took a look at Nakayama’s website only to discover that there is not a single mention of his rather impressive martial arts accomplishments (he has earned a 6th degree black belt in Karate and a 3rd degree black belt in Aikido). I found this rather disappointing and was even more disappointed to learn that that under his hobbies he had listed “reading” and “golf.”


How is golf any better than dancing, which Nakayama criticizes as a waste of time?

To be fair, Nakayama was arguing in favor of the personal, spiritual, and moral benefits of martial arts during a youth’s formative years in junior high and high school. (He does tell us that his practice of martial arts had a great influence on his character development during his own early years.) Furthermore, since martial arts such as karate and aikido may be viewed as uniquely Japanese traditions I can certainly understand how their practice might, in addition to developing a strong character and other such benefits, also instill a healthy sense of national pride in Japanese youth.

However, I must respectfully disagree with the Minister that other disciplines, even non-Japanese ones, are a waste of time. Of course one’s dance or golf coach is probably not going to spend time lecturing on the fundamentals of ki or urging the use of force as only as a last resort. But when it comes to developing discipline, self-respect, perseverance, or other such universally admired characteristics, even sports such as golfing or dancing have a great deal to offer.

Surely even Mr. Nakayama could not look at Tiger Woods and with a straight face deny that golf has had a profound influence on his life in many of the same ways that martial arts probably had on Mr. Nakayama’s own life.