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4 Ways Women in Martial Arts Earn Respect from the Opposite Sex

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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.




The Martial Arts Woman book is now available. Purchase through my e-commerce store: http://themartialartswoman.storenvy.com. or on Amazon:  https://goo.gl/5gMzT6

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.

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.


6 thoughts on “4 Ways Women in Martial Arts Earn Respect from the Opposite Sex

  1. Fantastic blog article, Sensei! 🙂

    I really appreciate how you balanced the issue about men and women practicing the martial arts. Too many articles of this type in the past have gone so far as to demean men. As you said, there are still some growing pains, but, in the end, women are achieving much greater success than ever in the martial arts. And in order for there to be a true balance or harmony within the martial arts world, men and women must practice together in the studio. Thank you so much for your great wisdom!

  2. Excellent Blog, as always!

    I wanted to encourage the women martial artist out there by telling you that you truly have a chance to make an impact especially on the young men around you.

    My instructor in the early 1980s was Kathy G. I was 15, and like some of the other boys had a crush on her (she had to be in her early twenties). Once we were overheard making some inappropriate comments about her(thin walls in the dressing room) and she confronted us all on it.

    I don’t remember exactly what she said, but I remember it was honest and direct about how the comments made her feel. I felt deeply ashamed and that conversation impacted me and helped shape how I see women even today.

    Here is a link to The Black Belt Magazine archive if you want to see Kathy.


    So, keep that in mind ladies, you are in a unique position to make an impact on the lives around you. I don’t remember much about high school back then, but I sure remember the lessons from that Do Jang.

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