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Sharon R. Guthrie

Self-esteem changes among adult women who had been practicing seido karate for at least six months and had acquired the perceived ability to physically self-defend were examined in this study. The research site was a feminist martial arts dojo for women in a midwestern state. Thirty women, aged 26-62, participated in strucured interviews. All of the women perceived improvements in self-esteem after participating in martial arts training for at least six months. These self-esteem changes were perceived to be related to improvement in physical self-perception. Recovery from psychosexual abuse, eating disorders, substance abuse, and growing up in dysfunctional families was another commonly perceived consequence of martial arts training, and most of the participants who had experienced such problems believed their martial arts practice was a valuable adjunct to traditional therapeutic approaches. Significantly, however, they viewed certain aspects of the feminist environment, particularly its gynocentricity, as essential to the self change process. A relationship between the martial arts experience, particularly gaining the ability to defend oneself physically, and other attitudes and behaviors related to self-perception is suggested.

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Alex Channon and George Jennings

Within the sociology of sport and its related disciplines, martial arts have become increasingly popular sites for research on embodiment, gender and society. While much previous work in this area has focused upon the embodied experiences of either male or female practitioners, relatively few studies have directly addressed the social significance of mixed-sex practice. In this empirically-focused paper, we draw on qualitative, semistructured interviews with both male and female long-term exponents of various different martial arts disciplines in England, exploring experiences of intersex touch within training. Within a social-constructionist, feminist framework, we suggest that heteronormative, patriarchal and paternalistic gender structures can potentially be challenged through sustained mixed-sex practice. As such, this article contributes to work on transformative sporting bodies, martial arts and gender subversion.

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Mark Mierzwinski, Philippa Velija and Dominic Malcolm

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), like the majority of relatively violent sports, has mainly been organized around the capabilities of the male body. However various indices suggest that women’s engagement with MMA is growing. The purpose of this paper is to offer an analysis of women’s involvement in MMA using a figurational sociological approach. In doing so, we draw on interview data with “elite” female mixed martial artists to explore the extent to which females within MMA experience a specifically gendered “quest for excitement.” The paper further illustrates how the notion of “civilized bodies” can be used to interpret the distinctly gendered experiences of shame in relation to fighting in combat sports, the physical markings incurred as a consequence, and perceptions of sexual intimacy in the close physical contact of bodies. In so doing this paper provides the first figurationally-informed study of female sport involvement to focus explicitly on the role of violence in mediating social relations, while refining aspects of the figurational sociological approach to provide a more adequate framework for the analysis of gender relations.

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Terry Eddy, Lamar Reams and Stephen Dittmore

As online business models have evolved, learning what drives users’ consumptive behaviors has gained increasing interest to sport researchers and sport properties. An increasing number of sport properties are expanding, and deriving revenues from, their presence on digital-media platforms (e.g., MLB, NBA, NFL, UFC, WWE, etc.). Of the sport properties mentioned, none are more reliant on digital-media activity than the Ultimate Fighting Championship. As such, the purpose of this study was to examine the motivations and related consumption habits of users of non-subscription-based (i.e., free-to-use) online message boards. Findings suggest that message-board users find value in the opportunities for interactivity and that heavy online mixed-martial-arts users watch more events and purchase more merchandise than those who spend less time online.

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Carla A. Santos, Scott Tainsky, K. Alexander Schmidt and Changsup Shim

To date, scholarly attention to mixed martial arts (MMA) and the Ultimate Fighting Championship organization has been limited. This study sought to address this gap in literature by focusing on the news media’s framing of public officials’ discourse concerning MMA. In so doing, the study addressed the entanglement of news media, sport, and contemporary political maneuvering. Overall, findings suggest two dominant media frames: leveraging of sociopolitical capital to protect societal values and leveraging of sociopolitical capital to advocate for legislation. Specifically, the authors propose that news media have framed and reframed MMA as a succession of moral threats and reassurances that are given voice by public officials in the name of protecting the citizenry.

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Jules Woolf, Brennan K. Berg, Brianna L. Newland and B. Christine Green

Mixed martial arts (MMA) is a rapidly growing combat sport with unique development procedures unlike most traditional sports. In this study the development processes at an exemplar MMA gym were examined. Institutional work theory was used to understand how and why the sport is being developed in this setting. The results provide a microlevel account of the processes and operation of the sport as it develops, and indicate that traditional sport development models may not adequately represent all sports. Subcultural values reflecting what it takes to be a fighter along with a fighter’s duty to the gym influence recruitment, retention, and transition strategies of athletes. Two forms of institutional work, refinement and barrier work, were identified as simultaneously aiding and hindering the development of the sport. Along with furthering institutional theory research, this study contributes to the discourse on alternative ways of sport development for MMA and emergent sports.

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Choong Hoon Lim, Tywan G. Martin and Dae Hee Kwak

The current study employs the hedonic paradigm model (Hirschman & Holbrook, 1982) to investigate the interceding function of emotions on the relationship between personality (i.e., risk taking) and attitude toward mixed martial arts. This study also examines sport-media (e.g., television) consumption of a nontraditional sport. Structural equation modeling was used to examine the proposed model incorporating risk taking, pleasure, arousal, attitude, and actual consumption behavior. The study found a significant mediation effect of emotion (pleasure and arousal) in the relationship between risk taking and attitude. In addition, attitude showed a direct and significant influence on actual media-consumption behavior. Theoretical and practical implications of the results are discussed, along with future directions for research.

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Evan L. Frederick, Galen E. Clavio, Lauren M. Burch and Matthew H. Zimmerman

For this case study, an Internet-based survey was posted on a popular mixed-martial- arts (MMA) blog to ascertain its users’ demographics and usage trends. Data analysis revealed that users were predominantly White men between the ages of 23 and 39, with some college education and an annual income of $40,000–59,999. An exploratory factor analysis revealed 6 dimensions of gratification: evaluation, community, information gathering, knowledge demonstration, argumentation, and diversion. The most salient motivation statements were related to the speed of information access, the depth of information and coverage, and the availability of information not typically found through traditional media outlets. Most users spent 1–5 hr/wk watching MMA programming and 1–10 hr/wk on MMA blogs, making 1–20 comments per week. Findings indicated that users used this particular blog for both interactive and information-gathering purposes.

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Věra Olivová