Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Women and Martial Arts

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post titled What Women Want – Karate Version. In this post, I responded to Steve’s question “Do women want to be treated like training partners or treated like female training partners?”

In reaction to my post, an anonymous commenter makes some excellent points about strength, rank, capabilities, technique and the old masters. However, I must disagree with the conclusion of his comment.
Most women just aren’t very motivated and they tend to have completely unrealistic expectations about training: yes I want to learn how to defend myself but at the same time I don’t want to get my hands dirty or sweat too much. This is just the way things are and there’s little one can do about it. Men are by nature more drawn to physical activities and sports and are more likely to take responsibility for their own safety (who else is going to do it?) while most women couldn’t care less and will often quit when the going gets tough.

I recognize that the author of the anonymous comment used the words “most women”. However, in my experience, the women in the dojo are not worried about getting dirty or sweaty. They are in the dojo because they are taking responsibility for their own safety. Before writing this post, I called several of my female friends and family members and asked the following question. “Who is responsible for your personal safety?” Every woman responded, “I am”.

The anonymous comment reminded me of a previous post – Where Are the Men? In this post, I discuss a program taped at a local TV station. The topic of the panel discussion was women and martial arts. A male home viewer called and asked the female panel “Where are the men?” My response was simple – my personal safety and self-protection are my responsibility.

What do you think? Are men more likely to take responsibility for their own safety? Are women in the dojo afraid of sweating or getting dirty? Are men more drawn to physical activities and sports?

I also ask the women who read this blog – Who is responsible for your personal safety?

20 comments:

KM said...

In all my years training in the martial arts, I haven't once come across a female martial artist who is afraid to get "sweaty or dirty." "Most women aren't motivated"??? Wow, definitely sounds like a man wrote that to me, a man who is way off base, with little understanding of the female psyche. Gross generalizations like that are the reason your commenter probably stayed "anonymous." The original comment had some merit but when you start stereotyping all women, you lose all credibility.

Michele said...

KM: Thanks for visiting and commenting. The most troubling part of the comment for me was that "women couldn't care less" regarding their personal safety.

Becky said...

Lots women do seem to be afraid to get sweaty and dirty. However, they tend not to be the ones who train in the Martial Arts. The ones that do join drop out pretty quickly. However, the idea that women could care less about their personal safety is wayyyy off base. Women do care about their safety. We may not be as belligerent and antagonistic as men, but we definitely want to stay safe.

John Vesia said...

Most of the women that I've trained with through the years had what I would call a good work ethic in the dojo. Many of them were fit, athletic and generally had no aversions to a hard workout or sparring session. At least that's what I've seen.

I don't think men are necessarily more predisposed to sports than women. As a rule of thumb men outnumber women in any karate club (not really sure what the ratio is), so the few women who do have the gumption to join are usually up to the task.

Michele said...

Thanks Becky and John for your comments! I think you both make an important point about women in the dojo. The women who are training in martial arts want to be there.

caterina said...

As one of the previous commenters noted, women who don't want to get dirty don't tend to stay in the martial arts. But not all male students stick with it either. And in general, most of the women I know think about their personal safety far more than men do. Some men (especially younger and more callow men) seem to think they don't have to use their common sense to stay out of trouble, apparently on the theory that they can handle anything that arises. Women and good martial artists know better!

Michele said...

Hi Caterina: Thanks for commenting and adding to the discussion! Good point about male students in the dojo.

SueC said...

I haven't met anyone yet (male or female) who complains about getting hot and sweaty - it goes with the territory! However, I have met males and females who are a bit 'soft' when it comes to the partner work, however, I don't think this means they don't take their personal safety seriously. (I've also met women you wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley!).

Some people just need more help and encouragement to overcome their fears about training hard so that they can learn to 'rack it up a gear'. Some women maybe just take a little longer to get there but that doesn't mean they're not motivated.

Michele said...

Hi Sue: Thanks for commenting. I think you made an excellent point.

"I have met males and females who are a bit 'soft' when it comes to the partner work, however, I don't think this means they don't take their personal safety seriously."

