Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Teaching women

Photo: BoutReviewUSA.com

I like Gary Moro's post, "Who Says Women Can’t Fight" at Yachigusa Ryu featuring video of a female MMA fighter, and his respect for female martial artists in general:

Over the years, I’ve read numerous articles debating whether women belong in the martial arts, whether they can compete with men, and the pros and cons of men training with women. I assume that those that believe women have no place training in the martial arts don’t realize that there have been many notable women warriors throughout history. Even the creation of the art of Wing Chun is credited to a woman named Yim Wing Chun (Beautiful Springtime).

I, for one, have never understood these debates. So when I teach women, I teach them exactly like I teach the men. I give them no preferential treatment, and I expect them to perform techniques just like the men do. No “Dojo Bunnies” are allowed.

While the argument that men are physically stronger on average is true, my experience has shown me that women compensate by becoming more technically oriented. This doesn’t mean that any woman could go toe to toe with any man in a fight, but it doesn’t mean they don’t have a chance either. All factors being equal, I don’t see why a woman can't beat a man.

In fact, I know a few women martial artists I wouldn’t want to fight with, and that I would be extremely happy to see coming to my aid in a real a street fight. To be perfectly honest, I was once saved from being thrown off the top of a water tower by my female police partner: she grabbed the suspect’s testicles and pinned him to the ground without ever losing her grip. Now that is technique over brawn. I bet the bad guy is still singing soprano to this day.

Mr. Moro gives a couple of examples of female martial artists prowess, including the video clip of Satoko Shinashi's MMA bouts. Awesome skill! Head over and read the rest.

How should we treat female students? It may seem an odd question for some, but it deserves an answer. I believe we should treat females no differently than male students, with only a few caveats.

The is that female are more at risk of violent attack than men, not numerically, but are probably less prepared to handle it physically or emotionally. Women are taught to act "like ladies," and less inclined to sports, specifically contact sports, where we learn to handle the impact bodies crashing against on another, of checks, tackles, blocks, or takedowns. Few are the girls who grow up wrestling in the living room with their siblings or dads until mom breaks it up, lest they break some furniture. Men have a certain competitiveness that's expected of them. In women it's got to be encouraged and nurtured. All of this social conditioning leaves our sisters, mothers, daughters, and wives unprepared for someone who wants to do them harm.

I believe it's the duty of all martial arts instructors to teach effective techniques, and tailor them for their students body types, disposition, and capabilities. Specifically, treating women no differently than a male student of their size and age is a requisite step in preparing them to face male attackers. I agree with Moro; don't shortchange your female students, or yourself by treating them differently.


Black Belt Mama said...

Cool post! One of my instructors is an 8th degree black belt. She's about 5'2" and that's being generous. I watched her take a 20-something year old guy down to the ground last week. Did I mention she's in her 60's? She showed us how this one throw in a kata is easy for men to do, but not so much for women, so she showed us how to adapt the throw (stepping backwards instead of throwing forward) and it worked perfectly. It's all about knowing how to adapt.

Bob Patterson said...

My instructor is female and pound-for-pound one of the toughest ladies I know. Aside from the social/psychological aspects that Nathan brings up, the other difference is physiology. Men tend to be larger and have more bone and muscle mass. Women tend to be smaller but more flexible. This just means different--NOT BETTER.

When I get a chance to teach the analogy I use is me. I'm about 179 with smaller bones. Put me up against a 250 lb foot ball player and even with martial arts training, I'm going to be hard-pressed.

Bigger is not always better but often people with more muscle and denser bones do have an advantage.


Nathan Teodoro said...

I've never trained with a high-level female black belt, but would like to experience that (to some degree). Those adaptation are what makes martial arts so amazing! Lifetime...

Great comments. I also love the idea of BJJ and Wing Chun both being something that equalizes, to a certain extent, as do many martial arts (Aikido). Physical differences do matter, but watch Melissa Soalt's videos and see what the psychological training can do to prepare women to become terrible (I mean that in the sense of terrifying) opponents!

Great comments!