'It made me feel powerful': Women's gendered embodiment in the martial arts

Philippa Velija, Mark Mierzwinski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This paper presents data collected from 11 females and explores their gendered and embodied experiences of the martial arts. Our research suggests that through their involvement in the martial arts, women develop physical strength, which leads to individual physical empowerment. Furthermore, the women note their involvement in the martial arts increases their confidence to defend themselves and challenge their gendered embodiment. However, despite acquiring physical strength that challenges their previous forms of gendered embodiment, their experiences remain predominantly at the level of individual empowerment. Thus, the women do not problematise normative views of gendered embodiment which position women as weak and men as strong. Nor do the women in this study question the pressure on females’ bodies to be toned and feminine. Drawing predominantly on physical feminism, we question and problematise the concepts of women’s empowerment and gendered embodiment through women’s experiences of the martial arts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)524
JournalLeisure Studies
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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