Fighting with the senses: Negotiating space, power, and gendered embodiment through sensuous engagement in mixed-sex karate practice.

This article will explore how karate practitioners sensorally participate in space within mixed sex karate practice. By exploring in turn how karate practitioners move through physical space, assert their voice, and exude or cover up odors seeping from their bodies into the shared space of the karate hall, this paper will highlight the integral role of our sensory experiences in presenting and developing a gendered embodiment, and gendered ways of utilising space. I will suggest that the unisex practice of karate particularly enables women karate practitioners to ‘undo’ conventional gendered embodiment, through embracing spatially assertive and commanding uses of their bodies. The extent to which women’s gendered embodiment is ‘undone’ is both at times inhibited by men’s dominating uses of space in the karate hall, and magnified by virtue building a karate embodiment in a shared space with men. This research both highlights the potential of sports practice to ‘undo’ conventional gendered embodiments that particularly restrict women’s intentionality in the world (Young, 1980), and power of sensorally-attuned research to illuminate the minute ways in which unequal gender relations are naturalised, legitimised, and done.