Accepted paper:

Slacking, cheating and pretending: creative bodies in kickboxing training


Jasmijn Rana (Leiden University)

Paper short abstract:

The enksilment of kickboxing entails more than just training how to fight. This paper discusses how creative ways of wilfully resisting full and active participation and full effort in ladies-only kickboxing training contribute to creating a fun, sociable and leisurely group feeling.

Paper long abstract:

Young Muslim women in Europe are increasingly active in kickboxing, partly because kickboxing is marketed as a tool to equip Muslim women with the physical skills and power to rescue, strengthen and 'empower' themselves. If we zoom in on the learning practices of the young kickboxers, we see that it is not only skills of fighting, self-defence and body modification that are trained. This paper will specifically address a skill that is not part of the repertoire of skills the trainer aims to develop among the students, but is definitely trained anyway: the skill of slacking, pretending and cheating. Fighter's bodies and identities are produced through the imitative, repetitive bodily regimes of training and competition. However, the apparent goal of kickboxing—becoming a competitive kickboxer—is destabilised by the negotiation of pain and slacking off in recreational ladies-only training. So the recreational kickboxing might not result in the same fighting body as in mixed training sessions where the goals of the pupils differ. The fact is that many sporting bodies and communities are more ephemeral and fluid than portrayed by most sport studies that lean on the concept of habitus. I argue that negotiation of intensity and pain in training, and slacking off in exercises, is a form of rebellion among the young women that goes against stereotypical notions of masculinity in kickboxing. Creative ways of wilfully resisting full and active participation and full effort in training contribute to creating a fun, sociable, leisurely group feeling.

panel Body09
Playful bodies, bodies at play