As a female martial artist of over a decade, I’ve noticed that women are generally treated differently than their male counterparts. This shouldn’t be a surprising statement and isn’t always a bad thing. Our bodies are structurally different, and those differences should be considered in certain situations. But not all, and certainly not most where martial arts is concerned. In this article, Women in Martial Arts, we will go over some of these considerations.
When Gender Matters in Martial Arts
Usually I tend to err towards equality in all situations, especially when it comes to training. But there are a few notable differences that should be addressed when a woman is training in the martial arts.
First off, the way that certain moves are performed may need to be adjusted – depending on the woman. For instance, many schools perform drills that require the non-punching hand to pull back with as much force as the punching hand. This sometimes results in the woman hitting her own breasts as hard as the object she is punching. Which may cause some women to have major problems performing the pull back of a punch due to breast size. On another related topic, breasts are unfortunately a very wide target area while sparring. Though most people at least try and avoid that area, there are always the unintended (or otherwise) slip-ups. Thankfully this can be easily rectified through the use of chest gear.
Another prudent difference is in the necessity of rape defense. Though male rape victims do exist, women are ten times more likely to be raped. This makes learning rape defense a good idea for anybody, but a necessity for women. This includes both wall defense and ground. Learning to escape from being pinned to the wall, or mounted from the ground. As well as education on warning signs and situational awareness.
When it Shouldn’t
While we have established that there are in fact scenarios where women should be treated differently, the vast majority of the time that is not the case. Too frequently are women partnered with men who “go easy on them,” thinking that they are doing the woman a favor. But what so many people don’t realize, is that every time a man “goes easy” or throws light punches, a woman doesn’t get to train. If women are only given the opportunity to train against easy punches, they will never be able to defend themselves.
And there is also the consequence of having an inflated and unfounded sense of security. I once believed that I was an excellent grappler, because I was always able to defend myself against the guys I fought. I didn’t find out until later when some guy swept the floor with me, that they had been babying me the whole time. When I went back and talked to those same guys, and they were incredulous saying, “of course we went easy on you.” Which is all well and good until the day that I actually need to defend myself.
Being a woman in the martial arts, however, also has its advantages. Women tend to be more flexible, making them less prone to injury due to overextension or pulled muscles. In addition, their wider set hips allow for more mobility as far as performing kicks is concerned.
Martial arts throughout the years has evolved and changed to meet the needs of each generation. Although martial arts may be primarily a male dominant activity, women still make up a large percentage of its participants. In fact, Wing Chun was actually created by a woman. While she may have faced different struggles in the 17th century, we are all just looking to be able to defend ourselves.