Women are awesome martial artists, there is no doubt. They have come a long way from the days when they were not allowed to practice martial arts at all! There are still some growing pains, but those nuances are being eliminated by younger generations of girls and women who are moving through the ranks, and making a difference.
Those of us who have been around a while know that the journey to where we are today has been riddled with ups and downs. Women martial artists still struggle at times to gain respect in some instances. There are some men who still question their abilities, or tease them to show what they know. Women also still have to face a few obstacles that society has taught them to avoid (yelling, breaking, fighting). All in all, the women in martial arts have made incredible strides.
Here are five ways women in the martial arts continue to earn respect from the opposite sex when it comes to the practice of martial arts.
- Be confident
Being confident does not mean being arrogant. There is a difference between the two, and there is no place in the martial arts for arrogance by either gender. However, a woman who is in a class that is predominantly male is going to have to muster up some confidence if she wants their respect when it comes to training. Confidence is necessary in personality and attitude.
I still hear stories of sexual innuendos and inappropriate whispers by men in the back of the dojang/dojo by a small select group of men. It is not as common as in years past, but usually it is the confident women who immediately put a stop to it. Some have walked up to the individuals who started the discussion and verbally put them in their place. In the end, it helps them gain the respect of those who are there for the right reasons. Again, it is not the norm, but happens on occasion.
In reality, men and women work rather well together in martial arts. Men can be intimidating in class, but only if women allow that. Changing their perspective to see men as the great counterparts and partners that they are can alleviate any false sense that women do not belong there. Most of the men who train and teach are in it for the right reasons and want women to be there, too. When students give 100%, train, and learn, their confidence will improve as well. When we all work together, the synergy works.
- Work out with the guys
Many women, especially those new to martial arts, find it very difficult to work out closely with the men in class. It is understandable. Close contact with the opposite sex is something we are taught is not appropriate, on any level.
In martial arts, women need to change their perspectives on this, if they want to receive the most benefit from their training. After all, if a woman is attacked by someone in real life, it is much more likely the assailant will be a man than a woman. Getting a feel for this interaction is really a life saver.
Plus, when a woman gets a technique correct, she reminds everyone, including the men, that size and stature do not affect success. While a man can sometimes power his way through a move, a break, or a technique, a woman is less likely to have that option. Respect is earned when she proves that a technique is valid and can work no matter what her size is.
- Do not compromise
A woman is a woman. Whether in a dobok/gi, a dress, or a winter jacket, she is a woman. I do not see any reason why any woman should compromise her own principles, beliefs, or values, her beauty, power, or femininity because she is a martial artist. There is no need for her to ever give any of that up.
A woman martial art student is as adept, smart, and powerful as a male martial artist. She is as cunning in a sparring match, and as precise in her forms. The difference in physicality is made up in diligence and perseverance. If she learns, she attains exactly what she needs for survival and a strong mindset.
Her roles as mother, wife, or daughter have taught her sacrifice, understanding, and diligence. She can carry all of this forward into her martial art practice without compromising any of it. She is who she is, through and through, and martial arts are simply an addition to all of the roles she already plays.
To earn respect, I always say to women:
Stay true to who you are. You must follow the rules of the dojang/dojo, which may include no make-up, long hair to be pulled up, and only white uniforms to be worn, but internally, you should awaken the woman within.
Women need to stand strong in who they are and make no excuses for their successes or their mistakes. Learn from mistakes and move on, and allow successes to empower you. That is the sign of a leader.
Men and women work well together as martial artists and complement each other. There is no reason for either to compromise their strengths, but all of them should seek to improve their weaknesses. Women gain respect by not trying to be something they are not, but more of what they already are. The juxtaposition of femininity and martial arts is the best example of Yin and Yang around.
- Show What You Know
For sure, there is no better way for women to earn respect than to show what they know by being instructors, competitors, judges, speakers, and writers. It is time to show the world their understanding and knowledge of martial arts topics. Seeing a woman compete shows an intense work ethic. Teaching or owning a school gives them a sense of ownership in the martial arts community. Coordinating martial art events or bringing martial artists together highlights their collaborative skills. Being published writers of books and articles allows them to share their unique perspectives.
No one can dispute the presence or capabilities of martial art women when they show what they know. Some men develop a great admiration for women martial artists when they see them flourish. Seeing is believing.
Yes, women can earn respect, and they deserve it.
I am very excited about the fact that women have made their place in all of history. We have some who are now considered “legends” or “greats.” In my experience, most of them are great, but not all. There is no perfection in anything, and no lack of character flaws even in this category of martial artists, thanks to human nature. However, girls and women are continually changing the face of martial arts and they are finally able to earn the respect they deserve.
This book shares the stories and insights of more than twenty-five women in the martial arts, and how they apply martial arts to their lives.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Andrea F. Harkins is a writer, motivator, life coach, martial artist, and public speaker. She was inducted into the USA Martial Arts Hall of Fame in July, 2017. Her book, The Martial Arts Woman, is now available at themartialartswoman.storenvy.com.