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Journal of Asian Martial Arts - Articles
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Women and Asian Martial Traditions

By Ellis Amdur, M.A., Kirstin Pauka, Ph.D., Stanley E. Henning, M.A., Deborah Klens-Bigman, Ph.D., Haishing Yao, Ph.D., David Finch, Bandana Mukhopadhyay, Ph.D., Majia Soderholm, B.Sc., Richard Vogel, Ph.D., Sara K. Schneider, Ph.D., Becky Sheetz-Runkle, B.A.

Women and Asian Martial Traditions
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Women and Asian Martial Traditions

This anthology is filled with content specifically selected for readers who have a strong interest in women’s participation in the Asian martial traditions. In addition to combative theory and practice, topics include aspects of theatrical performance, music, dance, gender studies, and insights for embodying philosophical elements into daily life. The twelve chapters that were written by noted authorities will certainly educate and inspire. These focus on the martial traditions of Japan, China, India, Korea, Indonesia, and the Philippines.

To identify with one’s predecessors is a strong desire for most people. For many women, particularly those interested in Japanese martial practice, there is the image of the woman warrior bearing a naginata in the protection of her home, and even on the field of battle. In the first chapter, Ellis Amdur provides an excellent historical overview and a presentation of modern female headmasters.

Fighting movement is perhaps the most fascinating element of Peking Opera performance. Dr. Haishing Yao explores the significance of these arts and the different layers of meaning they represent. The intense training for performing the martial-acrobatic arts are discussed in detail and selected movements demonstrated.

Dr. Mukhopadhyay states that Indian martial arts survive primarily among the indigenous tribal communities where martial dance and music are both acts of ritual to appease nature and she shows how this manifests as entertainment for the community. In another chapter Dr. Schneider discusses her field experience studying kalarippayattu. She examines the complexities of communication in an intercultural teacher-student relationship, and how gender, culture, and class impacted learning in this embodied art form.

David Finch, famed photographer and authority on judo topics, details the Olympic competitions of champions Ulla Webrouck and Kye Sun Hui. His two chapters highlight the major accomplishments of their international careers and describes some of their judo skills in obtaining their Olympic titles. 

Moving into Filipino traditions, Majia Soderholm presents the art of Visayan Corto Kadena Eskrima and some of its concepts and training methods with regard to free-sparring with swords. It is a Filipino martial system encompassing empty-hand and non-bladed and bladed weapons.  

As a psychologist who has specialized in marital therapy for twenty years, Dr. Vogel found that the application of the practice and the metaphysical underpinnings of internal martial arts systems can restore and perpetuate goodwill between embattled spouses. The main concepts for his chapter were derived from taijiquan, aikido, and the Book of Changes (Yijing).

The Maiden of Yue story is presented by Stanley Henning. It is a tale that explains the essence of Chinese martial arts theory. It is the earliest such description in Chinese history and has been paraphrased by other martial artists over the centuries. The story  describes both internal and external characteristics that combine mental and physical attributes.

The fighting woman character has always been a staple of Japan’s kabuki theater. Audiences accepted these characters as part of the depiction of Edo period (1603–1868) life. The chapter by Dr. Klens-Bigman explores several of these characters and suggests that they help form the legacy of women’s practice of martial arts today.

The Art of War has much to teach women martial artists about how to train to be effective in a life-or-death encounter. Preparation for this chapter was derived from author Becky Sheetz-Runkle’s research, plus the her years of training against much larger and stronger opponents, and years of teaching martial arts, particularly aikijujutsu.

The closing chapter by Dr. Kirsten Pauka deals with a colorful martially-inspired art. Randai theater is fundamentally based on silat, the indigenous martial art found throughout Malaysia and Indonesia. Besides martial arts, Randai features dance, acting, singing, and instrumental music. This chapter reports on  an extended artist-in-residence program in the Asian Theatre Program at the University of Hawai’i.

The above summary of chapters hint at the richness of content being shared in this anthology. All of the historical and cultural details add much to the scholarly perspectives on these Asian arts. At the same time they add to the appreciation of how and why martial elements are infused in artistic performances, such as theater, music, and dance. Throughout can be seen the unifying thread of the womans’ role which will increase our appreciation of the feminine presence in Asian martial traditions.

Author Bio:


  • The Role of Arms-Bearing Women in Japanese History, by Ellis Amdur, M.A.
  • Martial-Acrobatic Arts in Peking Opera With a Brief Analysis of Fighting Movement, by Haishing Yao, Ph.D.
  • War and Worship: Evolution of Martial Music and Dance in India, by Bandana Mukhopadhyay, Ph.D.
  • Ulla Werbrouck: Olympic and European Judo Champion Retires, by David Finch
  • The Art of Conversation: Random Flow Training in Visayan Corto Kadena Eskrima, by Majia Soderholm, B.Sc.
  • The Ki to a Lasting Marriage: The Application of Internal Martial Arts Principles in the Marital Dojo, by Richard Vogel, Ph.D.
  • North Korean Kye Sun Hui: An Extraordinary Olympic Judo Player, by David Finch
  • The Maiden of Yue: Fount of Chinese Martial Arts Theory, by Stanley E. Henning, M.A.
  • Fighting Women of Kabuki Theater and the Legacy of Women’s Japanese Martial Arts, by Deborah Klens-Bigman, Ph.D.
  • Learning India’s Martial Art of Kalarippayattu: Unsettled Ecologies of Gender, Class, Culture, and Ethnicity, by Sara K. Schneider, Ph.D.
  • Why Women Need Sunzi’s Book The Art of War, by Becky Sheetz-Runkle, B.A.
  • Silat-Based Randai Theatre of West Sumatra Makes Its U.S. Debut, by Kirsten Pauka, Ph.D.

Product Specifications:

Format: 6" x 9" paperback, 174 pages, illustrated.

Books are "print-on-demand". We send orders to an company to print and mail to customers. They usually ship within one to three weeks.