Japanese Pro Wrestling. Beginning!

Over the past weeks I have really been enjoying the idea of autoethnography and documenting my personal experience in participating in a culture that I had previously no experience with. The parts of asian culture that I had been looking at, involved movies and gaming which play a large role in my life and analysing how I interact with this taught me more about what I love.

For my individual research project I wanted to place myself in a part of Japanese culture that I have always heard about but never ventured into, and that was professional wrestling in Japan, or Puroresu in Japanese. I wanted to analyse my own experiences watching and seeing the similarities and difference between different cultures wrestling styles and politics, the atmosphere, impact and sociology behind it. I understand that to truly analyse my experience with japanese professional wrestling I have to draw on my own experiences watching western professional wrestling and comparing and contrasting between the two. Aslop states in Home and Away: Self-Reflexive AutoEthnography (2002) states that:

“By immersing ourselves in another culture, we can expand ourselves and our identifications by exploring the foreign just like a child explores its new environment. Discovering the unknown environment and unknown parts of our selves makes us feel empowered, empowered by expanding our potential and reinventing ourselves. We can do all this because away from home we get labeled as an outsider”

Taking this idea of exploring a new environment, I wanted to explore the environment of Japanese professional wrestling as an outsider, because i’m not a wrestler, a fan of Japanese wrestling or familiar of their culture surrounding the entertainment which is produced and consumed. The best way that I could do this would be to watch a series of matches or whole shows and record my experiences watching the show. Taking into account the crowd, the wrestling the commentary and everything that I notice about the culture surrounding it. Because of the rich history that professional wrestling has in Japan as one of the main territories of the sport, I will be going into this as a complete foreigner as I know nothing about how it has started or where it is heading. All that i know is that they wrestle.

njpw-new-japan-pro-wrestling

NJPW. Source.

I will research how they use media to distribute the product and how they market, sell and build a culture around it. Analysing how I access the content and understanding how Japanese wrestling has impacted the rest of the world, and how the rest of the world has impacted Japanese wrestling.

The methodology that I will use to explore Japanese professional wrestling will be one where I want to be full immersed in the consumption of the product. I will be watching the events and matches on the internet, as it is the only place where I am able to access the matches and is where they distribute the content. I will watch the matches in the language that it is broadcasted in, with no subtitles as I feel that can retract from the experience, as the commentators are known to heavily emphasise and emote with their voice.

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Japanese wrestler Kobashi retiring. Source

As I cant be a participant in this culture and actually go and see a match live, I have to conduct a non- participant observation and envision myself in the arena. I need to analyse and investigate the notions of space and place and see how my interaction with the culture is addressed or not addressed, as that plays a major part in how I conduct my analysis. As Ellis stated that an “autoethnographers roll is to they study a culture’s relational practices, common values and beliefs, and shared experiences for the purpose of helping insiders (cultural members) and outsiders (cultural strangers) better understand the culture. Ethnographers do this by becoming participant observers in the culture—that is, by taking field notes of cultural happenings as well as their part in and others’ engagement with these happening”(Ellis,2011)

Going on from this I went out and watched my first Japanese wrestling match! I didn’t know where to start so I looked up what was that best match to ever happen there and I found out that the majority of the best matches in the world have happened in the various promotions such as New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW), All Japan Pro Wrestling and Dragons Gate which are the largest.

The match was between Karl Anderson and Shinsuke Nakamura in 2012 and it was quite a show. The first Thing that I noticed was that the crowd in the area was almost silent throughout the whole match, and was almost watching it like a tennis match. They seemed like they were analysing the entire match and watching it for the technicality more so than the entertainment side. Maybe they view wrestling and its entertainment factor based off the moves and the different techniques that aren’t used as much in American Wrestling.

The audience was also older than what i was used to seeing and they were all dressed pretty formally, which took me off guard because i saw no merchandise at all, which is a huge part of wrestling.

On the wrestling side I found out that in NJPW the count out rules are different as to end a match the wrestler(s) have to be out of the ring for 20 seconds as opposed to 10, which in practice is a much better rule as it doesn’t seem as awkward when they referee is counting so slowly.

Along with this was how brutal and hard hitting the wrestlers are. The moves seem like they are actually hurting and it looks like i’m watching a MMA fight more than a performance.

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