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Anne Tjønndal
Nord University, Norway


Alex Channon & Christopher R. Matthews (red) Global Perspectives on Women in Combat Sports: Women Warriors around the World 322 pages, hardcover. Basingstoke, Hamps.: Palgrave Macmillan 2015 (Global Culture and Sport Series) ISBN 978-1-137-43935-2

Alex Channon & Christopher R. Matthews (red)
Global Perspectives on Women in Combat Sports: Women Warriors around the World
322 pages, hardcover.
Basingstoke, Hamps.: Palgrave Macmillan 2015 (Global Culture and Sport Series)
ISBN 978-1-137-43935-2

In this unique volume of the “Global Culture and Sport” series[1], editors Alex Channon, Lecturer in Physical Education and Sport at the University of Greenwich, and Christopher R. Matthews, Lecturer in Sociology of Sport at the University of Brighton, have created a wide-ranging collection of contemporary research on women in combat sports around the world. Global Perspectives on Women in Combat Sports: Women Warriors around the World includes chapters on boxing, mixed martial arts, karate, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and other fighting disciplines. This anthology consists of 17 chapters written by 28 contributing authors (editors included). Moreover, several of the authors are martial artists themselves, and have extensive first-hand experience with combat sports. The aim of this volume is to ‘capture some of the diverse and complex experiences of women practicing a variety of combat sports, engaging in them in differing ways within a broad range of national and cultural settings’ (p. 20). The chapters of the book is arranged in four thematic parts. Part I, ‘Discursive Constructions and Mediated Representations of Women in Combat Sports’, Part II, ‘Institutional Structures and Actors in Women’s Combat Sports’, Part III, ‘Recreational Practice and Self-Defense, and Part IV ‘Competitive and Performative “Women Warriors”’.

I would like to mention a few of the contributions I enjoyed reading the most in this book. Of the chapters on boxing, I found Roy McCree’s chapter on female boxing officials in Trinidad and Tobago particularly interesting. McCree highlights women engaged in boxing outside of the ring – an often overlooked perspective in studies of women and boxing. Additionally, McCree meets an urgent need in this field of research by focusing on women involved in boxing in South America. The majority of current research on women and boxing is empirically situated in Europe and North America. McCree’s chapter demonstrates some of the struggle for equality women face when engaging in leadership and organizational roles in sport. While it is of the uttermost importance to examine, pinpoint and unveil gender inequality among athletes and coaches, sport researchers must not overlook women involved in other areas of sport, in this case; women engaged in boxing outside of the ring. Another refreshing boxing chapter in this book is Helen Owton’s autoethnographic study of gender and embodiment in English boxing. Owton utilizes her own experiences in entering a new training environment, training with men and engaging in competitive boxing. Owton’s personal accounts of what it is to be a woman in boxing highlights the lived realities of many women in combat sports.

Haynes suggests that these women warriors are often framed in a derogatory and essentialist way, both in regards to gender and to their indigenous ethnicity.

Moving away from combat sports as a solely competitive practice, Chloe Maclean’s chapter «Beautifully Violent: The Gender Dynamic of Scottish Karate» focuses on women and men involved in combat sport not only for the purpose of competing, but also as a recreational activity. In her chapter, Maclean explores how women and men negotiate understandings of gender (ideas of differences and similarities) in the mixed-sex training of karate. Mixed-sex training sessions, while common in many combat sports, is rare compared to the gender dynamic and separation of male and female athletes in most other sports today. This makes Maclean’s contribution to the book particularly interesting, as it explores meanings and constructions of gender in a sport context where male and female athletes and coaches are ‘forced’ to interact with each other on a day-to-day basis.

Finally, I would like to mention Nell Haynes chapter about ‘Cholitas Luchadoras’, Bolivian female wrestlers. This particular style of ‘lucha libre’ wrestling[2] mixed Bolivian folkloric dressing styles (‘de pollera’, p. 267), ideas of femininity, gender and indigenous Bolivian identities. Through his rich narrative descriptions, Haynes suggests that these women warriors are often framed in a derogatory and essentialist way, both in regards to gender and to their indigenous ethnicity.

Overall, Channon and Matthews, together with their contributing authors, have successfully made a significant and meaningful contribution to the well-established academic field of sport and gender studies. Through the stories told in the chapters of the book, the contributors of this anthology attend to the struggles, setbacks, joys and triumphs felt by women who engage in combat sports around the world. This provides further insights into the structures of gender and power, which have defined women’s engagement in sports of all kinds. This is the book’s greatest strength and its most important contribution.

As a boxer and a woman, I loved reading this book. From cover to cover, it is a welcome contribution to the current body of research on combat sports. It is a must-read for students of any martial art or combat sport, but it is also a great read for scholars interested in sport and gender studies.

Copyright © Anne Tjønndal 2016

[1] Series edited by Stephen Wagg, Professor, Leeds Beckett University, UK, and David Andrews, Professor and Director of Graduate Studies, University of Maryland School of Public Health, USA
[2] Lucha Libre is a form of exhibition wrestling which involves practiced moves mixed with melodramatic and humerous storylines. See (Haynes) pp. 267.

 

Table of Content

  1. Approaching the Gendered Phenomenon of ‘Women Warriors’
    Alex Channon and Christopher R. Matthews
  2. Moral Guardians, Miniskirts and Nicola Adams: The Changing Media Discourse on Women’s Boxing
    Amy Godoy-Pressland
  3. The Boxers of Kabul: Women, Boxing and Islam
    Hillary Kipnis and Jayne Caudwell
  4. Chicks Fighting in a Cage: A Philosophical Critique of Gender Constructions in The Ultimate Fighting Championship
    Charlene Weaving
  5. Beauty and Strength: Defining the Female Body in The Ultimate Fighter Season 20 Promotional Campaign
    L.A. Jennings
  6. Gender Inequality in Olympic Boxing: Exploring Structuration through Online Resistance against Weight Category Restrictions
    George Jennings and Beatriz Cabrera Velazques
  7. The Fight outside the Ring: Female Boxing Officials in Trinidad and Tobago
    Roy McCree
  8. Mexican Female Warrior: The case of Marisela Ugalde, the Founder of Xilam
    George Jennings
  9. Women Fighters as Agrents of Change: A Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Case Study from Finland
    Anna Kavoura, Stillani Chroni, Marja Kokkonen and Tatiana V. Ryba
  10. Beautifully Violent: The Gender Dynamic of Scottish Karate
    Chloe Maclean
  11. Mediating Factors in Martial Arts Practice: A Specific Case of Young Girls
    Jikkemien Vertonghen, Hebe Schaillee, Marc Theeboom and Paul De Knop
  12. Outlaw Emotions: Gender Emotion and Transformation in Women’s Self-Defence Training
    Jocelyn. A. Hollander
  13. Resisting the Hegemonic Gender Order? The Accounts of Female Boxers in South Korea
    Yun Jung Kim, Sun Yong Kwon and Jung Woo Lee
  14. Reinventing the Body-Self: Intense, Gendered and Heightened Sensorial Experiences of Women’s Boxing Embodiment
    Helen Owton
  15. I’m not the type of person who does yoga: Women, Hard Martial Arts and the Quest for Exciting Significance
    Mark Mierwinski and Catherine Phipps
  16. Ambivalent Lives, Fighting Bodies: Women and Combat Sports in Brazil
    Jorge Knijnik and Marco Antonio de Carvalho Ferretti
  17. UnBoliviable Bouts: Gender and Essentialisation in Bolivia’s Cholitas Luchadoras
    Neil Haynes.

 

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