Mexican Female Warrior: The Case of Marisela Ugalde, the Founder of Xilam

  • George Jennings
Part of the Global Culture and Sport Series book series (GCS)


Social scientific research into martial arts and combat sports (MACS) — now labelled ‘martial arts studies’ (Bowman, 2014b) — commonly examines specific martial arts movements throughout dynasties and periods (Shahar, 2008), or ethnographically illuminates popular contemporary movements such as Capoeira (Downey, 2005) and Krav Maga (Cohen, 2010). Studies of Xilam (pronounced ‘shi-lam’) requires both approaches, as it is a contemporary martial art based on ancient traditions that can be considered through anthropological, historical and sociological lenses. Founded in 1986 (and registered as a social association in 1992) by a Mexican woman, Marisela Ugalde, it draws on three ancestral Mesoamerican warrior cultures: the Mexica (Aztecs) of central Mexico, the Maya of Southern Mexico and Central America and the Zapotecs of the coastal state of Oaxaca.1 Although all pre-Hispanic (pre-Columbian) societies in Mesoamerica possessed warriors (Hassig, 1992), these three are noted — albeit through limited historical sources — for the development of specific martial arts and warrior classes. The Mexica and the Maya systems are extinct, although there have been some non-academic efforts to ‘rediscover’ the Mexica art of Yaomachtia in the United States. Despite these controversies, the Federación Mexicana de Juegos y Deportes Autóctonos y Tradicionales2 currently protects and promotes two native wrestling styles practised today in remote communities: The Zapotec Chupaporrazo and the Lucha Tarahumara in Chihuahua.


Mexico City Institutional Structure Mexican Woman Combat Sport Mexican Society 
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© George Jennings 2015

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  • George Jennings

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