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.
My new book, Martial Art Inspirations for Everyone: https://goo.gl/Yco5GF (Amazon Link)
My book, The Martial Arts Woman: https://goo.gl/rTSaJA (Amazon Link)