Reading through 中华民国文化史 (Cultural History of the Chinese Republic)1 I found something interesting in the section on 国术. 国术 is a term for what today would be called 武术, i.e. martial arts. Although there was a lot of interest in physical education in China in the 20s and 30s traditional martial arts were not part of this, as they were often seen as backwards peasant stuff. The Guomindang did make some efforts to encourage the modernization of the martial arts, however, setting up the 中央国术馆 (Central Martial Arts Academy) in Nanjing in 1927. Eventually there would be provincial-level organizations as well. At first the Academy seems to have been organized like a traditional martial arts school with masters and disciples but in 1929 it was reorganized as a more modern type of school. The top rated teachers were 王子平，吴图南，姜容燕，胡容华 (女), 陈志和 (女) the younger teachers included 张文广， 李锡恩，傅淑云 (女) As the (女) indicates two of the top five teachers and three of eight were women.
This actually surprised me a lot. In movies and fiction there may be a lot of female martial arts experts, and there were certainly some in reality as well. Still, this ratio strikes me as a little high. In 1933 there was a national martial arts exam and of the 427 competitors only 9 were women. Was this part of an attempt to modernize the martial arts? Was it a regional thing, since the academy drew heavily from the Northwest and followers of 张之江? Has anybody written anything on this?
编 史全生，吉林文史 ↩