FOOTBALL may be the beautiful game, but schoolgirls prefer to get their kicks from karate.
The blockbuster martial arts romance Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and the antics of TV's vampire-slayer Buffy appear to have beefed up the image of judo in a way Superstars hero Brian Jacks could only dream of.
Research carried out at seven West Country middle schools found that girls - influenced by the plethora of warrior women in the media - listed martial arts before hockey, netball, tennis and blading in their top 12 favourite sporting activities.
Boys were also keen to emulate their kung fu heroes. Only football beat martial arts in their top 12.
David Regis, research manager at the Schools Health Education Unit in Exeter,which carried out the survey, said: "It looks as if martial arts films and Buffy have had an effect."
Ang Lee's film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon caused a surge in interest in ju-jitsu, karate and other martial arts and spawned a glut of martial arts video releases and computer games.
Mr Regis said schools needed to develop programmes which engaged children's interests but admitted that Bruce Lee-style neck chops in PE lessons could lead to problems.
Girls as well as boys indicated that football was a firm favourite. Basketball was also very popular in the survey of 1,400 West Country pupils, aged eight to 12.
But not everything has changed. That old favourite, horseriding, was top of the girls' wish-list.