Felicia said...

Everyone has already said what I was going to: FOLKS who don't want to sweat or get their hands dirty don't stay in the dojo long, regardless of their gender. I had a sensei who used to say "This ain't knitting! It's a contact environment so expect there to be some contact!" Here, here...

Personal safety is, by nature, personal. Like Caterina said, there are folks who think that common sense isn't important when it comes to safety, but anyone who's ever trained in MA or trained others in self-defense or awareness knows differently. Gender has less to do with it than bravado/machismo/ego, I think...

Great post, Michele...

Michele said...

Thanks Felicia!

BobSpar said...

Of course, there's a broad range of attitudes from men and women towards fitness, self defense and any other topic, and generalizing in the way anonymous does risks offending women. My wife has no interest in martial arts and dislikes vigorous exercise; but there are women who are in or have been in my class who are far superior athletes than me; one of them took up martial arts after escaping from an abusive husband (so much for not being interested in her own self defense). I invited one male friend to class, which he found exhausting; when he was done he said, "Thanks for inviting me--I'm never doing this again!"

Journeyman said...

While I many not agree with the generalizations anonymous made, it sure has kicked off a great discussion.

Personally, I have never walked into any martial art school where the females outnumber the men. In fact I've never been in any school where the ratio even came close.

In my opinion, this fact alone proves that any woman who walks into a dojo and trains is taking a big step towards taking responsibility for their personal safety. Many schools might appear to be a boys club at first glance.

( I suspect it would be equally intimidating for a man to start training in a school where the women outnumbered the men ten to one)

I have been lucky to have trained with some very strong and talented women in the martial arts. I think that most women who stay in the martial arts work as hard, and more often harder than their male counterparts.

There were a bunch of thoughtful and insightful comments on your blog. I agree with Sue C. that some people, male or female, need extra time and encouragement to help overcome their fears. If their motivation and attitude is correct, the results will come. If they are 'kind of soft' because they don't really know why they are there, that's a problem. If they are conquering demons, that's worth the time and effort.

Some women I know have no interest in the martial arts whatsoever, but I know that they would fight with every fiber of their being if they were attacked. I don't worry about them.

I worry about the ones that would freeze if confronted with violence. If these people take up the martial arts to overcome this, they should be supported fully. However, the worst thing that can be done is to coddle these people. Once trust has been established, the training needs to remain as realistic as possible. False confidence is extremely dangerous.

I've worked with women who were very timid and took some time to improve. Some of these women have subsequently taught me some lessons about underestimating the 'fairer sex'.

My comments are longer than many of my own posts but I thought the topic and the excellent comments from your readers were deserving of the time.

Thanks for another great post.

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Michele said...

Hi Bob: Thank you for commenting and sharing your experiences.

Journeyman: Thank you for your insightful comments and adding to the discussion.

You make excellent points and I agree with your assessment. I think it is important to recognize that people come to the dojo for various personal reasons. As instructors and training partners, we should work with people on an individual basis and help them achieve their goals.

I think this discussion has clarified that a lack of sweat does not equate to a lack of regard for personal safety.

Thanks again,
Michele

Saundra Tosh said...

Martial arts are a combat practice that can be performed particularly by anyone – girl or boy, child or adult. With regards to your reader’s comment, I’ll have to disagree with that also. For me, most MEN and WOMEN aren’t very motivated and they have unrealistic expectations about training. It is not just the girls that lack motivation sometimes... Everyone can learn martial arts as long as they have the courage and eagerness to learn and go through the difficult process of the practice.

Saundra Tosh

BekkaPoo said...

I agree with Saundra Tosh. I'm the only woman in my jujitsu/iaido dojo, and have been since 2009. I've seen a few women come into our class, but they quickly drop out, which is a shame. I have only been in martial arts for just over three years, and I have yet to meet another woman martial artist.

Alexis Moore said...

My personal safety and protection is my responsibility. I cannot rely on people's help or rescue at all times, I must make decisions on how I will equip myself in case of emergencies.

Martial Arts Brisbane