Autoethnography: Examining Gender and Body in Martial Arts


This case study highlights how I came to use autoethnography to examine the journey of women progressing through a male-dominated, real-life self-defense system. A real-life self-defense system focuses on real-life situations and simple but effective strategies to better one’s chances of escaping and surviving an assault. Using an autoethnographic approach, I embraced the roles of researcher, observer, and participant. Unlike other approaches, the researcher here uses a critical, reflective approach to personal narratives and stories, along with other forms of qualitative data collection techniques to connect experience to larger societal concepts. In addition, others’ narratives are included within the critical, reflective autoethnographic analysis. This case served as a pilot study. The findings from this pilot study produced several emergent themes: gendered space, body conservation/injury, and test day. The case illustrates how autoethnography can be utilized to bring a new perspective to current literature and how personal experience can be included in a critical reflection of societal practices and discourses.

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