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A Physical Culture Classic that Everyone Should Know

By Adam Park Thomas Wentworth Higginson’s 1858 article, “Saints and Their Bodies,” named a problem, a problem that gave voice to a bourgeoning American physical culture movement then, and for years to come. So articulated, the problem concerned nothing less than the spiritual and physical health of the Creator’s most precious creations. “By spiritual laws,”…

Boxing

Boxing: The Brief History of a “Science”

By Adam Park I recently tried to explain to a four-year-old why I whimpered in pain when she “honked” my nose. It was not easy. Boxing, I said. A friend punched me there several times because we were playing a game. She looked perplexed. But we weren’t fighting, I quickly qualified, we were just having…

The Religious Origins of Sports in America

by Adam Park   For far too long, lamented Thomas Wentworth Higginson in 1858, “the saints have been ‘ashamed of their bodies.’”[1] For Higginson, Christians had failed to realize the interconnectedness between body and spirit. Christians needed something more physically robust. And as it so happened, America’s bourgeoning physical culture movement was ideal. Noting development…

Japanese Pluck and American Degeneracy: The Origins of Jiu-Jitsu in the United States

by Adam Park The Russo-Japanese War sparked American fascination with Japanese culture at the turn of the 20th century. “Japanese things are in fashion nowadays,” claimed one 1904 periodical, but “where does Japan get her muscle and pluck?”[1] They are “an intelligent, wholesome people; strong, clean and moral,” according to one representative source.[2] Indeed, Americans…