Brazilian women in Olympic combat sports: a discussion through life stories

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Marcelo Alberto de Oliveira
Thabata Castelo Branco Telles
Cristiano Roque Antunes Barreira


With the rise of the Olympic Games (OG) in the Modern Era, there could be seen an increasing opportunity to promote encounters between countries, encouraged by sports dispute. In this process, the participation of Brazilian women has been recognized and reconfigured, while facing a double challenge: to be a sportsperson in Brazil, as a woman. This study aims to understand how female participation in Olympic Combat Sports (OCS) – Judo, Boxing, Olympic Fighting, Fencing, Taekwondo and Karate) occurred, notably from the life stories of the athletes. As a methodological procedure, this research was carried out based on the reports in Atletas Olímpicos Brasileiros (Brazilian Olympic Athletes) by Katia Rubio, adding some narratives brought in through other studies that addressed the theme of women in the OCS. Throughout the analysis we note similarities and differences among the modalities. All of them converge on the important challenges that women have taken in the process of conquering spaces in a predominantly masculine field, like sports in general or in the Martial Arts & Combat Sports (MA&CS) domain. The discussion corroborate most of the findings in the literature, however research is needed to focus on the pre-reflexive and embodied dimension of their experiences or in the daily life of their practices, which would allow us to point out if these differences can be confirmed beyond their discourses. These aspects also highlight the need for new research at gender issues in its transcultural, racial and transsexuality nuances, as well as in other MA&CS. Further studies on women in sports are expected, especially those done by women themselves and/or considering their reports, narratives and experiences, seeking to break a historical process in which both science and sport are made by men, and women have played the role of object or spectators, and rarely of an active subject.

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Author Biographies

Marcelo Alberto de Oliveira, University of São Paulo

Master in Sports Science from the University of São Paulo (USP, Brazil); Graduated in Physical Education at the Federal University of Paraná (UFPR, Brazil); studied International Development through Sport at University of Tsukuba (Japan); member of the PULA Study Group and the Olympic Studies Group (GEO), both from USP; Coach of the Karate Team at the Faculty of Law (SanFran-USP); works as a researcher in Sociocultural Studies of Sport with an emphasis on Karate.

Thabata Castelo Branco Telles, University of São Paulo

Postdoc researcher at the School of Physical Education and Sport of Ribeirão Preto (USP) and at the Institute Sport and Health Sciences of Paris (Université Paris-Descartes). PhD in Psychology (FFCLRP-USP / FAPESP). Researcher in Philosophy (Phenomenology) in the Husserl Archives - Paris (ENS-CNRS / FAPESP), from 2016 to 2018. She holds a Bachelor degree in Psychology (UNIFOR / CNPq) and a Masters in Psychology (UNIFOR / FUNCAP). She is a specialist in Sports Psychology by the CFP (Federal Council of Psychology) and the current president of ABRAPESP (Brazilian Association of Sports Psychology). Her major topics are phenomenology; embodiment; sport & exercise psychology; martial arts & combat sports.

Cristiano Roque Antunes Barreira, University of São Paulo

He holds a Bachelor's degree in Psychology (1999) and is also a licensed clinical psychologist (2000) from the Faculty of Philosophy, Sciences and Letters of Ribeirão Preto - USP and a PhD in Psychology from the Faculty of Philosophy, Sciences and Letters of Ribeirão Preto - USP (2004). He is currently Associate Professor (RDIDP) at the University of São Paulo, at the School of Physical Education and Sports of Ribeirão Preto and a professor at the Postgraduate Program in Psychology / FFCLRP - USP. From 2005 to 2009 he was a professor at the School of Arts, Sciences and Humanities (USP). He is currently Director of EEFERP / USP (since 08/2017) and former President of ABRAPESP (2017-2019). He is experienced in Psychology, with emphasis on Phenomenology, working mainly on the following topics: History of Psychological Ideas, Physical Activity Sciences and Corporeity.