Encouragement, Karate, Learn to Appreciate, Motivational, Philosophy, Reader

The Plight of the Martial Arts Woman

I was talking to a couple of martial art women tonight, and the first thing that entered my mind during the discussion was the plight of the martial arts woman. A “plight” is a dangerous, difficult, or otherwise unfortunate situation. While we have made great strides in martial arts, I believe the martial art woman is still underestimated, and perhaps even discriminated against in the martial art realm, because of her gender.

We talked briefly about how one of the women and her daughter owned a school, but when potential students who were men realized the owners were women, they were suddenly not interested. The owner’s daughter was an excellent fighter, which helped prove their worthiness in some sense, but still, an excellent female fighter was intimidating to some guys. Even in seeing her capabilities, there was caution in believing these women could instruct them.

Truly, I understand. I do not think most men who walk into a dojo of women would be interested in training there, and most women walking into a dojo of all men would probably not be interested in training there, either.  Somewhere, somehow, there needs to be a balance, a yin and yang, a middle ground.

There are no easy solutions, but we can all change our mindset to recognize that men and women together fulfill the mission of martial arts. There are the obvious few with closed-minds who think they cannot learn anything of value from one particular gender. Both men and women bring brilliant and inspiring techniques to the table. Both make martial arts whole. The issue lies deeper, in the roots of society, and the roles into which we have been born.

Case in point. We need both men and women instructors because they offer varying perspectives and abilities.

I have said many times that martial arts have nothing to do with gender. Simply, they are fighting arts that have been around for a very long time, or arts that have their beginnings based in the traditions of defense, fighting, or grappling. There is no man or woman in the equation when we look at martial arts this way. Put the same white uniform on both genders and what you see are students, not men and women. It sounds simple, but naturally and unfortunately, we separate them by gender.

The discrepancies emanate because  men and women learn martial arts for different reasons. Maybe self-defense and self-discipline fill the woman’s agenda, while fighting, sparring, and physicality suit the guys more. This is a generalization, for the sake of example. Certainly not all women think the same, nor do all men. I think if we step back, though, we will see that men and women have different expectations and intentions when they learn a martial art. What they want to learn may have a direct bearing on from whom they want to learn. While that is understandable, in the long run, it also limits their training.

When I hear a story like I did tonight, about a woman and her daughter who owned a dojo, but had to face the fact that men would not walk through the door, I am reminded about the plight of the martial art woman. I do not like to complain without offering some solutions, so if you are wondering what you can do, I have a few ideas in mind:

  • Support your martial art peers who are women by acknowledging their capabilities, abilities, and talents.
  • Think of women martial artists as a complement to male martial artists, and vice versa. .
  • Do not walk away from a training, seminar, or school, simply because the owner or instructor is female.
  • Realize that every martial artist has something unique to offer. No matter their gender, you will learn

I believe the trends of the numbers of women practicing martial arts are better than ever before. Still, when I hear a story like the one I heard tonight, I wonder when we will ever concede that neither men nor women are better martial artists or instructors. I love learning from men and women. Both provide me with the well-rounded training that I need. I gain different perspectives and insights from different instructors. I want to learn everything I can, from both.

If you believe that the plight of the martial art woman does not exist, I challenge you to speak to the martial art women out there and see how many struggle with this issue. It is not everywhere and it is not everyone, but I hear enough stories to know that this is a  difficult situation that women still continually face, and that is truly unfortunate.




Check out my inspiring and motivational books!

My new book, Martial Art Inspirations for Everyonehttps://goo.gl/Yco5GF (Amazon Link)

My book, The Martial Arts Womanhttps://goo.gl/rTSaJA (Amazon Link)



12 thoughts on “The Plight of the Martial Arts Woman

  1. I for one feel that if the school is well run and the sensei is quite knowledgeable, I wouldn’t care if it was owned by a female or male . I believe in equal oportunity . It’s about time women get their share and more. Just my 2 cents. 😊

  2. Definitely! I think people equate manliness and muscles with fighting, not realizing that the ability to adapt, use what you have, speed, and technique all play an important role. Our differences in size and strength makes us creative in getting the upper hand.

  3. Once again a super article. I agree on the subject of the difference of the objective of difference of men and women but you see it in all walks of life. You still see it in the workplace on down. We need to continue to be more open minded in whatever we pursue.

  4. Happy New Year, Sensei!

    I love this article. While it’s about the truth of the martial arts world currently, it explains what the art should be about: Men and women working together to create harmony and balance in martial arts. That’s what life is: balance. For me, I would more than welcome training with a woman instructor because my goals as a martial artist would be self-defense and self-discipline. Also, I’ve always believed women martial artists are awesome(yourself included!). Thank you for all that you give to us.

  5. Osu and thank you! The other night I was visiting a tiny dojo – the students are one low-ranked guy and two guys who are high-ranked colored belts. That’s it. The low-ranked guy’s fighting is good because he’s used to fighting the two guys who outrank me. He got past my guard and bopped my cheekbone – good for him! I was already ducking so I stepped back to regroup. But he slumped and turned his back on me. Rather than lightly tap his kidneys I gave him a verbal admonishment and he resumed fighting. This guy was sooooo apologetic after class, I had to reassure him that there wouldn’t be a bruise in the morning (even though my skin is pale, I was right – there wasn’t a bruise). I told him I’ve taken a lot worse hits. I explained to him that because I’m senior in rank if he got hurt I’d be in trouble, if I got hurt, I’d be in trouble. It wasn’t until the next morning that it occurred to me – he’s never ever hit a woman before! So that could be another aspect – some guys are afraid of hurting gals, and it doesn’t matter what rank she’s earned, these guys are going to be nervous about it (which, ironically enough, increases the risk of injury for both partners).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *