Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Social Sciences Honours


Faculty of Health and Human Sciences

First Advisor

Kandy James


This exploratory study of women's experience of the martial art of aikido comes as a response to the paucity of texts on women in the martial arts. My 16-year involvement with aikido and my studies in the field of Leisure Science have led me to explore the apparent contradiction between the traditionally masculine domain of martial arts and prescribed female/feminine behaviour. As a feminist researcher and as an aikido participant I acknowledge a close connection with my topic and hence the subjective nature of this study. I am not trying to produce an absolute truth, but present some of the complex individual realities of the participants of this study. Twelve women who had been practising aikido for more than two years were interviewed for this study. Their stories sketched pictures of their personal experiences of aikido and illustrated what aikido meant to them. After reviewing relevant literature and its relationship to participants' stories five major themes emerged: female values in a masculine environment; empowerment and self development; spirituality; social behaviour and intimacy; and sport, martial arts and aikido. While the construction of physicality, sport and the martial arts has been largely from a male perspective, applying a postmodern feminist perspective lead to a redefining of masculine and feminine behaviours. Dispensing with the binary opposition of masculine versus feminine the redefined behaviours were interpreted as female value qualities and, according to the participants' stories, these qualities were to be found in aikido.