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Dissertation

A Phenomenological Study of Female Martial Artists and Their Experiences in Training

14 April 2006

Abstract

The objective of this study was to gain a meaningful understanding of the subjective experiences of women martial artists in training. Martial arts have become an increasingly popular in Western culture as a resource for developing physical health and personal well-being, and empirical studies have shown that training in martial arts improves psychological functioning by reducing aggression and anxiety, fostering self-confidence, and developing assertiveness. However, there is a large gap in the existing literature with regard to women's experiences of martial arts training and the benefits of such activity to their mental health. A qualitative investigation into the meaning of women martial artists' training experiences was conducted to provide fundamental information for understanding women who train in martial arts. Analysis of interviews with 10 women martial artists revealed a developmental process marked by three global stages. In the first phase, starting to train, women identified their initial training goals, sought out a school that matched with those goals, and acclimated to the physical and psychological demands of training. The next stage was comprised of women's discoveries within the context of training about their own learning process and the relationships they built with their teachers and other students. In the final stage, women's commitment to training was shaped by the joy of practicing their art, their hunger for new challenges, and their belief in the benefits of martial arts for long-term growth and well-being.


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