This contribution explores the field of »Asian martial arts« in Germany between the 1920s and the 1980s in the Federal Republic. From the onset, I argue, the evolution of »Asian martial arts« in Germany was deeply affected by diverging defini-tions of their very nature. The discourse on whether they should be seen as elaborate gymnastic practices for health improvement, or rather be defined as training methods for mere violence or self-defence in everyday life materialised into a double organisational structure of sporting associations on the one hand and private martial arts enterprises on the other. Beyond this controversial context, »Asian martial arts« – and especially those which in the German context were related to or constructed as traditionally Japanese – developed as sophisticated techniques of body formation, self-defence training or general self-empowerment. They related to specific strategies and purposes, revealed highly ambivalent and thus produced historically diverging bodies.