Sociology ETDs

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This thesis is an exploratory case study of participation in karate based on the concept of a craze presented by Smelser. Some specific hypotheses concerning how the determinants in Smelser's theory could be applied to the emergence of karate were presented for an empirical study of this phenomenon.

To test these hypotheses, a sample of adult male karate participants (karatekas) at an Albuquerque karate school were interviewed. Additional knowledge was gained by participant observation in karate classes. For comparative purposes, questionnaires were distributed to adult male members who belonged to two Albuquerque health spas.

Compared with the spa participants, the karatekas seemed more likely to hold a generalized belief that related hysteria, the fear of crime, to the wish-fulfillment belief that karate would protect them and counter crime's potentially harmful and destructive possibilities. The karatekas not only expressed a greater belief in the likelihood of crime impinging upon their lives but they also were more likely to have experienced a crime or crimes of physical assault and/or personal robbery than the spa participants--contact crimes that karate training specifically tries to prepare the individual to deal with should the occasion arise.

Exposure to karate via the mass media, spending time in the Orient, and experiencing crime, especially a contact crime, all seemed to have acted as precipitating events for at least some of the karatekas.

Concerning possible social control mechanisms, it does not appear that karatekas quit karate because of the abandonment of the generalized belief. Rather quitting seems to be due to a number of characteristics that are inherent in the nature of karate training--it requires a commitment of a great amount of time on the part of the participant and it is extremely physically demanding. General dissatisfaction with instruction, in part due to the "bastardization of the art," is also an important social control mechanism. It also appears that the initial capital outlay required to begin participation in karate may preclude some people from beginning instruction.

Compared with the spa participations, the karatekas ranked considerably lower on the SES variables--income, education, and occupation. These differences were due, in part, to the fact that the karatekas were a younger group as well as a much more ethnically diversified group. These dissimilarities probably played an instrumental role in the difference in life styles between the two groups which, in turn, might account for the disparities between the groups regarding their beliefs concerning the likelihood of crime and their actual experience of crime, especially a crime or crimes of physical assault and/or personal robbery.

On the basis of the findings, karate participation would appear to be a craze according to Smelser’s scheme.

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First Committee Member (Chair)

Frieda Lillian Gehlen

Second Committee Member

Charles E. Woodhouse

Third Committee Member

Richard F. Tomasson



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Sociology Commons