Women and Martial Art in Japan  book cover
1st Edition

Women and Martial Art in Japan

ISBN 9781032187839
Published November 30, 2022 by Routledge
200 Pages 10 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

This book, based on extensive original research, examines the practice by women in a university sport setting of kendo, the Japanese martial art which, using bamboo swords as well as protective armour, and descended from traditional swordsmanship, instils in its practitioners, besides physical skills, societal values of etiquette and resilience as well connecting them to a “traditional” outlook, which includes a gendered cultural identity. The book therefore illustrates an unexplored example of identity construction in Japan, one which legitimises women’s sport experiences within a male-centric physical culture, unpacks the notion of “tradition” in kendo and unravels its stultifying control over women’s kendo participation, and discusses the androgenicity of women’s participation to highlight its subversive potential to develop women as leaders in sport, politics, and other fields which continue to be very male dominated in Japan.

Table of Contents

List of figures

List of tables



1 Examining culture through the body

2 Shared humanity and embodied ethnography

3 Legitimising martial women

4 Tradition gendering bodies

5 Women’s club culture: Building resilience

6 Conclusion: The future of sport for women in Japan


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Kate Sylvester is a Research Associate at Lund University, Sweden.