by Anna Kavoura, Tatiana V. Ryba & Marja Kokkonen

Vol. 3 2012, pages 1–23
Published February 15, 2012


In this article, we problematize sport psychology research on martial artists and offer some suggestions for advancing our knowledge in this area of research and practice. First, we review the previous research in the field. Then we introduce “cultural praxis” as a theoretical framework that will guide our analysis. Finally, we engage sociological studies of female fighters in conjunction with the adopted theoretical lens to outline the limitations of sport psychological research with regards to the experiences of women. It seems that the majority of the studies have used the male athlete as the norm, while research on the female athlete remains limited and focused on “differences”. Focusing persistently on gender differences, without drawing at all on gender theory reflects a gender bias, which seems to be engrained in sport psychology studies. Recent sociological studies have shed some light on the experiences of female martial artists, but have paid scant attention to the constantly changing locale in which female athletes operate. Here, we suggest “cultural praxis” as an intervention to gain insights into the behaviors, values, and emotions of the other sex athletes.

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About the Authors

ANNA KAVOURA (MA in Sport and Exercise Psychology) is a PhD student in the Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland.  As a competitive Judo and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu athlete herself, her current research interests encompass issues of gender, culture and equality in the male domain of martial arts. She has also been interested in applied sport psychology, mental training and imagery for martial art athletes.

TATIANA V. RYBA is associate professor of sport psychology at Aarhus University, Denmark. Her current research focuses on issues of transnationality, mobile identity, career transitions and cultural adaptation in and through sport. She is co-editor of two books, The Cultural Turn in Sport Psychology (with Robert Schinke and Gershon Tenenbaum; Fitness Information Technology, 2010) and the forthcomingAthletes’ Careers across Cultures (with Natalia Stambulova; Routledge, 2013).

MARJA KOKKONEN (PhD in Psychology, MA in Sport Sciences) is a  Researcher in the Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland.  In the domains of personality and developmental psychology and sport and exercise psychology, she has been interested in the role of  socio-emotional skills, emotional intelligence, and social competence in physical education, and in the well-being of professional coaches, athletes, and PE teachers.


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